AQBIYEH, Lebanon: Saif Sudani rushes to prune and pick up what’s left of the roses inside a greenhouse in Aqbiyeh, south Lebanon, before Feb. 14.
Sudani hopes to sell what remains of this season’s roses in time for the Valentine’s Day rush.
A deep red rose is the symbol of love. But the local flowers are a rare find in the market come Valentine’s Day, as the Lebanese growing season ends and the last of the bushes are pruned by the close of January.
An inconvenient end to the local season forces the country to import its Valentine’s roses from abroad, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and the Netherlands, causing the price of roses to skyrocket just in time for the holiday of love.
Abu Kamel Haidar, who plants a variety of flowers on his farm in south Lebanon, says the rose is the queen of flowers. “The roses are a blessing from God,” Haidar says.
The southern coast is considered a prime spot to plant all kinds of flowers inside greenhouses, especially the village of Adousiyeh.
During the regular season, roses sell for LL250 to LL500 lira each, but by Valentine’s Day the price of the flowers rises to LL5,000.
On his farm, Haidar also plants many Gerberas, as these common flowers are one of the most popular and frequently used to decorate tables in restaurants, he says.
Ghada, who works at a nursery, decorates the place for Valentine’s Day. She uses a mixture of fake and real flowers and sparkling crystals.
“I’m trying to make the farm as beautiful as possible to attract the customers,” she says.
With the rose season ending Jan. 1, the last of the roses are pruned by February, says Mahmoud al-Barakah. “That’s why the roses are gone from the Lebanese market [by Valentine’s Day],” he says. “That’s why we import.”
With a laugh, Barakah says that sadly the lovers are Lebanese but their flowers are from abroad.