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Seeing Red Over the Cost of Holiday Roses?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This is the day to say, “I love you.” If you want to prove it, say it with roses.

To send your love a dozen red roses today will cost at least $60, and more likely $75. If you want to buy the very best with the longest stems and the richest color, the tab can climb to $100 a dozen. Throw in $5 to $15 for delivery, depending on the location, and you have made a substantial investment in romance.

The price of roses jumps for Valentine’s Day and though customers may complain, it’s still the florists’ busiest day of the year.

“We are basically swamped with delivery orders,” Dina Morimoto at the Westwood Flower Garden said Friday.

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The long-stem red roses there start at $75 a dozen. “Roses are graded, like eggs,” Morimoto explained. “The extra fancy ones have larger heads and really long stems--about three feet. They’re $100 a dozen.”

If that’s too stern a test of your affection, she suggests tulips. “We have a lot of red, pink or white. These are the colors everyone wants and you can get a nice bouquet arranged in a vase for $35.” Another fall-back bouquet, she said, would be tulips and spring flowers with a couple of token roses.

“It’s the demand that drives up the price this time of year,” Morimoto said. “We have 10 times more deliveries than usual. Everyone wants them sent to the office--with this investment, they want people to ooh and ahh over them.”

“The price does seem awful darned expensive,” said Frank Kuwahara, president of the wholesale Southern California Flower Market. “But you have to realize that roses are highly perishable and can’t be stored up.”

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Because florists can’t stockpile an inventory, he said, growers sacrifice a whole crop of red roses by pinching back the buds that would normally bloom in January so they can bring in a February crop. Furthermore, Valentine’s Day is the one holiday that everybody insists on having flowers delivered that very day, he added. “It puts a terrific burden on the florist.”

Rocky Pollitz is vice president of Teleflora, the Los Angeles-based clearinghouse for floral wire services across the country. She acknowledged florists “get a bad rap” on Valentine’s Day. But despite the high prices, she said, “people send roses because this is a flower holiday and we are a land of romantics.”

On the practical side, she offered this advice to rose shoppers:

* Pick roses that are just beginning to open. If they are curled too tightly they may have been cut too green and won’t open all the way.

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* Look for a rich color--"that velvety port-wine red.”

* Check that foliage is bright green and fresh.

Healthy roses should last from five to seven days, if properly cared for, Pollitz said. “If a rose begins to droop, take it out of the container, run warm water over it and cut the stem under water. The stem is like a straw and if it gets clogged, the bloom dries up.

“I don’t care what the price of a rose is,” she added, “there is nothing that tells the story of love like a flower.”

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