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March 27, 2023

Keeping the tradition alive

WATSONVILLE–Walking through a rose garden, it can be hard to resist bending down to take a whiff of at least one flower. The scent is familiar, easily recognizable, and loved by just about everyone. There’s a reason why the rose scent is consistently used in products such as soaps and potpourri.

But for a while, that classic fragrance had begun disappearing from roses.

“People started trying to grow a rose that would last longer,” said Paul Furman of Watsonville’s California Pajarosa Floral. “It pretty much bred out all the fragrance — that smell your grandparents knew. Growers realized it wasn’t worth it. People wanted that scent.”

California Pajarosa Floral has been growing flowers on their Watsonville property, settled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, since 1979. They are now the last remaining rose grower in the Pajaro Valley and one of the very small amount left in the country.

According to Furman, about 99 percent of the roses sold in the U.S. are grown outside the country, with a huge percentage coming from South America. Many flower growers in California have switched to different crops, some being sold to cannabis growers just recently.

“We are really in the minority now,” Furman said. “Which is tough, but also gives us an opportunity to create a little niche market for people who want a fresh, tailored product.”

Around 175 varieties of hydroponic roses and other cut flowers and plants are grown on more than 50 acres at Pajarosa Floral. Many of the rose varieties are grown for specific uses, such as for corsages and boutonnieres.

In one of the facility’s many greenhouses, a small patch is set aside as a test area. Hundreds of rose varieties are grown in that small area, which Furman says is a way to experiment with color, shape and size.

“Most growers focus on quantity,” Furman said. “They grow a lot of one variety. We grow a small amount of many different varieties. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Next year California Pajarosa Floral will celebrate its 40th year as a business. In a region that once saw hundreds of rose growers vying for customers, the company is now instead competing with much larger, foreign growers.

“It’s a challenging time in agriculture,” Furman said. “It’s getting harder to keep value on your product. But people want quality. They want that classic English rose look. They want that fragrance.”

California Pajarosa Floral is located at 133 Hughes Road in Watsonville. While most of the facility’s business is done by selling to wholesale florists, Furman says if someone walks in the door for a bouquet, he is more than willing to sell over the counter as well.

“It’s all about maintaining that relationship with customers, whether through another seller or directly,” he said. “That’s what keeps you in business.”


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