Roses are top of mind as St. Valentine approaches

Roses are red Violets are blue, Better buy some for Sweetie Saint Valentine's due.
As you read this, St. Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and as indicated in my little rhyme, above, one flower in particular is associated with February 14. Hint: It isn't the violet.
Why is St. Valentine so closely identified with love, romance and roses?
Although Valentine's Day has its origins in third-century Rome - one legend claims that Valentine was a priest who secretly performed marriage ceremonies for soldiers and their brides during a time when soldiers were forbidden to marry - it was not until the eighteenth century that lovers started sending cards or notes to each other to mark the holiday. Flowers didn't come into vogue until greenhouses allowed growers to force flowers to bloom in the dead of winter.
I found that tidbit in a new book by Amy Stewart, titled "Flower Confidential." Here are some more Valentine-related revelations from the book:
During the two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, 12 to 15 million stems of Latin American flowers will arrive each day at Miami International Airport
Almost a third of American adults will buy flowers or a plant for Valentine's Day. Roughly half of those people will purchase roses, mainly red roses.
Over a third of orders will be placed on February 13, and another 22% are called in on the holiday itself.
Americans buy 180 million roses for Valentine's Day, and the average arrangement of a dozen roses costs just over $70.00.
In 2007, Valentine's Day falls on a Wednesday. Flower sales peak when the holiday lands in the middle of the week, averaging $30,000 per shop.
A typical wage on an Ecuadorian flower farm is about $150.00 per month. Wages represent less than four cents for every rose sold.
Rose developers may spend seven years or more developing a new variety for market. An Australian team has been working for over ten years on developing a blue rose, using a pigment gene from petunias.
"Flower Confidential" contains more than just information on roses and Valentine's Day, with hundreds of little known facts on the global flower market and tips and techniques to get the most out of your cut flowers. It is scheduled for publication February 9, 2007 by Algonquin Books.
However, the rose is the flower that is top of mind with everyone at this time of year. A couple of weeks ago in this column, I told you about some roses that are favorites of Cheryl's and mine.
Just to remind you, they are collectively known as "Knockout Roses," with varieties such as Knockout Red, Knockout Pink and Knockout Rainbow. All are delightful plants and don't require a lot of fussing. If you missed that column or would like to read it again, you can find it at my Web site, www.landsteward.org Look for the column titled "These roses are easy to grow and very low maintenance."
So here's an idea. This year, how about planting some Knockout rose bushes for your sweetheart? Unlike a $70.00 bouquet that might only last a few days, tell your sweetie that, just like you love, these shrubs will last for years, growing stronger and more beautiful with each passing season. Now who could resist that?
Okay, it might be wise to also buy a sappy card and something personal. Only you can decide if "something personal" is a box of candy or a diamond bracelet. But for years of beauty in your garden, it's hard to beat the vista of a beautiful grouping of colorful, fragrant rose bushes.
May you have a "blooming happy" St. Valentine's Day!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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