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Visit to the Flower Farm in Cayambe, Ecuador

We ventured out to the flower farm in the north region of Cayambe, Ecuador. Cayambe is a zone characterized by its surrounding highlands and mountains, with mild weather ranging from 60°F to 68°F. It is also known for its flower production, especially roses. In this adventure we visited a farm which is located a few minutes from the town of Cayambe.

The journey started in the capital city of Quito, Ecuador which is about 55 km away from the farm and it took an hour and a half by bus to get there.

The vehicle left from a northern bus station in Quito, and traveled along the main road to the north of the city. We passed by many small towns such as Calderón and Guayllabamba, until finally arriving at a bus station in Cayambe. The flower farm was about 10 minutes away by car, so we took a cab.

 

 

We met with our guide, Luis Peralta, who is also in charge of the farm. We started the impressive tour around the farm in one of the nurseries. It was in this enormous greenhouse where the process of rose farming begins.

We asked some general questions about the farm such as its size, and we discovered it was 10.5 hectares or about 25 acres. We also learned that there are 80 varieties of plants grown on the farm. The guide walked us through the complete system for the production of roses. We began in the greenhouse to learn about the plant growth process. During the rest of our tour we learned about cultivation and other procedures such as irrigation, fumigation, and packing operations.

 

Planting

 

 

Plants seeds are sown into the soil. When it develops into a mature plant it can be propagated by taking a cutting from an existing plant and grow it into a whole new rose bush using a method called ‘grafting’. Before the cutting can be planted, it is necessary to remove the flowers, buds, and some of the leaves. Then the management of the plant begins. From just a single stem, a new rose bush sprouts.

Temperature is key to proper development. The environment must be kept humid. A stem is considered healthy or productive when it reaches maximum height.

 

Growth Rate

The growth rate of a plant depends on each variety. Some varieties produce flowers 65 days after they are planted. Other varieties are ready after about 70 to 78 days. In most cases plants produce flowers after 110 days, as in the case of the White Chocolate rose.

 

 

Cultivation

The cultivation process takes place in a different greenhouse. Cultivation is carried out via two methods: in the soil or hydroponics.

In the soil, the plant grows in the ground and receives nutrients directly. Care is provided such as irrigation and fumigation.

 

 

 

The hydroponic method involves sowing plants above ground. This technique is beneficial due to fungal problems that may occur when the roses are sown directly in the soil. The hydroponic method involves providing plants what it needs for its development. Some of the nitrates used are found in rice husk and humus.

 


 

There are essential factors to allow the proper development of roses. One key is that moisture must be maintained. A high relative humidity is needed for the stems to grow to maturity.

Temperature also plays a vital role and must remain between 68° F to 77° F, depending on the rose variety. A rose can withstand temperatures as low as 46 °F. If it is too cold at night, the heaters are activated to regulate the temperature in the greenhouses.

 

 

During the cultivation process, the plant is cut according to the cutting point, or appropriate stem length and bloom stage. Cutting the rose too early or too late can reduce the quality and life of the flower.

The freshly harvested roses move on to the post production facility, where all the varieties are sorted and processed. Roses are collected with help of transporting system built throughout the nursery which consists of a metal carrier that slides across a hanging track. The carriers hold the rose bunches that have been harvested and transported to the post production facility.

 

 

Irrigation System

The irrigation system is managed from a computing center. The center controls the water pulse and frequency, and it is an automated system.

The substrates (or nitrates), phosphorus, and iron is premixed. Each water tank contains 500 liters. This mixture is sent to the main tank, and it is important for it to be accurate.

 

 

Depending on the temperature, plants are watered via irrigation for 5 to 7 minutes. The frequency and intervals of water pulsations is determined depending on the season. For example, in summer, 5-minute pulses are delivered. In one hour, plants are watered 4 times every 20 minutes. In winter, irrigation frequency is decreased.

 

   

 

Reservoir

We learned that the farm has its own reservoir on the property for irrigation, which is maintained and purified regularly.

 

 

Fumigation

While touring the plantations, we noticed fumigation teams. Plants are fumigated once a week. However, in the case of decontaminating for fungi or acarus (mites), fumigation is carried out two to three times per week.

 

 

Packing

The packing facility is a remarkable and there are many employees involved in this stage. The flow of operations is organized to be efficient and quickly move roses along each station from sorting to packaging and eventually to the coolers for exportation.

In the first step roses are sorted by length and grade. Then each stem is packed into a bunch consisting of 25 roses. The packaging is designed to protect the rose heads during exportation.

Bunches are packaged into larger boxes and organized by destination in the cooler. Roses are harvested and cooled in a period of 24 to 48 hours. It takes about 2 days to arrive to the U.S. The entire process from harvest to destination arrival takes 72 hours. Cut roses last 15 to 20 days depending on the care and handling.

 

Exportation

We visited the facility where international exportation is coordinated. Instructions, known as an Airway Bill, is sent to freight agencies which lists the ship-to destination, the product detail, shipment value and quantity being shipped. The logistics manager then uses this documentation to export the roses via cargo agencies.

 

Some Roses Varieties

During our tour around the farm and getting to know all the growing areas, we had a glimpse of some popular rose varieties. Some were in the greenhouses, while others were in the packaging stage. These varieties included the cream-white roses White Chocolate, Polar Star and Mondial.

Lemonade was a delight to see because of its unique lime color, and it is one of our novelty roses.  At the packaging process, we saw the Hot Pink Rose or Hot Lady, which delights with its saturated color; and finally, we saw the classic red roses.

 

White Chocolate Rose

Lemonade Rose

Hot Lady Roses and Red Roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Flower Fact Friday: Celosia

Celosia in greek is ‘kelos,’ which means burned and refers to the brightly colored floral head. There are different types of celosia: The Plumosa group have upright flowers and are feathery-shaped, while the Cristata type have intricate ridges that resemble a brain. The flowers are wooly in texture and are usually bright yellow, pink, red and orange. Celosia is native to Asia and Africa, and it is part of the amaranth family. They are typically available during the summer, fall and spring season.

Did you know celosia is used as an herb in some countries? In Nigeria, the young stems and flower heads are used in stews or as a side dish. The leaves are said to taste like spinach. Although there are no proven scientific facts, Celosia is said to have beneficial health properties. It has been used to treat eye conditions and intestinal ailments.

As a cut flower, celosia can last for about two weeks. The bright colors make it especially attractive for bouquet work. They are a particularly great addition to the garden since they attract butterflies.

Celosia Cockscomb

Celosia (cockscomb)

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Green Kale

Flower Fact Friday: Kale

Kale is also known as ornamental cabbage, and it belongs to the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower family. The leaves are flat and broad with contrasting colors. Kale grows best between October and November in full sun. They thrive in cold weather, and an interesting fact is it affects the color of the leaves. When temperatures drop blow 50 degrees Fahrenheit, shades of pink, purple, red and violet emerge.

Historical Origin of Kale

Kale Brassica is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. More than 2,000 years ago, ancient Greeks cultivated the leafy green, and it has been documented that they boiled it to cure hangovers. Julius Caesar consumed kale before royal banquets to prevent indigestion. As early as the first century, “coles” arrived from Britain and France via the Roman Empire or the Celtics. By 1669, kale made its way to America via English settlers.

Flowering Kale

Kale

 

Prepping Kale for Floral Design

The use of decorative vegetables and fruits in floral designs is very common. It adds an interesting twist to an otherwise common bouquet, giving it an organic appeal.

  1. Peel outer layer of the leaves one at a time.
  2. As you peel, twist the stem and continue all the way around.
  3. The result should be a perfectly formed rosette.
  4. Cut the stems at an angle with a sharp knife.

Suggest a variety for us to feature on Flower Fact Friday. Leave a comment naming the variety, and we’ll write about it. Stay tuned next week!

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Principles of Flower Design

The art of designing floral arrangements may seem simple. Just grab a bunch of flowers, put them in a vase and voila! You are a designer. To really master a profession, dedicate yourself to learning a profession well through preparation. Take classes, read articles and watch tutorials, or intern with a professional designer to learn the trade.

We found an excellent guide online published by the Baxter County Fair titled, “Principles of Floral Arrangement.” It was published in 2005, but it provides a great foundation for the theory of designing and composing arrangements. The guide is useful for interns learning how to arrange flowers professionally. The comprehensive guide explains everything from processing flowers to choosing the proper containers. It also provides an introduction to color harmonies to help designers select color schemes for floral arrangements. Patterns, textures, and sizes of floral varieties to create a harmonious design. For instance, using spring flowers with a winter flower would have a mixed expression of seasons.

Access the PDF Guide: Principles of Floral Arrangement

Expression through Floral Design

Expression through Floral Design (Principles of Floral Arrangement, Baxter County Fair, 2005)

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Heliconia Wagneriana Yellow

Flower Fact Friday: Heliconia

Did you know Heliconia is a tropical plant named after Mount Helicon and is derived from the greek word ‘helikonios’? In Greek mythology, Mount Helicon was the seat of the Muses, which were said to remain young and beautiful forever just like their god, Apollo.

The species is native to the tropical Americas. Heliconia is usually found in rainforests or in the wet tropics, and they flower during the rainy season. There are over 40 species and most have brightly colored bracts usually red, yellow and orange variations and have a waxy texture. Some heliconia plants have upright bracts while others dangle, referred to as hanging heliconia. Common names for this plant are lobster claws, wild plantains or bird of paradise.

They are mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes and landscaping, but in their natural environment heliconia provides ecological sustainability for living organisms. For instance, the flowers produce nectar attracting pollinators including butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats. The Honduran white bat in particular cuts the side veins of the leaves to make a tent-like structure for shelter. For other aquatic organisms, the bracts collect water forming a habitat.

 

Tips for Designing with Heliconia

Heliconia are a stunning addition to floral displays, adding height and a refreshing tropical vibe. As cut flowers they do not continue to develop, so avoid stems that are dried or with black spots. At Virgin Farms, we keep tropical flowers in a separate room at a warmer temperature. These varieties are sensitive to cold temperature, and should never be stored below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Before designing, cut three inches of the stem under water with a sharp knife. Place heliconias in warm water with floral food, and allow two hours before designing with them. For extra support, use chicken wire to hold the stems in place in floral foam. 

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Jules Elie Dutch Peony

What a spectacular transformation from bud to blossom!

Jules Elie is a rosy-pink peony and its bloom characteristic is bomb shape. It has a few rows of guard petals on the outer part, and smaller feathery-shaped petalodes bunched in the center forming a perfect mound. The foliage is a crisp dark green contrasting beautifully against the vibrant pink blossom.

This particular variety holds its shape well and blooms slower, which is great for vase or bouquet work.

Jules Elie dutch peony

Jules Elie dutch peony

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White Cloud Garden Rose

Say, I Do to Our Luxury Fresh Cut Flowers

A bouquet tells a story. As the bride walks down the aisle, the bouquet she holds in her hands should convey her personality and exude grace. It is a key accessory, and essentially an extension of the bridal gown. To create a masterpiece, an artist must use the best medium. For a floral designer, flowers are the paint to a canvas. This wedding season say, ‘I do’ to our luxury fresh cut flowers. At Virgin Farms, we pride ourselves in sourcing first class varieties from all over the world.

Garden Roses – Colombia

David Austin roses are like the refined diamonds to a ring, or the Chantilly lace that delicately embellishes the bride’s wedding gown. Garden roses convey nostalgia and elegance. The most unique and fragrant breeds are harvested from Colombia high in the Andes Mountains. Virgin Farms has the privilege to offer the most sought after varieties such as Juliet, Patience, Constance, White O’Hara and the green-centered pastel garden rose, Charity. 

Premium Roses – Ecuador

It’s not just a rose—it’s an Ecuadorian rose. If they were branded, you might say they are Mercedes class. The blooms are lush and voluminous, with sturdy stems and lengthy vase life. These characteristics and qualities are the reason floral designers choose our roses over any other. High altitude, rich soil and cool weather are the optimum combination, producing the most unique rose varieties and color variations. For weddings, roses are the most reliable flower since they are available year round. Popular varieties include white Mondial, Vendela, and Tibet and the champagne-hued Quicksand.

Dutch Flowers – Holland

Home of the historic Aalsmeer Auction, flowers grown in Holland are top of the line. This is where we source our hydrangeas, tulips, calla lilies, delphinium, lisianthus and other varieties including the highly sought peonies. During the months of April through July, Dutch peonies are in production. The aperture is more large and lush, and the majority of the colors are in season making it the ideal months to have a wedding if peonies are on your bridal couple’s wish list.

Planning for an Event

For weddings or special events, plan ahead. Make a wish list of floral varieties and alternate choices, as well as the quantity necessary for each variety. Contact our account managers two to three weeks before the event to allow us to coordinate with our farms. There are also specific flowers that require advance order placement to ensure production can cover the quantity you need. These items include: garden roses, David Austin roses, peonies, dutch flowers, orchids and phalaenopsis. For Ecuadorian roses and focal and filler flowers, advance notification is required to preorder mass quantities with the farms.

Wedding Season Special Order Flowers

Wedding Season Special Order Flowers

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Flower Fact Friday: Peonies

We are very excited to announce that peonies from Holland are back in production. The season runs from April through early July. Dutch peonies have a larger bloom diameter and sturdier stems. There are also more colors to choose from during this quarter of the floral season. We will have coral, light pink, hot pink, white and red varieties.

Types of Blooms

Single: One or two layers of outer petals surrounding the stamen.

Semi Double: Two or more rows of outer petals with some irregularly shaped petals surrounding the center exposing the center of the stamen.

Double: Multiple rows of ruffled petals covering the stamen.

Bomb: Characteristics of a double peony with ruffled “bomb” or mound of petals in the center of the bloom.

Care and Handling 

Most peonies bloom quickly, in under a couple of days. We recommend storing peonies in the cooler until you are ready to design. Placing the flowers in warm water will speed up the blooming process, which is ideal if you need to work with them on short notice.

Dutch Peonies

Dutch Peony Season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dutch Season Varieties 2015

Top Brass
Festiva Maxima
Gardenia
Kansas
Bowl of Cream
Flame
Dr. Fleming
Alertie
Mother’s Choice
Pecher
Jules Elie
Sarah Bernhardt
Red Charm

 

Stay tuned for photos of each variety on our website’s floral catalog. Our experienced and knowledgeable account managers are available to answer questions. They can help you choose the varieties that are suitable for the type of floral designs you will create. 

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Flower Fact Friday: Eryngium

In floral design, Eryngium is used as accent filler, but did you know this plant actually produces a popular herb called Culantro (E. foetidum)?

Eryngium Thistle

Eryngium Thistle

Characteristics
Native to the mediterranean and Europe, Eryngium is a tropical perennial and belongs to the Apiaceae family. The plant blooms from summer though fall, and grows 18 to 36 inches tall. It is tolerant of drought, sandy-like soils and wind. The plant produces unique clusters of cone-shaped blossoms surrounded by thistle-like leaves, hence Eryngium’s nickname. They grow in a variety of colors blue, green and purple or a combination of these colors.

Medicinal & Herbal Use
Apart from its fascinating appearance, Eryngium is a multipurpose plant with medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine to remedy fevers, burns, ear aches, and stomach aches among other ailments. The pungent Culantro leaves produced by the eryngium plant is also used in many Caribbean dishes including chutneys and sauces.

Floral Styling
Eryngium stems are used in floral styling as accents adding a rustic appeal. Some designers get creative and spray the stems in metallic paint for a modern look. They have a lengthy vase life, lasting around 1 to 2 weeks. Handle with care when designing—the flowers have barbed bristles and spiny bracts.

Suggest varieties for Flower Fact Friday! Leave a comment below, and include the name of the flower you would like to learn about.

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Mariatheresia Garden Rose

Flower Fact Friday: Garden Roses

Garden roses are highly regarded especially in the floral industry. Their charming nostalgic appeal and exquisite fragrance is irresistible making it a popular choice for wedding floral designs. Due to the high demand and lengthy production process, garden roses are expensive and considered a luxury flower.

There are many misconceptions about the true characteristics of a garden rose. Not every variety is fragrant, cup-shaped or wavy. What truly defines a garden rose? Any rose plant that can survive a winter frost. Garden roses are very delicate and must be handled with care. They have plenty of small, sharp thorns. Depending on the variety, garden roses can last an average of 7 to 10 days.

Virgin Farms Garden Roses

Virgin Farms Garden Roses

David Austin History
Back in the 1960s, David Austin began crossing roses. He wanted to achieve the fragrance of the old roses with the appearance and color variations of the modern roses. At first, they were bred as shrubs and climbing roses for garden enthusiasts. It was not until the year 2000 that the company began to produce garden roses for the cut flower industry. In 2008, the first roses were introduced into the market. The company began distributing in small quantities, and eventually grew to offering 150,000 stems per week all over the world.

Breeding New Varieties
The David Austin company has a team of hybridizers that focus on crossing roses to create new varieties. Each flower is monitored and tested to meet specific characteristics.

Cut Rose Standards:
Must remain beautiful at all stages
Fragrant
Purity of color
Perfection of form

The odds of a successful breed for mass market distribution is 100,000 to 1. It takes years to create a new variety. Out of 200 plants grown in the trial fields, only five or six are selected.

Our partner growers, Alexandra Farms, located in Colombia, is licensed to grow David Austin varieties. All garden roses are hand-cut and hand-graded. Virgin Farms is proud to be a wholesale distributor of high-quality varieties.

Suggest varieties for Flower Fact Friday! Leave a comment below, and include the name of the flower you would like to learn about.

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Flower Fact Friday: Dusty Miller

Characteristics

Dusty Miller, or Jacobaea maritima, is an annual subshrub. It is native to the Mediterranean, and usually grows in arid conditions in full sun. Although they are fairly heat and drought resistant, during the winter this leafy plant does best in a cool and moist habitat. It cannot resist excessive heat and rain, as it produces rust disease and dies. Dusty Miller makes an excellent bedding shrub for landscaping, additionally because it has few pests. The leaves are covered with felt-like hairs, giving it a frosted appearance. When grown in the shade, the silvery white color is not as intense.

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller at the harvesting farm in Ecuador.

Tips for Styling Floral Arrangements

Dusty Miller is used as an accent in bouquets and floral engagements. Its interesting texture combines well among pastel garden roses, champagne roses, succulents, and astilbe for instance.

When processing this leafy filler, it is best to do it in a cooler.

Follow these instructions for best vase life:

  1. Make a clean cut using sharp shears.
  2. Place immediately in water and remove any submerged leaves.
  3. Change the water frequently, as it tends to produce bacteria.

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