Becky Stirnkorb, owner of The Daisy Flower Shop in Copperas Cove, needs a lot of help to meet the demand of Valentine’s Day shoppers.
“We call in all workers, friends, friends of friends, and anyone that can help,” she said.
While it’s no mystery that Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days in the “floral” year, one of the last things any lover will ask while sticking their nose in a pungent rose is, “Where did these flowers come from?”
Most Copperas Cove roses travel more than 3,000 miles before arriving at a loved-one’s kitchen table. Part of a larger $20 billion U.S. floral industry, the perfect red, white or brightly-colored blooms begin their “genetic” lives in the hands of four or five European breeders, said Carl Anderson, store manager at Pike’s Peak of Austin, a wholesale floral company that stocks Stirnkorb’s shop.
Chances are geneticists choose roses based on their ability to resist diseases and stay whole in the long, country-hopping shipping process.
Fragrant flowers especially tend to decay faster because the rose uses up plenty of life-sustaining energy to smell so sweet, Anderson said.
“They’re always looking for the new, hot rose, or the new color combinations. You know, 20 years ago everybody wanted their roses to be pointy and tight and stay in a tight bud form ... over the last 10 years or so it’s moved more to a garden look,” he said.
Seventy-eight percent of the “new, hot roses” that proliferate American grocery store bouquets are grown en mass in two countries: Ecuador and Columbia. Columbia entered the rose-growing scene in the late 1970s. Ecuador began mass-growing in the late 1990s, using their mountainous, volcanic environment to their advantage, specializing in high-end red roses and “color” roses, like yellows, pinks and multi-tones, Anderson said.
“Ecuador has higher growing elevations, so the air is thinner, the light is different ... most of the roses grow slower, but they grow to be about 10 to 11 feet in height,” he said. “But the best farms in Ecuador grow only colored roses, because they hold their prices better.”
After the stems are clipped, roses have about three weeks to get to a vase. Sophisticated cold storage techniques and 24-hour shipping helps prevent deterioration. Most floral shipments that come into the United States arrive on planes in Miami. A series of refrigerated trucks then begin routes to flower shops across the country.
“Just the sheer timing of it, the rain, the freeze, heat on the farms and shipping, (the entire process is) wild,” Anderson said. “I mean, this is all a bunch of guesswork.”
Meanwhile, back at in Copperas Cove, Stirnkorb and her team of assistants fill heart-shaped vases with pink roses most likely from Ecuador.
“Most men only know roses unless a woman tells them differently...” Stirnkorb said. “But flowers, flowers are the language of love.”