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On the Thorns of a Dilemma : If the Cost of Roses Cools Your Ardor, Try Other Buds, Say O.C. Florists


Sending flowers tomorrow? Red roses? Again?

Please, stop in the name of love: You don't have to send your sweetie overpriced red roses every Valentine's Day. She or he is probably hoping for tulips anyway. Local florists second that emotion.

"We would love to talk them out of it," says Machelle Murray, owner of the Flower Reminder of Newport Beach. "They are so expensive right now and not the best deal compared to spring flowers, the tulips and the irises."

"Don't send roses," agrees Helena Sopwith, owner of Tustin Florist. "The growers triple the price for Valentine's Day, and they're not a good deal. For the same amount of money you'll get twice as many spring flowers, and they'll last twice as long."

Although sticker shock at the price of a dozen roses--from about $65 up to $100 for 12 long-stemmed Ecuadorean flowers--is not uncommon, the Valentine's Day tradition of sending red roses to lovers remains strong. Local florists say it constitutes about 60% of total flower orders during the days before Feb. 14. According to the American Rose Society, more than 35,000 roses will be sold per minute in various outlets across the nation this year. How did red roses come to say "I love you?"

One legend has it that St. Valentine was an imprisoned Christian in ancient Rome who wanted to get word to his loved ones that he was still alive. He picked the petals from roses growing outside his window and pierced them with the words "Remember your Valentine." The petals were delivered to his beloved by a dove.

Another theory explaining the rose's appeal to lovebirds is its fragrant, almost intoxicating scent. Poets, songwriters and artists have paid tribute to its perfume since time immemorial.

But it's an expensive little bud on Valentine's Day. And has been for decades.

Jim Brillon, manager of Sherwood Florist in Laguna Hills, suggests an alternative: Choose a loose, fresh-from-the garden arrangement of spring flowers.

"We try to sell an upscale European look," he says. "This is very popular right now. Go for Holland bulb flowers, tulips, irises rather than carnations and baby's breath. Another option is going tropical with Hawaiian ginger and orchids."

Lili Honari of the House of Flowers in Irvine says about 35% of her Valentine's Day customers are women. Instead of roses, the women generally order either plants or flowering bulbs that can be replanted.

Women tend to get a bit more creative than her male customers, according to Kathy Lyon of Artistic Flowers in Costa Mesa. She says it is not uncommon for the ladies to bring in lingerie they want delivered with the flowers or tucked tastefully into the arrangement. Others buy roses for the petals to put in their "valentine's beds."

After some 20 years in the flower business, Lyon has helped many romances blossom.

"One guy wanted to order five dozen roses because he's been married five years," she says. (Cost: nearly $400). "Another guy came in and ordered the exact same arrangement for his wife and his girlfriend. He was very adamant that we not mix up the cards."

Retired florist Isabel Cruz of Laguna Beach says the most unusual order she ever filled was a huge arrangement with condoms nestled artfully among the sprigs.

"I thought it was so romantic that they could say it with flowers," she says. " 'Let's make love, but safely.' "


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