Roses are big business

2014-02-15 00:00

AS thousands of teenagers exchanged flowers across the Midlands yesterday, at least one Winterton rose farmer was beaming.

“I’ve had a lovely year so far”, said Susan Mackay of Prairie Roses on Thursday, while en route to deliver Valentine’s orders to about 12 schools in the Midlands and beyond.

“School orders are a big part of my business, and my main work for the year is done now.” Mackay, who cultivates two hectares of roses, has been supplying the annual floral exchange between high schools since starting her business 18 years ago, and she delivered about 8 000 roses this year.

One of the schools she delivered to was St John’s DSG in Scottsville, where 856 roses were being handed out in waves yesterday, along with several buckets of “private” orders from other florists. While most were received with varying degrees of delight, some got a stronger reaction.

“I wasn’t expecting anything,” said Vasti Theron, clearly taken aback by her bouquet of pink roses. “The card’s anonymous but I think I know who sent them.” In another part of the school, Mihlali Ndamase looked stunned when she received a bunch of red roses, before departing hastily to read her card.

Senior school principal Alice Krusekopf said the custom has been around in Pietermaritzburg for at least 20 years. “It began with just girls sending to boys, but now girls also send to other girls’ schools, as a recognition of friendship.” While “romantic” roses are usually either red or white, “friendship” roses tend to be coloured, with yellow, white and pink being popular. In most schools, the event is a fund raiser for the matric dance, with a stem costing R15 to R20.

Krusekopf said the school tries to ensure there is no humiliation when flowers are received, and that each Grade 8 pupil gets something. “When I was at school it was a terrible thing if you didn’t get a rose and some girls felt horrendous, so we’re trying to put something in place to prevent this.”

At Maritzburg College, the rose exchange is about “lightening and brightening the day, whether you get one or not”, said Carol de Matteis from the school’s marketing department. “It’s a fun day. The boys look forward to it.”

For anyone concerned about possible social fall-out from not receiving anything, there is always the option of subterfuge. “My son asked for money to order three roses and chocolates for his friend,” said a bemused mother. “The friend (a boy) was going to order for him in return. He said they had a deal, so they didn’t look like losers.”

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