Staying out of the red for roses

Maybe those dozen long-stemmed red roses, the perennial top choice for Valentine's Day, are out of reach for your budget this year. And there's just one day to go.

But don't fret. Mindful of the tough economic times, floral experts have come up with ways to keep costs down.

First thing: There's no getting around the higher cost of top-quality roses at this time of year, driven by demand. You'll pay, on average, just over $74 for a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

But alternatives abound, says the Society of American Florists.

Shorter-stem roses cost less. Or go with half a dozen roses, a mixed bouquet that might blend in at least one rose or a single red rose. Besides floral shops, you'll find flowers of varying grades and prices at the grocery store.

If you find an especially good deal online, know what you're getting. It might appear the dozen roses come arranged in a vase, when in fact the vase, or a higher-grade rose, costs more.

And some online orders might wrap in an order-taking charge, if the order is sent to a local florist to arrange and deliver.

Penny Bradford, chairman of the Hometown Florist Association, which represents local retail florists in Maryland and elsewhere, suggests picking up the flowers yourself to save on delivery.

And you should remember to ask the florist whether they're running any holiday specials.

If you're not as concerned about presentation but really want those roses, go for the "cash-and-carry option." A dozen roses, not arranged, cost $19.99 this week at her shop, Kitty's Flowers in Salisbury.

"Is it going to look like a dozen roses in a gorgeous glass vase and a beautiful upgraded bow? No," she said. "But it's going to be a nice arrangement."

Above all, she said, don't skimp on the accompanying card.

"I tell these guys, 'It's what you say on the card. Don't put on there, 'Love, your husband, John Smith,'" Bradford said. "You need to tell her how important she is to you."

And that costs nothing.

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