Regarded as a symbol of secrecy and love in ancient Greece and Rome, the rose is a curious flower, one that has been revered throughout the ages.
Its irrefutable appeal has meant it is often the subject of desire, particularly during times of reconciliation and appreciation, when love needs to be expressed.
This is never more apparent than on Valentine’s Day, a time when hearts swoon, florists rejoice and roses tremble, as the life of this beguiling flower is cut brutally short. It’s when everyone wants a piece of the rose.
On Valentine’s Day in Europe, approximately 70% of all roses bought and sold come from Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where a number of cheap and particularly foxy specimens can be found.
However, University of Leicester Ecology and Conservation Botanist, Dr David Harper, says this is “bleeding the country dry”. High demand, which has lead to an explosion in growth, is literally draining the lake of its water supply.
In an attempt to mitigate such ills, Dr Harper is contacting UK supermarkets to improve their environmental awareness of the rose trade. He says some farms are showing concern by adopting ‘Fairtrade status’, which “brings money back into the workforce for social welfare improvements”.
Although, Dr Harper warns that on the whole, the enormous advertisement of Valentine’s Day flowers by companies with little regard for the environment is placing Kenya’s most crucial resource, water, in great peril.
He says companies are avoiding legislation by buying cheap roses in Kenya and selling them at auctions, for example in Amsterdam, while making buyers believe they come from Holland.
Such news has widely been labelled a “floral disgrace”. However, Dr Dudley Nong, from the European Ethnobotany League (EEL), says it’s the perfect opportunity to experiment with true love.
He says there’s no need to lumber the rose with such responsibility, for if love is truly shared on Valentine’s Day, the common weed will not only suffice as a gift, but trim the unkempt gardens of Europe while saving Kenya in the process.