Red roses are popular year round but take on special importance at Valentine's Day. Suddenly they are everywhere. Bouquets of roses are sold by the side of the road and by salespeople hovering around restaurants. This, combined with the overflowing buckets at the grocery store, saturate a market that is deserving of a richness equivalent to its history. Favored mostly for its beauty and durability, combined with fragrance, the rose's popularity has caused an outbreak of ecologically harmful and trade-wide problems.
Many roses are raised in Ecuador and Colombia, and there is an ongoing concern of heavy pesticide use, unfair wage and labor conditions and the possibility that the rose tips themselves may have been treated with anti-fungal chemicals that are harmful to human beings.
Flower arranger and horticulture expert Betty Miles explains the importance of careful-sourcing and following care that will result in a longer life and a clear conscience. She notes that, due to favorable climate conditions as well as cheaper labor, most long stem roses (the most popular in America) are grown in greenhouses around the world, and generally in Colombia, Ecuador and parts of Africa. There can be a big difference between the white-bucketed variety amongst conventional locations and the fresher and perhaps more local available at a credible florist. Betty goes on to say:
When sourcing flowers in person, check underneath the bud to see if petals will have been removed. This will prove the flower to be old or not as fresh, diminishing their cut-life. 'Hardening-off' is a common flower arrangement term- taking a cut flower from a garden or, later, florist, and diagonally cutting an inch off the tip of the stem then immediately placing it in water (or cutting while the stem is submerged in water). Doing these steps, along with removing the lower leaves and stems will avoid rotting and water-contamination thus, shortening the life. If not removed, the most distal part of the stem will get dried, killing the cells within the stem, rendering it inactive, and killing the flower. This can and should be repeated by the distributor, the florist and finally, the customer. Though the packet of "flower-extender" that comes with your flowers appears artificial, it is an inert and biodegradable substance (typically a formula including dextrose and bacteria-inhibitors) that will extend the life of your cut flowers.