Califonia Bountiful

Petal power

One grower is 'petaling' a new and unique venture with roses.

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You name the rose and DeeDee Meininger probably grows it at her family's business in Watsonville. Called Obie's Nursery, it was named after her grandfather, who started the farm in 1944. Today, DeeDee and her crew keep his legacy alive by tending to a variety of roses.

DeeDee's family farm is one of the 250 or so flower farms in California that produce about 75 percent of all U.S.-grown cut flowers. And despite our natural love for fresh flowers, farmers like DeeDee are having a difficult time competing with cheaper imports.

"It's hard to stay a rose grower here in California these days," she said. "There's a lot of competition from Ecuador and Colombia. We try to have the colors and the varieties that people want when they want them, just so we can stay in business."

But growing and selling roses wasn't enough, so DeeDee had to come up with another way for the farm to find revenue. Most of her sales came from weddings and engagements because her customers would pick the petals off the roses to use as decoration. So she thought, instead of selling roses, why not just sell the petals?

Now workers harvest the flowers and remove the petals from the stems of the farm-fresh roses. They then gather up the petals, place them in clamshell containers and ship them off, sometimes within hours of harvest. DeeDee says they can usually pack about 2,000 petals in each package, which will cover anywhere from 10 to 40 square feet. And the best part is, they're available in whatever color you'd like—depending on what you want to say with your rose petals.

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