Roses out in force for st valentine's

MR Lincoln will be there, so will Papa Milan, Oklahoma and even Sir Donald Bradman - bunched up and waiting to be taken, all in the name of love.

These are just some of the names given to the ubiquitous red rose and they will be out in full bloom this Saturday.

The economy may be buckling, the fires and floods raging but Valentine's Day will prevail. All across the Clarence the hardwired male species will make their (usual) annual pilgrimage to the florist, will slam the cash down and ask for what he knows will bring a smile to the face of his woman.

Because of the nature of the buyer, that is lovestruck men, florists all over find it the hardest celebration to order for, although being a male himself, Yamba florist Mark Hassall has the market completely sussed.

“We're dealing with blokes who leave everything to the last minute,” Mr Hassall said although he's surprised at the number of locals who pre-ordered this year.

He said mostly they arrive on Valentine's Day, often late in the day and are fixated on that bunch of red roses. He often finds himself steering the customer towards flowers with more longevity and value for money.

“A rose will last for about seven days, while you'll get up to two and a half weeks from a lily,” he said

This year Mr Hassall has ordered 400 roses making up around 35 bunches, a 25 per cent decrease on last year, something he attributes to a downturn in people's attitudes to the commercial side of Valentine's Day and the fact that Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday.

In business time, a copycat effect applies - people grabbing a bunch of flowers after work, and the trend catches on, whereas on a Saturday people usually prefer to go out to dinner and not do the last minute 'rose buying thing'.

It may not be the year for a downturn in the Clarence, however, with a fantastic growing season recorded by Matthew Benefield, of Benefields Rose Farm at Halfway Creek.

“The hotter the better,” he says of the best growing conditions for roses and he should know, being a fifth-generation rose grower.

“It was a slow start to the season last spring, with all that cloud and rain, something roses don't like at all,” he said

The Benefields have over 500 rose varieties in pots and about 100 'cut-stem' varieties that are all perfumed.

“I don't grow them unless they are perfumed,” Mr Benefield said

It seems to be all sweet news for the Clarence, with the Halfway Creek growers selling bunches of 20 fresh-picked long stem beauties for $10, the same price as the rest of the year, providing you can call in and pick them up yourself.

Alternatively, you can always call Interflora and send a dozen for a thorny $118.

“Last year they queued up outside the door to get their roses”

Mark Hassall

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