February 5, 2003 | By: Haven Miller
LEXINGTON, KY.

Valentine’s Day is always an important event for Kentucky’s florists.  A researcher at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is trying to find out if that special day could someday hold economic interest for Kentucky’s farmers as well.

UK horticulturist Bob Anderson is growing roses in greenhouses similar to those used to grow tobacco transplants.  He’s trying to find out if farmers could use their greenhouses to take advantage of the lucrative Valentine’s Day rose market.

“Often these greenhouses stand idle once the tobacco transplants go to the field,” Anderson said.    “If we can grow a single crop of roses for Valentine’s Day the plants would only be in the greenhouse in the fall and winter until Valentine’s Day, then they would be discarded and tobacco transplants or other spring crops could go in there.”

Much of the U.S. rose market is now supplied by South America.  Anderson said it’s possible for Kentucky producers to have roses ready by mid-February, but it would require skillful growing techniques and precise timing.

“I started roses from cuttings back in September,” he said.  “So far we’ve had a lot of overcast days and they haven’t gotten the amount of sunlight they really need, but when all the growing conditions are just right it’s perfectly feasible to have a crop ready for market by Valentine’s.”

Anderson said he’s experimenting with different rose varieties to see which ones grow best within the specified time period.

“Some varieties have a stronger fragrance than others, but producing a bloom with a stronger smell reduces the amount of storage time and the time it will last in a vase for the consumer,” he said.

Anderson hopes in the not-too-distant future to have enough data gathered to make some specific recommendations to growers.