How Valentine’s Day Flowers Get from Growers to Your Door

By Lauren Wanko

Before Valentine’s Day roses end up on your coffee table, dozens arrive in Middletown at Calvert’s Wholesale still looking vase-worthy despite the long trip from South America.

How important is Valentine’s Day in wholesaler Richard Calvert’s world?

“It’s very important because after getting through the month of January, which is typically slow for just about every business, it’s good to have this shot in the arm here,” he said.

The National Retail Federation indicates this year consumers will spend $18.2 billion on Valentine’s Day. They’ll dole out $2 billion on flowers. Calvert has been in business for more than 30 years. Calvert’s gets the majority of its roses from Colombia and Ecuador.

“Specifically Ecuador has, what I have been told by the growers, the prime conditions to grow roses. The elevation is correct, the amount of rainfall, the temperature,” Calvert said.

Calvert’s places orders with a broker, the roses are flown to Miami in boxes, then transported by truck to New Jersey. They’re refrigerated the entire journey, says Calvert.

“They’re always kept at say 36 degrees,” he said.

The wholesaler’s top priority? Ensuring the quality meets his standards.

Every year Calvert’s starts ordering roses in December. The wholesaler likes to have the bulk of its inventory in place by the middle of January, but shipments don’t arrive until days before the holiday in order to maintain freshness. Calvert is never worried about ordering too many flowers. That’s because people sometimes forget to buy them for the holiday so the day of Valentine’s is often fairly busy.

As for Valentine’s Day rose prices, Calvert said, “The growers raise their prices dramatically for the Valentine’s Day holiday because they feel it’s their one time to get a good return. … There’s also freight surcharges, all the airlines, the truckers. So you have that increased cost, then you have the increased cost of just doing business, you’re working more hours, you have people working more. It all comes together so we have to raise our prices, there is no way around it and the retailers have to raise theirs also because the prices jump dramatically for them.”

So how did giving flowers become an expression of love and affection?

“The Greeks are the ones who very much began to use the flower and the rose in particular as a symbol of love. … And it’s then again, not until probably the early 1700s that this practice of floriography becomes popular in Europe,” said Brookdale Community College Professor George Reklaitis.

Reklaitis says giving flowers as an expression of love became very popular in Victorian England.

“Where especially in elite society, where showing emotion, expressing love was considered impolite. So then, handing over flowers as a means of symbolizing one’s feelings —  this didn’t just extend to roses, but other flowers as well — became popularized,” he said.

Calvert’s grateful giving flowers is still popular today and he thinks it’ll be even more popular this year.

“Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days for Valentine’s Day because it kind of keeps people from going out to dinner. They get the flowers at home rather than going out and celebrating,” he said.