With Valentine's Day on the horizon, the mighty rose is making its annual comeback and with that comes the head-scratching disparity in price among shops. Whether it's at a moderately priced grocery store or a high-end flower shop, these velvety red signs of love are selling fast. It makes you wonder: Is there a difference between the roses at Trader Joe's and the ones sold through florists?

At Trader Joe's, a dozen red roses are $12.99. While that's high compared to their other flowers — you can get the goth in your life black calla lilies for under $10 — it's a steal compared with flower shops across the city. On Wednesday around noon, the store on Vine was bustling and it took a little inspecting to find a dozen that didn't already look like they were on death's door. But the price is right for something that has a pretty short life expectancy.

If you want to buy roses from a florist for Valentine's Day, you can expect a dozen to start somewhere in the neighborhood of $80. The difference in price is astounding — but there might be a reason for it.

Pete's Flowers is an unassuming storefront on Sunset, east of Vine. By late afternoon Wednesday, its handful of workers had already delivered 25 dozens across the city.

Art Taylor, an employee, explains to me that this shop is the oldest of its kind in Hollywood. It's been around for 80 years. Essentially, you're buying not just flowers but a piece of local history. At Pete's Flowers, a dozen roses start at $85 and a local delivery fee is $13.50. They use roses that have been imported from Ecuador. Taylor stresses that Ecuador's are the best roses, and there are others who agree on this point.

Flowers for sale at Trader Joe's; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

Flowers for sale at Trader Joe's; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

It's not just the flowers that make Pete's a go-to for some, though. According to Taylor, their attentiveness to customers makes them pretty popular. The store actually has 24-hour service.

Further east down Sunset, Clementine Floral Works is a boutique tucked into the junction near Intelligentsia. Co-owned by Teri Ryan, who has provided flowers for film and television shoots, this tiny shop looks like a wild garden with a wide assortment of flowers spilling out of every corner. Since the owners weren't in-house at the time of L.A. Weekly's visit, the staff declined to answer any questions or allow a photo of the roses. However, they did say garden roses cost $6-$7 per stem, while spray roses run $4-$5 per stem. They also noted that the flowers smell great. They do.

Nearby, on the corner of Fountain and Sunset, is the sleek SpruceLA. This is the store's second Valentine's Day in Silver Lake. Owned by Gaige Clark, SpruceLA is the West Coast outpost of a brand that is quite popular in New York. Clark and her team have worked on high-profile events and have been featured in a number of magazines.

Employee Lars Francisco guides a small tour of the rose selection. The flowers are large, fragrant and have immaculate petals. He explains that, because of the volume of business at this time of year, they had to import some flowers from Ecuador. However, local blooms are a big part of SpruceLA's model. They frequently work with Silver Lake Farms. Here, a dozen roses can take on a variety of different looks. The long-stemmed bouquets will cost around $110 and short stem are $90. They can also arrange the flowers in a crate made by a local craftsperson.

By the end of the day, the difference in price was a little more clear. At a boutique, you're not just paying for roses. You're paying for florists who will pick the most stunning, fragrant flowers from the bunch and arrange them in an artful way. You're paying for a brand, whether that's one tied to Hollywood history and or one that works with its Silver Lake neighbors.

Btu for some, budget is a factor. And if $12.99 is what you can do, then Trader Joe's isn't a bad option. Just get there before all the flowers are gone. 

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