Preservatives and Pesticides

On my birthday, which was March 21, a friend brought me a lovely bouquet of red roses. Because I was in the grip of the mid-winter grippe that flattened many around these parts, I mumbled a Puny thank you and thrust them into the closest vase I had at hand and fell back on my Pillow.

Today, eighteen (!) days later I decided it was probably time to chuck them. I don’t know WHAT kind of preservative these sucked up before I got them, but I have never ever had a rose that lasted more than a week. At one time I had a rose garden with 75 different varieties, so I’m very familiar with their tendency to wilt from the neck up or burst wide open and drop everything.

18-day-old rosesMy friend bought the flowers at a local Rotary Club fundraiser; they’d had a massive order flown in from Ecuador. The stems were super long and super thick. In two and a half weeks only one wilted and none exploded or dropped.

Since I did nothing to prolong their lives, I’ve got to think they ate or drank something powerful before they left Ecuador.

According to an article from the University of Florida, I’m right.

The problems and promises of Ecuador’s flower industry are as many-layered as a rose bloom. This tiny country has gained about 60,000 jobs since the industry began two decades ago, but workers endure dangerous pesticides and low wages to keep their steady jobs.


Roses are one of the most susceptible types of flowers to pests and disease. Because they’re not an agricultural product that’s grown to eat, importing countries don’t place strict standards on the pesticide residue they contain. The result is that pickers and processors are exposed almost daily to toxic chemicals.

Yellow-suited and gas-masked workers spray a cocktail of pesticides on each bush three times a week. … Almost every worker, when asked about the pesticides, says the same thing: “Son muy fuertes.” They’re very strong.

If you’re interested, read the whole story. Maybe you’ll decide that a rose (in its proper season) which lasts only a week is quite wonderful enough.

2 responses to “Preservatives and Pesticides

  1. I suspect that in a decade imported flowers will be as politically incorrect as mink stoles – perhaps we’ll buy each other fair-trade chocolates instead. Even better, we’ll fair trade faddies from our own gardens.

  2. I’m still wondering what they put in those roses to keep them intact so long… plastic?

    Which brings up another question: do we want flowers that last three weeks? Part of their magic is that they’re ephemeral.