With a boom in sales for Valentine’s Day, you would imagine it is a welcome time of year for a high-tech flower grower. But Theo Panayides meets a man who explains he is a farmer, not a sentimentalist.
Driving back from Rosary Gardens – on the old Limassol road, somewhere between Kornos and Kofinou – I get a classic song stuck in my head, its lyrics amusingly appropriate to my meeting with Theodosis Pittas. I’m not even sure who sings it, though I later discover it was country chanteuse Lynn Anderson, back in 1970 – nor do I recall the whole thing, just the first two lines: “I beg your pardon / I never promised you a rose garden”.
The song fits the bill, for two reasons. First, because Theodosis himself is gruff and rather downbeat, not exactly viewing the world through rose-coloured glasses – but also because, quite literally, the promised rose garden in my head never materialises. I arrive too late for the day’s harvest – but it’s February, in any case, so that harvest is relatively meager, the rose bushes in Rosary’s three greenhouses almost entirely bare. There are still flowers blooming, of course, around 1,000 were cut this morning (the nursery has well over 50,000 plants in total), but if this were March there’d be 10 times as many. Looks like Valentine’s Day isn’t very well-placed on the calendar for roses, I point out. “No, it’s fine. This way, only a few can supply them!” he counters with a laugh. “Besides,” he adds, “Women’s Day is a much bigger deal.”
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