Greetings from Ecuador! The little South American country is a flower gardener’s paradise, and rose production powerhouse. In the US, some of the best roses come from Colombia and Ecuador. The high altitude, closeness to the Equator (year-round sunshine), and nutrient-rich volcanic soil help to grow beautiful flowers (but especially roses!) I learned to appreciate this thorny primadonna of the flower world on a recent trip to Ecuador this past January, where part of our itinerary included touring a rose farm in the height of the season.
Rose Success rose farm to be exact. Located in the Cotopaxi valley, a couple hours drive south of Quito, its considered a “medium” size farm in terms of output. Since we were there a couple weeks before Valentine’s Day, the farm was in high production mode, cutting and packing 60,000 stems/day! Their usual output is said to be around 20,000/day. Not too bad, ay? We learned that after bananas and petroleum, cut flowers are one of Ecuador’s main exports. 99% of roses produced in Ecuador head straight to the US, Peru, Panama, Italy and Russia. The 1% that remain behind are sold in country, and can be bought in shops or roadside stands for about $2/dozen. We saw lots “garbage” roses for sale, and as decor in hotels, restaurants and churches, but to our untrained eyes they were still beautiful and blemish free.
While there, we saw the entire process from farm to shop. This farm employs around 100 people at the height of production, all from the local community, including many Indigenous Ecuadorians.
As we drove around the country south of Quito, flower farms dotted the landscape. You can easily pick them out by their greenhouses, packed together like sardines on any relatively flat or not so flat bit of terrain. Ecuador’s geography consists of volcanoes and impossibly steep valleys, all at high elevation perfect for capturing the sun’s rays. Since its on the equator, (hence the name) the temperatures hover around 50-75 degrees year round. There are no growing seasons. That in itself blew my Northeast-trained gardening mind. Vegetation was bursting out of every crevice, from impossible angles, everywhere I looked. Foxgloves, roses, yucca, carnations, geraniums, brugmansia etc are all blooming at the same time, and are huge compared to our winter-limited versions. So, to say something blooms in the spring, or summer is irrelevant. I suppose among a gardener’s main tasks here would be to constantly be dividing and transplanting, constant deadheading or seed collecting, and lots of weedwacking to maintain access. I did hear a weedwacker going just about anytime we stepped outside if we were in the countryside.
So, maybe this Valentine’s Day you’ll give or receive some roses, and there’s a good chance your bouquet came from the little mountainous nation cut through by the equator. A world away from the frigid Northeast, but hopefully now a lot closer in your minds and hearts than before!