Valentine's Day gifts: please, no bins

Valentine's Day has become another of those days where marketing folks try to convince us our beloved will be thrilled with a bin or a hacksaw. Well, having quizzed people out on the streets it would seem the old favourites reign supreme: flowers, champagne and a dinner that isn't pasta and pesto

By Coco Piras
All You Need is Love from Vintage Playing Cards, £99

Red roses remain a sure-fire winner when it comes to men sending their ladies a love token. One gay woman we spoke to said she'd be happy with roses too, indeed any flowers including good faux ones; however women don't feel men appreciate flowers in quite the same way. So why not give your chap a piece of art made from vintage playing cards and letters from board games? Pictured above: All You Need Is Love, in black wood frame, £99 from Vintage Playing Cards

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Every year the stuff we're encouraged to believe would make great Valentine's Day presents becomes ever more ridiculous in its prosaicness - bins, laundry baskets, breadboards, long as they're red of course.

We decided to ask shoppers in Islington what  would make their heart sing on February 14th - and conventionality wins the day. Bouquets of flowers or an orchid are always well-received by women it would seem, whether straight or gay; while scented candles and diffusers that have fragrances made from essential oils, not synthetic fragrances, are almost as popular. For great quality with a Made In England tag, new scented candle brand Newshome Candles, based in West Yorks, is well worth an online visit. Candles use soy wax in a reusable glass jar and essential oil fragrances and the range of scents is as extensive as it is delicious. Very affordable too, with prices from £12.99.

For a diffuser with a difference, Alessi has Brrr, an elegant porcelain pot to hold a subtle Bergamot fragrance with mahogany leaves to diffuse it into your room. £59 at


Soywax scented candle, made in Yorkshire using essential oils, from £15.99 at Newshome Candles
For the wine buff in your life - a range of modern wide necked glass decanters
Bella bouquet from Serenata's Fair Trade flowers range. Flowers are imported from the EU, Africa and
Leather key ring loop you can have engraved with a short message. British leather. £16
A big bunch of British grown tulips, £25 at Waitrose Florist
Faux flowers can be very realistic and they have the eco merit of longevity - though do dust them re
Hand-made paper flowers made to fair trade standards in Thailand from Posy & Pot.
For wonderful roses, albeit it quite a price, look to Flowerbx. Roses are grown in Holland.
The Phalaenopsis orchid remains super super popular.
Alessi's Brrr diffuser with mahogany leaves, £59 and porcelain pot.
Miriam Mirri's heart shaped stainless steel teaspoons for Alessi, £21 for four
If roses are too schmalzy how about giving (or asking for) an orange tree.

Men we voxpopped seemed keen on bottles of booze. So if your partner is a wine afficionado, why not treat him to a wide-necked contemporary glass decanter from the Jancis Robinson range for Richard Brendon (from £95) and your Valentine's Day dinner table can be that petit peu plus elegant?  Men did, after all, say they liked the idea of their partner cooking 'a nice dinner'....

We also asked random people across the age spectrum 'what would you like from your partner for Valentine's Day?' and here are some responses:

'I want him to send me some flowers, a really big bouquet.'

'I don't know - she could cook me something nice.'

'Those nice orchids, two of them.' 

'A bottle of my favourite perfume and a card that he's written a romantic sentiment in as he's never romantic.'

'A bottle of champagne.'

'Flowers by Paula Pryke.'

'I need some cufflinks'.

'A huge bouquet of flowers'

'Well, I do need some more socks..but that's not very romantic is it.'

'I'll send my wife some flowers and she can make dinner.'

OK, so real flowers are good - but on the carbon footprint argument it's best to have flowers grown in neighbouring Holland rather than Kenya (ask your florist where they source their flowers from). There are florists who specialise in UK-grown flowers but there's not much in the way of blooms in the UK in February alas. That said, Waitrose have British grown tulips and if it's roses your after, they probably will have been flown in from Africa or Asia, so look for Fair Trade labels - Serenata for example, has a Fair Trade range of bouquets.

Think faux...not faux pas

Alternatively a good faux arrangement could go down well too because high quality faux flowers look tremendously realistic and they don't die. Check out brands such as Bloom, which makes its flowers in the UK, Abigail Aherne and Amaranthine Blooms. Obviously not all components of faux flowers are recyclable, but they last for a good 10 years or more with regular dusting. And for paper flowers, look to Posy & Pot. Flowers are hand-made in Thailand to fair trade standards and they're made to last for years - again dust them regularly.  

For non-floral gifts but with a floral heart, obviously perfumes, but a pretty piece of china could just about pass as a personal romantic keepsake. Or how about heart-shaped stainless steel teaspoons from Alessi, £22 for four. You can think romantic thoughts about your beloved every time you stir your tea.