Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and garage forecourts up and down the country will be doing a brisk trade in tired daffs or jet-lagged lilies flown halfway round the world and marked up to double the price.

But it doesn’t take much time and imagination to come up with a real romantic gesture – and one that will last longer than a few days.

When you think of all the waste associated with Valentine’s Day – the throwaway cards, the yards of cellophane, not to mention the air miles clocked up by roses guaranteed to droop before they open – how much better to give a locally grown living plant as a present.

Potted plants are so much more suggestive of permanent affection than a bunch of flowers, and on a purely pragmatic level, they give much better value for money.

You could choose a houseplant – jasmine, stephanotis and gardenias are fragrant and glamorous, or a passionflower vine, perhaps wound round a support in the shape of a heart, would speak for itself.

Or how about something which can be planted out in the garden in a few weeks’ time?

If it has to be red roses – and they are, after all, the classic “I love you” flower – you can’t get better than an entire bush of them that promises years of pleasure and passion ahead.

The only problem with giving a rose bush at this time of year is that unless they have been specially forced into bloom for Valentine’s Day, the plants are unlikely to be at their most attractive.

In fact, most are likely to resemble a bundle of thorny twigs in a pot. If your Valentine has a sense of humour, you could always tie a few fake plastic or paper flowers on to the bare branches with ribbon.

But roses are not the only flower of romance. According to a well-worn copy of Flower Lore (published 1880), myrtle has been a symbol of “glory and happiness in love” since Roman times.

Sacred, along with roses, to Aphrodite, goddess of love, it was often used in wedding rituals – a tradition revived by the Victorians. Indeed, the fluffy white flowers of myrtle figured large in Queen Victoria’s own wedding bouquet, and many of the myrtle plants in our public and private gardens are directly descended from a tree that a gardener at Osborne House raised from a cutting.

With its neat glossy evergreen leaves and clusters of fragrant flowers followed by purple berries, Myrtis communis is a plant with quiet good taste. Though often sold as a small shrub, it can eventually grow into a tree up to 5 metres tall, if planted in a mild spot sheltered from cold winds. A small tree or bush, prettily wrapped and with a card explaining the symbolism, would make a great gift for male and female Valentines alike.

A potted camellia (signifying “Burning Love”), winter honeysuckle (“Devotion”), violas (“Let’s Take a Chance on Happiness”) or an orchid (“You have cast a spell over me”) would also be most suitable, and each can be found in bloom at the moment. For more on the forgotten language of flowers, see the list below:

The language of flowers

Anemone I expect you
Arum lily Burning love
Bluebell Our love will last
Camellia I am longing for you
Carnation (white) Always remembering
Carnation (red) I carry a torch for you
Carnation (striped) Wish I were with you
Carnation (yellow) You have disappointed me
Daffodil The sun always shines when I am with you
Dahlia You are indifferent
Foxglove I cannot trust you
Heather Good luck
Honeysuckle Devotion
Hyacinth Please forgive me
Lily of the valley You are sweet and pure
Love-in-a-mist Do you love me?
Magnolia Have courage
Marguerite I live in hope
Narcissus You are selfish
Orchid You have cast a spell over me
Passion flower Trust
Peony Bashfulness
Pinks You are bold
Poppy Please wait
Primrose I might love you
Rose (red) I love you
Rose (pink) Please believe me
Rose (white) You are divine
Rose (yellow) Come back soon
Stock Lasting beauty
Sweet pea Gratitude
Viola Let’s take a chance on happiness
Wallflower Constancy

Still stuck for ideas on what to buy your loved one? Why not browse our great selection of valentines gifts available online and instore NOW!