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 colors we know today is the result of breeding programs 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 (who would want those?) and a lot in a mix of colors 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 the Los Angeles based 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. There’s such a beautiful range of colors, and I wish we could train the gift giver to know what the color preference of the receiver is.”
“I was 28 years in retail, and the guys would come in and just want the red roses, and so often the color preference of the recipient is different,” she said. “With a lot of women, the pastels are becoming very strong, the blush and the peaches.”
So how does a spouse, fiancé, boyfriend or lovesick wooer 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 favorites?”
It occurred to me that this might be a little transparent if the conversation took place on, say, Feb. 13. Fortunately, the majority of men plan in advance.
Sparks told me that 18 percent of women who buy a Valentine’s bouquet do so for themselves, so this might be another fruitful avenue of inquiry. Try this gambit: “Before you met the man of your dreams, did you ever buy flowers for yourself?”
Actually, I have another, better way of making a discreet inquiry.
Many websites pertaining to interior design allow you to change paint colors on a given image. Paint companies such as Benjamin Moore do the same. Pick a room, click on a paint chip, and voila, the wall becomes one of a thousand or more colors: Rouge, Claret, Butterscotch, Summer Meadow, Alpine Stream, Lederhosen, London Fog, whatever. Look furtively sideways to detect her reaction and make a mental note. If you’re a guy who thinks Martha Stewart was a Scottish queen, then a sudden interest in the world of decor might be a little suspicious.
Here’s the genius bit: 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 color 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 colors, 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.