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My Love Is Like a Six-Foot Rose

Several florists interviewed had no aesthetic objection to them but said they would be difficult for any sweetheart to use, and that the roses may be better employed in hotel lobbies, at museum events and at wedding receptions. Even large vases would look too small and the impulse would be to shorten the stems, they said, defeating the point of the roses. Prolman sells a 24-inch galvanized metal vase to go with them ($79.95, plus shipping).

Jordan Amige, president of one of Washington's largest wholesale florists, Potomac Floral Wholesale in Silver Spring, had them available last year for a while. "People said, 'It's beautiful, it's different, it's huge. But what do I do with it?' "

Event planner and florist Jay Watkins of the Ociana Group in Northeast said the extreme rose would work in the grand setting of a museum event, "but where else would we have it?"

Prolman and Nevado are bullish on extreme roses and have no doubts about their future. Nevado said he intends to increase production if sales go well this winter in the United States and Russia, the two largest markets for them.

Nevado says roses have bulked up a lot since he started in the mid-1960s. When he began, he said, buds were little more than an inch high and stems just a few inches long. But as Ecuador and neighboring Colombia have grown to dominate the rose-growing industry, the flowers have become more colorful and diverse, "so the market is going to be more and more complicated, with definite niches," he said.

Roses grow robustly in the equatorial Andes, where a year-round growing season, intense sunlight and cool nights result in extremely vigorous plants. Nevado and other growers are licensed to produce the roses by hybridizers who own the plant patents.

Red Intuition and, more commonly, Forever Young, are raised by other Ecuadorian farmers but are harvested as shorter-stemmed plants, said Liza Atwood, founder of Fifty Flowers, an online bulk flower retailer based in Ojai, Calif.

Nevado's extreme roses are produced through pruning techniques and by waiting a month longer than normal to harvest the flower, almost 100 days. They produce only six to seven long stems per plant per year, he said. Nevado has approximately 100,000 bushes of Forever Young and 300,000 of Red Intuition at his two farms in the mountains south of Quito. One farm is at 9,000 feet, the other at 9,700 feet.

The extreme roses were first grown for the Russian market, where long-stemmed red roses are highly desired, especially on March 8, International Women's Day. Nevado's workers had to cut them shorter to fit the shipping boxes, "and that was a frustration because they took an extremely long time" to grow, he said.

They may be the longest-stemmed roses in the world, but they are not the largest rose plant, said Scanniello, author of "A Year of Roses." A Lady Banks climber in Tombstone, Ariz., planted around the Civil War, now spans 70 feet.

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