I vividly remember the first time I was given a bouquet of flowers from a guy other than my dad. I was a sophomore at the University of Florida when I received a call from the dorm desk advising me that a vase of roses had arrived from a local florist. I practically fell down four flights of stairs in my haste to find out who’d sent them.
By the time I reached the desk, several girls had gathered to ooh and aah over the dozen deep-red roses in the green glass vase. I considered waiting until I got back to my room before reading the card, but the anticipation was simply too much. I ripped open the envelope and read the inscription: Have a Nice Day. An Admirer.
Who could it be? For days I considered the possibilities. I also took several pictures of my roses before they turned black and fell apart.
Eventually, I discovered the identity of my admirer. I don’t recall his name, but I still have the photos in my scrapbook of special memories.
The cut flower industry has evolved and improved tremendously since my college days. For example, there are currently all manner of color choices besides red, yellow, and white. And many of the roses previously found only in floral shops are now available for growing in your own garden. One of my favorites, Kardinal, holds its form on the bush in my garden for more than a week and doesn’t fade, even in the hottest weather.
Now the choices within the luxury cut rose industry are even more interesting with the arrival of David Austin Cut Flowers in America to the arena. His cut flowers are based on the garden roses admired worldwide for their fragrance, form and old-fashioned appearance. His new collection introduces flowers that have the English rose mystique but will now have year-round availability.
When dispatched, these roses are still in bud and quite tight. They gradually open into huge, beautifully formed blooms packed with an amazing number of petals. When fully open, the flower forms range from deep or shallow cups to quartered rosettes, some with a classic button eye. And the fragrance is absolutely intoxicating.
The quest to create cut flowers with the distinctive Austin charm and a vase life of five+ days has taken 15 years and more than $3 million. But the investment is already paying off. Beaucoup bouquets were sold during their first American season in 2009.
The popularity of the newest variety, Darcey, has taken off, and growers cannot keep up with the demand. In fact, the Darcey rose bouquet, with its exquisite raspberry-red blooms, is so exclusive, only one bouquet is available for delivery per day.
I can personally attest to the beauty of these flowers. I unexpectedly received a bouquet for my birthday last October. Austin roses are my favorites in the garden, but I never dreamed I’d have a vase filled with new English cut varieties delivered to my door.
Yes, the cut flower industry has changed dramatically over the years, but thankfully, one thing remains the same. The thrill of seeing a bouquet of roses arrive, and finding out your name is on the card.
PSSSST: A recent horticultural conference in Britain revealed something that most of us already knew: Working with plants makes us feel better. Duh.
Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, is one of eight garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
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