Psst, buddy! Valentine's Day is almost here. It's a holiday that's fraught with tension, so it's never too early to prepare. I bet that you’re planning on buying your sweetie some flowers. Maybe not as dramatic a bouquet as in past years, but something to mark the day nevertheless.
She’ll be thrilled, but you should think twice about this behavior. Data from the Society of American Florists says that on Valentine's Day, men make more than 60 percent of floral purchases. Not a number to sneeze at, but guys, here's the problem: Valentine's Day only comes once a year. And new research suggests you are missing a golden (and pink and purple and blue and white) opportunity to win long-term points with your significant other.
Women not only like flowers, "they're physically and positively affected by a gift of flowers, and the effects linger on for days," according to research conducted by scientists at Rutgers University and quoted on a Web site designed to help guys harness their flower power: Saved by the Bud.
If giving your partner one flower is a romantic gesture, then two are twice as nice. Forget roses and go for a dramatic pair like this Tulip and Hyacinth.
The site is the flower child of the venerable Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center (NFBIC), which operates out of a small office in Danby, Vt. The organization created the site last year when it discovered that only 22 percent of flower purchases are made by men during the rest of the year.
Sally Ferguson, director of the NFBIC, pointed out in a press release "that even on Valentine's Day, men don't really know what they're doing. And they're not getting the idea that flowers can be their friend year round." So they’ve come up with the free Web site. There’s no advertising, and it's not intended to sell you anything.
Of course, they do want you to go out and buy flowers, but only after you've checked out their information, illustrations and videos aimed at giving you a little floral sense before you open your wallet again. And given the state of the economy, this year they’ve added “Buds on a Budget” with loads of ideas for impressing your partner with your gesture rather than the total of your bill.
Quirky is always good. Three containers: same design, different sizes. Rocks in one, goldfish in one. Fill the tallest one with a dramatic red Amaryllis bulb — complete with dirt — and toss the plastic pot it came in. A little more time-consuming but worth the effort.
Since the site was developed by the bulb industry, it obviously emphasizes bulbs: tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, lilies and dahlias, to name a few. But other flowers, like roses, are included as well. It covers buying, giving and caring for both cut and potted flowers. It also provides floral suggestions for specific scenarios like "her first visit to your place" or "you're in the doghouse."
Not a young, single straight guy? Not to worry. The site declares right up front: “If you are a married man, gay man, older man, straight woman, lesbian, or otherwise not a young, single, straight guy: This bud site's for you too!” They just figure you’re probably not as clueless as their target audience.
That quote should give you a taste of the site's sassy tongue-in-cheek style — which makes reading it a lark. It does have great ideas, however, including many that will appeal to gardeners and floral designers as well. Some are really over the top but not impossible for creative types to duplicate.
Pick one kind of flower and stuff the container full of them. For the most impact, make the flowers and container the same color. Think brightly colored tin can — the kind that fruit or tomatoes come in — as the container.
FOR THE GARDEN GEEKS AMONG YOU: The Rutgers research pointed out that people have been cultivating flowers for more than 5,000 years — even though there is "no known reward for this costly behavior." In addition to the study mentioned above, a second study noted that a flower handed to a person in an elevator — man or woman — "elicited more positive social behavior than other stimuli." In yet another study, they found that giving flowers to older people (55+ age) not only elicited positive moods but also improved "episodic memory."
This is pretty amazing stuff and helps to explain why so many of us spend all our free time in the garden. According to Rutgers, "flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females."
That information begs the question, why isn't everyone out in the garden? At the very least, it suggests even more reasons for supporting your local independent nurseries, florists and public gardens and organizations.
Some parts of this column previously appeared under my byline in The Capital Times.