My Love Is Like a Six-Foot Rose

By Adrian Higgins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 5, 2007

If love were an arms race, the wooer would now have the floral equivalent of a ballistic missile: a six-foot rose from Ecuador.

Delivered in a 78-inch box emblazoned "The World's Tallest Rose," the ultimate long-stemmed rose is up to 72 inches long and capped with a furled and individually wrapped crimson bud three inches high and almost as wide. Regular long-stemmed roses, by contrast, are about 28 inches long with a bud an inch and a half wide.

As with true love, the price of these "extreme roses" is not for the faint of heart. Expect to pay $249.95 for a dozen, plus $59.95 for priority shipping. A conventional bouquet will typically cost between $70 and $90 in advance of Valentine's Day next week, the peak period for cut-rose sales and prices.

"People who are giving flowers want to make an impression, and this is the ultimate impression you can make," said Gerald Prolman, whose online flower company, Organic Bouquet, is selling the tall roses as part of an exclusive arrangement with grower Roberto Nevado. Nevado has created the roses as a niche crop in rich soil where the Andes meet the equator, the perfect recipe for supersize blooms.

In addition to the stem length and bud size, other parts of the plant are gargantuan: The leaves are large, the buds have as many as 60 petals or more, and the stems are as thick as your finger and thorny. As with most roses bred for cutting, the fragrance is stinting, however.

One variety, Forever Young, is a deep crimson. The other, Red Intuition, is a lighter red with blood-red streaks. Buyers don't get to select the variety, and Prolman, who expects to sell out of his allocation of 500 bunches by Feb. 14, says he is releasing a quota each day to avoid an immediate sellout.

"Do they supply a stepladder?" asked Stephen Scanniello, a rose historian from Barnegat, N.J. Prolman, based in San Rafael, Calif., doesn't see his roses as freakish; rather, he considers them a potent and novel message of love at a time when so many hearts are vying for attention.

Americans last year bought 189 million roses for Valentine's Day. Three out of four buyers were men, according to the Society of American Florists. The jumbo roses, Prolman says, are "a grand romantic gesture."

The roses are grown naturally and are neither genetically modified nor infused with hormones. But that may not make them exactly natural in the eyes of some observers.

"They look like something from outer space," said Dokhi Mirmirani, a florist in Sherman Oaks, Calif., whose clients include Hollywood celebrities. "The magnitude is pretty awesome."

She said "men like them because they're massive and romantic." It also telegraphs their wealth, she said. Prolman's wholesale division made them available to Mirmirani and others last year, and the florist used them to adorn the Beverly Hills home of a pop star she wouldn't name except to say that "she's beyond famous," and "she loved them."

Florist Cherrie Silverman of Westminster, Colo., used them on two floats in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. "People were flipping out," she said. "I was actually amazed by it."

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