Valentine’s roses in short supply

Bunch of romance . . . Greenhouse Nursery owner John van Delft and supervisor Su Liu inspect Valentine's Day roses grown in a Mosgiel glasshouse. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Some Valentine’s Day lovers in Dunedin may have to settle for a single stem today as a shortage of locally grown roses begins to bite.

Greenhouse Nursery owner John van Delft said difficult growing conditions forced him to cancel some orders for his Valentine’s Day roses this year.

He supplied florists across Dunedin and the wholesale market.

“We’re about 900 roses short of where we wanted to be, which is a bit unfortunate but hey, c’est la vie.”

The growth of his roses in his large glasshouse in Mosgiel was stunted by cold weather last month.

He was the only commercial rose grower in Otago and advised people wanting to buy roses today to “get in early”.

He didn’t know how widespread the shortage was as rose growers across New Zealand were remaining tight-lipped on their production because it was a competitive industry, he said.

Greenhouse Nursery rose supervisor Su Liu said she had cut several thousand roses, soaked them in a treatment to strengthen the stems and sprayed the flowers with a preserving agent so they last longer.

Mr van Delft (70) said he began working in the industry as a teenager and it was a continual challenge supplying Valentine’s Day roses.

A cold and wet Christmas in Dunedin in 2017 had him facing a potential Valentine’s Day disaster last year but following several sleepless nights, his plan came together and every order was met, “but only just”.

Hot weather was problematic as it could bolster growth, because flowers could become “blown” by Valentine’s Day.

Production for Valentine’s Day began after Christmas when flower buds were picked from the rose bushes to promote new growth to have new blooms ready on time.

To make sure the plan remained on track, the water and heat supply in the glasshouse could be regulated.

“It’s quite a tricky operation but it keeps you alive.”

Valentine’s Day was the most complicated in meeting consumer demand because people demanded red roses, particularly his signature black magic rose for its deep, dark, red hue and long stem.

For Christmas, demand changed with fashion, some years people called for any type of red flower but other years they wanted the flowers to be a mix of colours.

But what does a commercial rose grower give his wife on Valentine’s Day?

“I’ll give Mary a box of chocolates,” he laughs.