This week, the walk-in cooler at the Oklahoma Flower Market is packed with every imaginable color of rose, including some that don’t occur naturally.
There are dyed rainbow roses, a purple-black rose called Black Baccara and a hot pink variety dubbed Pink Floyd.
But for Valentine’s Day the red, long-stemmed variety remains the reigning queen, said third-generation flower market owner Mike Hurley.
“Mother’s Day is busy, but Mother’s Day is more about all types of flowers, while Valentine’s Day is all about the roses,” Hurley said.
Situated in a brick warehouse in Midtown, the flower market gets its flowers from around the world and sells them to florists, supermarkets and stores across the state. The price of roses typically starts inching up in January and spikes leading up to Valentine’s Day, Hurley said.
Metro area florists were advertising the classic bouquet of a dozen long-stem red roses for an average $100 this week.
It’s simply an issue of supply and demand, Hurley said.
Oklahoma Flower Market’s roses are imported from Ecuador and Colombia and flown into Miami via freight plane and then shipped via refrigerated truck to his Oklahoma City warehouse.
“It’s always a challenge to meet the demands of Valentine’s Day,” Hurley said. “You need extra airplanes that are staged in Ecuador, extra trucks from the coast and there are additional costs in clearing customs.”
On Wednesday, Oklahoma Flower Market workers were busy doing everything from breaking down shipments of flowers into bundles and bouquets to loading up trucks to fill orders for florists.
At Capitol Hill Florist in south Oklahoma City, a mixture of regular employees, temporary workers, part-timers and family members of owner Kent Whitnah have turned the shop on South Western into a war room of sorts. The floor is littered with stems and leaves and the phone rings constantly. Make-shift shelves set up around the shop organize outgoing orders according to their ZIP code.
Whitnah turns the heat off in the shop, turning the whole store into a walk-in cooler as workers wearing gloves and scarves arrange bouquets of lilies, tulips and roses in large glass vases on a bank of tables.
Whitnah expects to sell from 7,000 to 9,000 roses for Valentine’s Day this year, and the business will fill more orders this week than it typically does in an entire month.
Capitol Hill is selling a bouquet of a dozen long-stem red roses this week for $94.95, but the business is offering a special where buyers can get a second dozen for $40.
The price of red roses goes up as it gets closer to Valentine’s Day each year, Whitnah said.
“The growers go up on their prices, the wholesalers go up on their prices and it all trickles uphill,” he said. “It’s mainly supply and demand. People are willing to pay more to get those roses and the prices start inching up.”
Juggling phone orders while running back and forth between the walk-in coolers, Capital Hill floral manager Patty Wiggins uses one word to describe Valentine’s Day: “exhausting.”
“It’s a daylong holiday and everyone wants their flowers that day,” Wiggins said. “And everyone wants the flowers delivered at the office — that’s the big thing. I tell people, send them on the 12th or the 13th so they can enjoy them a day or two before.”
Mark Erickson, director of marketing and education for Oklahoma Flower Market, says that his line of work has cultivated a complex “love-hate” relationship with Valentine’s Day.
“But you have to think about how all these flowers are going to make so many people so happy,” he said. “Floral designers are a little bit co-dependent that way.”