Califonia Bountiful

Rose grower petals romance for Valentine's Day

Jan./Feb. 2011 California Country magazine

With roses, the parts can mean as much as—or more than—the whole.

Santa Cruz rose grower DeeDee Meininger says fresh rose petals are gaining in Valentine’s Day popularity, with holiday orders coming in from snow-bound locales like Alaska and Vermont, as well as California.

Roses, the age-old Valentine's Day gift, are now, more often than not, being sprinkled, spread and strewn—thanks to fresh rose petals from California-grown flowers.

"Our business is really catching on, particularly for Valentine's Day," said DeeDee Meininger, whose family has grown fresh-cut roses in Northern California since the 1940s. Today, Obies Floral in Santa Cruz is operated by second- and third-generation rose growers who ship cut roses and fresh petals throughout the United States.

Her company's Valentine's Day mixture of red, white and pink petals is designed to make a unique statement, she said. The color of rose petals, however, conveys different messages and Meininger points out sweethearts can send exactly the right message with a custom color mix.

Whether the sentiments are steamy or dreamy, her online business ( offers packs of about 2,000 petals each. The packs ship one to three days before Valentine's Day to ensure they're ready when a nervous lover wants to nudge a romance along or make a special statement.

While the trend is still new for Valentine's Day, horticultural historians say Cleopatra had her bed and floors covered in fresh rose petals when entertaining guests. Rose petals were used in Roman banquet halls.

When asked if she deliberately strips perfectly good roses of their petals, Meininger laughed. Lots of people also have wondered if perfectly good roses are sacrificed for the petals.

"Commercial buyers want roses with long, strong, straight stems," she explained. "Not all roses come out that way. We use flowers that might otherwise have been discarded. But, to tell the truth, depending on the amount of orders on any given day, sometimes the perfect ones become petals, too."

Last Valentine's Day, consumers spent about $1.3 billion on flowers, according to consumer research from IBISWorld.

Meininger said she hopes a bump in flower sales this Valentine's Day also will mean bigger demand for fresh rose petals, but noted, "I have a lot of guys calling year-round. When it comes to surprising someone special with fresh rose petals, every day is Valentine's Day."

Kate Campbell is a reporter for California Country. She can be reached at 800-698-FARM or

Fresh Valentine's Day ideas

Here's a twist on the traditional Valentine's Day bouquet. Rose grower DeeDee Meininger, who's developing a niche market for fresh rose petals, offers these suggestions:

  • For a romantic dinner, ask the restaurant staff to sprinkle fresh rose petals on the table before you're seated.
  • Use fresh rose petals as "packing" inside a pretty box with the real gift inside.
  • Create a path with fresh rose petals that leads your loved one to a romantic surprise.
  • Lay out fresh rose petals in the shape of a heart at an entryway or on the bed.
  • Sprinkle fresh rose petals around the one you love while they're sleeping so they can wake up in a bed of roses.
  • Set the scene for a romantic encounter by floating fresh rose petals in bowls of water surrounded by candles.
  • Place fresh rose petals in your own special way—sprinkled in bath water, fluttered on a bed pillow, tucked into a Valentine's Day card.

Meininger points out that the color of rose petals conveys different messages.

"You could start with lavender, which means falling in love," she said. "Of course, if things have progressed, then red symbolizes romantic love."

She notes that white symbolizes pure love, yellow says joyful love, pink conveys happy in love and peach shows appreciation and gratitude in love, while orange speaks of burning desire.

With a wide range of meaningful colors that can be used to send a "coded" message, Meininger said, "We think fresh rose petals are fun! They're romantic, relatively inexpensive, and really, why not?"

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