Why you shouldn't buy red roses for Valentine's Day

By Adrian Higgins

Ahead of her Super Bowl appearance, Beyonce received 10,000 roses from her husband Jay Z.

This raises a number of questions: Did Jay Z arrange to have them delivered to Queen Bey at the office? This, according to some florists, is the way to boost the potency of a bouquet. Love must not only be done, it must be seen. The office delivery instils in others either unalloyed sister love, or an unspoken but seething envy. Either way, it increases the emotional octane.

Then there's that other burning inquiry: Did she open all those plastic packets of flower preservative with her fingers alone? I find I have to use my teeth to get them started.

The most important question of all isn't the cost, but rather: What was the colour? If the roses were red, as one might expect in the lead-up to Valentine's Day, they may not have had the oomph that Jay Z was looking for.

Red roses are associated with passion and love. But many recipients of Valentine's Day roses would prefer any colour but red.

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Yes, Robert Burns wrote that "O my Luve is like a red, red rose." But maybe that had to do with how you craft a poem. It just wouldn't work as well as, "O my Luve is like a magenta, magenta rose." Also, in his day, most roses were red (or pinkish, or white). The rainbow of rose colours we know today is the result of breeding programmes since the poet's death in 1796. Take it from me, lads, venture outside the red end of the spectrum this Valentine's.

Today you will find roses in about every hue but blue and a clear green and a lot in a mix of colours in a single bloom. Some roses darken agreeably as they age, others get lighter.

In an informal poll of my female colleagues, the resounding response was that red roses are a bit cheesy, or at least associated with an alarming display of predictability. As one person said: "The red rose is the lazy man's flower." Ouch.

If you want to compound the felony, add baby's breath and leatherleaf fern to the dozen long-stemmed scentless roses.

"Studies show that women don't necessarily prefer red roses," said Bruce Wright, editor of floral trade publication Flowers& magazine. "Most women would be happy to receive something other than the stereotypical red roses in a box." Hitomi Gillian, a leading floral designer and teacher based in Vancouver, said: "I hope consumers as well as designers move on from everything needing to be red at Valentine's." So how does a spouse, fiance, boyfriend or lovesick woo-er discern that one hue that will set the recipient's heart aflutter?

"There are ways to ask and find out what roses your girlfriend or wife likes," said Jennifer Sparks, of the Society of American Florists. She said one tactic is to find a magazine with pictures of flowers and casually pronounce: "Oh, I like those, what are your favourites?"

Sparks told me that 18 per cent of women who buy a Valentine's bouquet do so for themselves, so this might be another fruitful avenue of inquiry.

Many websites pertaining to interior design allow you to change paint colours on a given image. Paint companies do the same. Pick a room, click on a paint chip, and voila, the wall becomes one of a thousand or more colours: Rouge, Claret, Butterscotch, Summer Meadow, Alpine Stream, Lederhosen, London Fog, whatever.

Look furtively sideways to detect her reaction and make a mental note.

Pretend you're in the market for a new car, and the manufacturers' websites have a rubric called "Build Your Own" or the like. Once you have the model of your choice, you can change the exterior colour with the click of a mouse.

You can further shroud the intent by picking a vehicle that exudes testosterone, a full-size pickup truck or a muscle car. Make sure your mate is around when you start choosing colours, and get her opinion.

Once Valentine's Day has come and gone, she may ask if you bought that new car. At that point, simply say that it was so expensive that for the same money you could have bought 10,000 roses.

- Washington Post

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