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A labor for love

Roses dethorned but not dethroned
Friday, February 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:13 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Conor Malaney leaves his job smelling like roses, but the cuts and scratches on his hands tell a different story. The 18-year-old is one of Valentine’s Day’s unknown heroes.

Malaney, a senior at Hickman High School, is among many part-time workers hired by florists around town to perform the not so glamorous, yet important, task of dethorning roses.

Malaney is part of a seven-member, rose-dethorning team at the floral shop My Secret Garden. After the final school bell rings, he’s been hurrying to the shop all week to help dethorn roses until almost 11 p.m.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s not too bad,” he said.

Dethorning proves a painful art

Malaney’s co-worker Natalie Sharp, 23, said the task of dethorning is an art in itself.

“We go along the side of the rose using a knife and individually remove each of the thorns,” Sharp said. “The number of thorns on each rose depends on the variety. Dethorning the roses makes it easier for the florists so they can quickly make arrangements.”

Because roses are fragile, each rose has to be individually dethorned by hand. The task is tedious and the dethorner has to be careful not to scar or bruise the stem. Since the workers dethorning the roses can only use their bare hands and a knife, the job can be painful.

At My Secret Garden, the crew has been working since Monday to dethorn 2,000 roses for Valentine’s Day.

“I definitely have a lot of battle scars,” Malaney said.

“The job itself isn’t that hard to do, but there’s no way around the scratching and sticking,” Sharp said.

Florists dethorn to boost quality and safety

Ruth LaHue, owner of My Secret Garden, said dethorning roses is important for more than just customer safety.

“We want them to be dethorned so that when we are making the arrangements, the thorns don’t tear the other roses. It’s more of a quality issue,” LaHue said.

At Allen’s Flowers, extra workers are hired for holidays, but Sandra Ferguson said dethorning roses is considered to be part of the overall arranging process for floral designers.

“If our customers take care of their roses properly, they will take them out of the vase, cut off the bottom of the stems, put them in warm water and arrange daily,” Ferguson said. “Dethorning the roses makes them easier for our customers to handle.” Jay Stawarz, executive director of the International Cut Flower Growers Association, said that although thornless varieties of roses are available, they are not any more popular than varieties containing thorns.

A thorny issue

“When you want to enhance one quality or trait of a rose, you often have to take away another,” Stawarz said. “With all of the breeding that has been done to roses to get rid of things like thorns, I’ve noticed that you also lose a lot of the fragrance.”

Although many florists choose to dethorn their roses, Patricia’s Floral Shop only does part of the rose.

“We only dethorn the bottom of the rose or the part that goes in the water,” Nita Roberts said. “Why take off the thorns? The beauty of the rose is the thorn.”

Whether you prefer roses with or without the thorns, there are plenty of locations to find the perfect rose for Valentine’s Day.

In Columbia, the cost of a dozen red roses varies. At the Wal-Mart Supercenter a dozen costs $26.84. At Kent’s Floral Gallery the cost is $85, and at My Secret Garden the price is $117.99.


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