World's Tallest Roses
by Chris Wetterich
They may be grown in Ecuador, but the 5-foot-tall red roses sold by Flora Scape on West Monroe Street are all-American - oversized, showy and swaggering. And $200 a dozen.
"They're for somebody who wants to make a big impact," said Flora Scape owner Susan Wilkey. "They're definitely unusual."
Kent, a 37-year-old medical-equipment salesman who bought a dozen for his girlfriend, said he hadn't even seen the roses beforehand. (Kent asked that his last name not be published because he didn't want to spoil today's surprise.)
"She described them to me," he said of the Flora Scape saleswoman. "She said the bulbs are the size of grapefruits. I thought they were cool, and the girl I'm dating is totally worth it."
Dan Brilley, 48, vice president of marketing for Capitol Group, said his wife works in "an office full of a lot of people receiving flowers."
"I want to send her the most unique and largest flowers for the love of my life," Brilley said.
Lisa Rinnus of Flora Scape said the shop ended up with eight dozen of the super roses for Valentine's Day, but she wouldn't disclose the source because she does not want competitors to know. It's the first year Flora Scape has carried the premium roses.
"We were last on the list of customers overall," Rinnus said. "I found them last year, but I couldn't get them. I had to do some very, very intense searching."
Neither the roses nor the volcanic soil they grow in is given any performance-enhancing drugs.
They "grow naturally tall in their native Ecuadorian soil,"according to Organic Bouquet, a Web site through which they are sold. "Days of prolonged sunlight and cool nights allow these oversized beauties to flourish beyond expectation."
The heads are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Rinnus, who is accredited by the American Institute of Floral Designers, recommends that people put them in a vase with warm water, but place them in a cool area of the house. With care, they should last seven to 10 days.
The roses are rare nationwide, not just in Springfield. Organic Bouquet, which priced the premium roses at $249 a dozen, sold out two days before Valentine's Day.
Rae Roberts-Griffith, the owner of True Colors Floral Artistry on Clock Tower Drive, said she sold out the three dozen she had "real fast."
"People call and ask about them," Roberts-Griffith said. "It's a novelty."
By the end of the day Wednesday, Flora Scape had sold seven of its eight dozen. The roses are available there year-round.
"Valentine's Day is a last-minute holiday because it's men," Rinnus said. "And women generally don't buy men flowers."