Imagine two hundred million roses—mostly red—blooming simul-
taneously. Every year flower growers around the globe prune, nur-
ture, and tend these flowers to ensure that each one reaches perfec-
tion on the same day—February 14. On that day millions of Americans and
countless other people around the world collectively express love with gifts of
red roses. Thirty years ago far fewer Americans imagined that roses were
needed to express their love—this luxury was not yet a necessity.
Last Valentine’s Day Peter Webster gave his wife Megan a dozen roses.∞
roses were a mixture of colors and shapes. Some were bright red with folded-
back petals, six were a deep maroon with petals tinted pale beige on their
underside, and the rest were a dark crimson red. Three of the roses in the
arrangement were named ‘Charlotte.’ Several days earlier these same ‘Char-
lotte’ roses grew in Tabacundo in the Ecuadorian Andes under the care of
Liliana Ortega. Liliana was responsible for hundreds of rose shrubs including
many ‘Charlotte’ plants. She pruned, cleaned their beds, trimmed and watched
them carefully until the buds reached the perfect moment for cutting.
Liliana’s supervisor was pressing her to meet her quota of cut blooms. They
were all urgently needed for a holiday when roses yielded much higher prices
for their growers. Liliana was working overtime cutting roses from all her
plants. But she was troubled by the late yield of her ‘Charlotte’ plants. January
had been unusually cold in this part of Ecuador. The plants were sheltered
in plastic-covered greenhouses, but their growth was slowed by the chilly
weather and some blooms would not develop until after Valentine’s Day.
Finally she snipped three fat-budded ‘Charlotte’ roses from adjacent plants.
She felt confident they would open soon after reaching their final destination
in the United States.
Liliana’s three ‘Charlotte’ roses sat for hours in a conditioning solution that
prepared them for a long journey without water. Then a skilled packer carefully