A Rose is Not A Rose is Not A Rose

Talking flowers and Valentine's Day with an industry veteran, Flower Box's Arthur Cabezas.


Used to be that area flower vendors would go pick up their flowers from Pierson's Nursery, at the site of what is now Ossining's Arcadia Shopping Center. 

Arthur Cabezas, owner of Sleepy Hollow's , said the florist who owned the shop before him talked about going up Route 9 for his flowers, some forty or fifty years ago. Back when buying local was the only way to go. Back before, according to Cabezas, the gas crisis of the 1970s contributed to the close of greenhouses across the country, and the flowers started coming from further afield.

Where do those beautiful red roses come from that are such a staple of Valentine's Day and such a boon to a florist's annual trade? Most of them come from South America, said Cabezas. There are California roses too, he said, but not as good, “not as long-lasting.” Like the quality of wine grapes, it's all in the soil, he said.

“The American Beauty Rose was the best there ever was,” Cabezas said. No more.

What is enduring though is the red rose itself, this shop, and Cabezas. Cabezas has had the Flower Box here in Sleepy Hollow, across from , for a dozen years. Before that, he spent 15 years running the shop in Tarrytown where the Verizon is now. That shop belonged to a florist for 30 years prior to that, the originator of the Flower Box name. 

But Cabezas, a lifelong flower man who started delivering 38 years ago in the Bronx, prefers his perhaps-quieter digs in Sleepy Hollow since he's off the main drag with ample free parking in front. Most of his business comes by Internet or phone these days anyway. 

While many one-day holidays really last a weekend, a week, or in the case of Christmas, a whole month, Valentine's Day has a tight deadline. If you order flowers, you better get them to your loved one that day or suffer the wrath to come. 

“If you don't deliver your roses on that day, they don't want to see you,” said Cabezas. “You'll be in big trouble.” (He recommends getting orders in at least a week prior to the 14th.)

Some stats: 

The shop probably sends about 2,000 red roses for Valentine's Day, by far the biggest day of the year. The roses go for $75/dozen or $6 to $7 each depending. 

Or you can get more bang for your buck by sprinkling petals around the room, for $5 to $10 bag.

The roses come from South America and are expected to last 7 to 10 days after you buy them.

Cabezas typically has to employ three drivers to get all the flowers out on time on the big day. 

But why are roses so expensive? And why the big mark-up on Valentine's Day? Cabezas attests it's not the florists earning extra money but a matter of industry-wide supply and demand. Blame not the romantic consumer but something you might not expect: the annual New Year's Rose Bowl Parade.

“They use thousands and thousands and thousands of flowers on those floats. It raises demand everywhere," Cabezas said. "People don't realize, what it takes to grow a rose. The whole industry is on those floats."

Like diamonds, Cabezas said roses are forever. A classic that will never go out of favor, always inextricably linked with romance and Valentine's Day. “They'll stay,” he said.

Still, it's a matter of taste. Like the customer Cabezas recounts who gave his lady a bouquet of “just stems, no heads. He was trying to get back at her.” What did he charge for that? Just for the box, he said. 

Bruce Rosen February 04, 2012 at 12:25 AM
The Rose Bowl has little to do with the reason prices for roses spike around Valentine's Day. As your article says, most of the roses come from South America, primarily Ecuador and Columbia. Not many come from the greenhouses in California. The reason for the spike is that extra flights are needed in order to get the product to the US. The truck lines that carry the product throughout the US have to hire additional vehicles and the list can go on and on. This is a true meaning of supply not being able to keep up with the demand so people will pay a bit more in order to guarantee that they can get the roses they need.
Krista Madsen February 04, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Thanks for adding this. I think, as with so many products, people don't realize just what it takes behind the scenes for that product to magically arrive at their door. People expect things to be cheaper than they really can be (food, for one).
Laura Monteros February 04, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Actually, the Rose Bowl has nothing to do with it as there is no such thing as the Rose Bowl Parade. It's the Rose Parade, and it came more than a decade before the first East-West Game, and even longer before the Rose Bowl was built for the 1923 Tournament. A good many of the roses used in the Rose Parade come from Oregon. Portland is known as the Rose City (Pasadena is the Crown City) and of course there is Roseburg, OR. That's undoubtedly more than you wanted to know...but I write a Tournament of Rose column and I just had to respond!
Krista Madsen February 04, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Thanks for further clarification; I seem to be tapping into the rose community here!
Bruce Rosen February 04, 2012 at 02:56 PM
You should do a story on how the rose gets from seedling to your table and the processes in between.


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