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How to Sell Flowers during the Coronavirus

Coronavirus has changed the world. People have been at home social distancing, and the flower market has been one of the most affected. In the news, we have seen flowers being discarded due to the declining demand and limited commercial flights. However, we must bear in mind that this is something transitory that will soon end and that we will return to normal.

At Virgin Farms we are committed to our community, to the progress of our clients’ businesses and to all those who are part of our company. For this reason, in this article, we share some ideas that will help you improve your online flower sales. In addition, you will find some tips that will be very useful during this challenging time.

We want to invite you to take advantage of this time to create a solid sales strategy through your website and social networks. Keep in mind that in times of crisis we use our ingenuity and creativity more to get ahead.

Create Content

Content is essential to make your consumers fall in love. If you create interesting content, you will gain organic followers, and with the appropriate strategy will become your consumers.

The purpose of creating quality content aims to attract as much traffic as possible to your website, your blog or landing page. To achieve entertaining content, help yourself with the different tools and apps available on the market, which are mostly free or inexpensive, but above all, easy to use.

You can do it with the means you have within reach. For example, you can produce an impressive video with your cell phone. The consumer is not looking for perfect videos, but instead quality content and topics of interest. Try filming a short video of about 20 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, followed by a longer segment to achieve loyalty and viewer retention.

Make a calendar planning all the content that you are going to produce and the channels you will use to distribute. Take advantage of your knowledge and your expertise, to make content according to your client.

Here we suggest some topics:

• How to preserve flowers or extend the vase life

• How to make simple but lovely arrangements

• Show a before and after of a home space without flowers and how it can brighten up a space with flowers

• How to turn any type of object into a floral vessel

• How to decorate a home with flowers

• Host a webinar on how to make flower arrangements

• Take advantage of special dates, with the upcoming Eastern holiday, and create content according to this important date

• Benefits of having flowers in the house

With this type of content, you will achieve engagement and generate sales or traffic to your social sites, such as YouTube (another way to generate revenue from ad sales in your videos).

An important factor that you should take into account is that the content you generate must be unique to you. Try to set yourself apart from other content creators to avoid being categorized in the lower ranks or similar topics. The goal is to promote your business in a way that interests and retains your audience and more importantly, satisfies the need of your client for interesting resources.

Define your strategy

Update your e-commerce channels and your social networks to sell. This can be a good time to create a professional blog and become a content generator. 

Online stores. Right now your online store must be fully optimized because it is going to be your the face of your business while your brick and mortar location is inaccessible for the time being. Check prices and inventory. If you do not have a product available to sell, it is better to withdraw it from your online storefront until you have the necessary inventory. If you have any affiliations such as delivery couriers, make adjustments on your website to clarify if those services are still available to your consumers.

A professional blog. Using a blog with a hosting and domain as a platform to reach your audience is the most recommended method. Create impressive articles with topics of interest to your users. This will help you gain followers, who will in turn read your posts. Be sure to share posts on social media linking back to your blog post to drive traffic to your website. Additionally, seek an SEO professional that can help you optimze your keywords to increase your search engine ranking score on Google and other search engines. The goal is to get your page to show up in the top 10 search results.

Social networks. If you want to promote yourself through these channels, you must first focus on having a considerable number of followers and that they are of quality. You can achieve this with giveaways, and invite your followers to post their photos with the arrangements they have bought from you for social word-of-mouth.

Make a publication and content calendar, propose to put at least three posts per week. It can be a video or photos. Lean on all the technology at your fingertips. On Canva, for example, you can use free templates to create your posts for Instagram and other social networks. There are pre-made templates or you can create your own from scratch, complete with visually appealing typography and free or paid stock images.

Later, if you have really become an expert content creator, you can start a YouTube channel. But if you are just starting or you do not have all the resources, focus exclusively on your social networks such as Instagram and Facebook.

Take advantage of social networks because they provide visibility to your posts. It allows the facility to effectively share content and reach your users of interest. Soon your followers will ask you for content on topics that interest them.

It is very important that you work on SEO strategies so that you can position yourself in the first places of search, with the correct use of the local KeyWords the consumer will find you easily and navigate your website or blog.

Take advantage of the marketing and CRM tools to continue building customer loyalty. If you do not currently have a CRM tool, this may be the time to implement it. You can use an easy and simple tool such as Hubspot, where you will enter data such as emails or phone numbers so that you can offer personalized offers or discounts. For example, offer a discount for birthdays or customer loyalty rewards for repeat purchases.

Product delivery

Create an alliance with a courier service to personally send your customers the tracking number, always stay in touch until the product reaches the final destination. Review your financial calculations so shipping is free or relatively low-cost right now.

Tell your consumer that floral arrangements are a perfect way to show affection or gratitude since we are not able to personally visit our loved ones at the moment.

Take advantage of social distancing and quarantine to devise differential strategies for your flower shop. It is the perfect opportunity to gain followers and turn them into consumers.

We are going through difficult times, but we must be aware that this is something temporary and just as flowers bloom even in the most adverse environments, we will flourish and it will be a better future for everyone. Stay strong, stay safe and let’s spread joy with flowers.

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The Role of Greenhouses in Rose Production

Nature has given us beautiful flowers in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but without a doubt the ones that stand out the most for the multitude of color variations are roses. At Virgin Farms we are known for offering the highest quality of every flower type imaginable. We have top-grade roses in every shade and style to satisfy the tastes of our customers.

We had the pleasure of interviewing two of our most important suppliers from the farms Ecoroses and Flowerfest in Ecuador. Wilfrido Cazar from Ecoroses, and Santiago Santillán from Flowerfest, shared their knowledge on the interesting process of maintaining the striking colors of roses.

Weather conditions and greenhouses provide us with roses in fascinating shades

In previous visits, we have seen the entire production process, but this time we wanted to get up close to the technology that exists to retain the extraordinary colors of roses throughout the production stage. We discovered that there are three fundamental factors to obtain a flower with perfect petals and flashy colors.

The first is the climatic conditions of the area. Roses grow in temperate climates in regions with moderate temperatures and are located at least 2,400 meters above sea level. Farms are usually in zones with low humidity, very little wind or cloud cover, and where there is plenty of sunlight.

The second contributing factor is the type of plastic used in greenhouses. Its function is to filter the sunlight properly within the nursery. Too much sun can burn the petals, and some colors such as red roses are more sensitive to sunlight.

Lastly, the control of temperature and humidity within the greenhouse is key to color preservation. As we walked through large hectares of plantations with Wilfredo Cazar of Ecoroses, we conversed about the three types of greenhouse plastics that exist, which are arranged according to the color of the rose. The process begins by selecting the variety of the rose to be planted. Once this is determined the corresponding greenhouse plastic is placed, which, according to its specific characteristics, will allow sufficient light through to nourish the rose.

The three types of plastic material for the nurseries have varying concentrations to allow the sun’s rays to filter ultraviolet.

For solid-colored roses, such as white and red, plastic with 100% UV filter is used. This type of greenhouse plastic aims to prevent the flower from tanning because if this happens the petals begin to burn; a term in the floriculture industry referred to as blackening.

For bi-color roses in shades, such as yellows and oranges, another type of plastic allowing 50% of ultraviolet light is used. These colors do not need as much UV protection unlike the white and the red varieties. The objective of allowing a specific percentage of ultraviolet light allows the color of the rose to intensify.

For color-edged roses, which are those that have a different color on the edge of the petal-like Paloma or Deep Purple, a plastic with zero filters is placed for the greenhouse, allowing sunlight to pass through completely. As a result, the colors of the roses are accentuated, especially the upper part of the petals. The red-edged roses become more blazing and the yellow-edged roses more vivid.

Greenhouse plastic is normally changed for red and white roses after a period of two years and plastics for the other types of shades after a period of three years. This is because the filter starts losing its effect due to the UV rays.

Temperature stability guarantees the production of roses in the greenhouse

For rose cultivation, depending on the area, high-tech greenhouses are often used with heating systems, as well as humidity and temperature control.

The climate in Ecuador throughout the year is temperate; however, in the months of June to September it is hotter and in the months from January to April it is the rainy season. Therefore, the temperature inside the greenhouses must always be monitored, so that it is not affected by heat or rain.

Inside the covers, there is a constant balance of temperature and humidity. In case the temperature rises, the side curtains of the greenhouse are opened so that the air circulates to prevent diseases from developing and affecting the roses.

In the rainy season, greenhouses are kept at a higher temperature so as not to affect the coloring of the rose. With more rain, the humidity increases, and this can cause fungus on the flower. Therefore, when the temperature is increased, the humidity decreases the cycle of the fungus and eliminates it, preventing the flower from being damaged.

Similarly, if the ambient temperature drops or there is frost, heaters are placed in the greenhouses to keep the flowers in optimal terms. When the temperature drops significantly, the rose goes into dormancy and stops producing blooms. Temperature stability guarantees the quality of production.

 

The altitude above sea level guarantees a flower with a more intense coloration 

The climatic conditions in Ecuador are extremely favorable because the plants are at 3,200 meters above sea level and the climate is constant. The temperature throughout the year fluctuates between 64°F to 71°F. Roses may be grown at 2,400 meters high, but higher altitude increases the robustness of roses resulting in bigger, thicker stems and intense colors.

Ecuadorian roses are world-famous because of these climatic conditions. They stand out for their dazzling colors, their button size, and the length of the stem. The roses produced at higher altitudes are the best because although the production and growth time of the flower is slower, quality is much superior. Farms in areas where the altitude is lower, productivity increases but the rose does not achieve the same characteristics of a rose grown highest above sea level. Therein lies their difference. In lower height more production, but smaller stems and buds.

Fertilization is also important to maintain the color of the rose. From Monday to Sunday the crops are watered using a fertilization formula that provides the rose with specific nutrients that help the stem grow and intensify the rose button’s color.

 

Roses for all styles

Rafael Santillán from Flowerfest elaborated on another type of rose which are tinted or dyed. In addition to roses in natural colors, you can create flowers of any color. Any variety can be transformed into a tinted flower, but white is normally used. The process consists of selecting the variety to be dyed. It is harvested, processed and dehydrated for 10 to 13 hours, depending on the type of rose and the weather.

To make the rainbow roses, five cuts are made at the base of the stem and hydrated in a container of colored water, which is left to absorb the dye for an average of 9 to 10 hours.

Painted roses are created by spraying the petals using a special technique. With vegetable dyes, the flower can be given any type of coloration. This technique also is used to spray paint just the edges of the rose, such as the Purple Intrigue and Blue Intrigue roses. This depends on the style requests and needs of each market, Santillán commented.

Being able to visit the farms and delve into their processes and continue to strengthen ties with our strategic partners is of great importance to Virgin Farms. Having the opportunity to learn about the materials used for greenhouses and immersing ourselves in the world of color that rose bushes offer us is truly fascinating.

The use of greenhouses at farms makes it possible to cultivate flowers. Large hectares of land are planted with the most beautiful varieties, which the world then gets to enjoy. Thanks to the climatic conditions of the region, the altitude above sea level and the strict production operations, roses are obtained in different color ranges.

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The Journey of Our Fresh Cut Flowers to Florists

 

Flowers travel a long way from their place of origin —in the most remote places in the world—until they reach the United States. Discover our process of receiving and shipping the best flowers, and how we guarantee their durability until they reach our customers.

At Virgin Farms we take daily measures to provide the highest quality of fresh-cut flowers to our clients. We maintain alliances with farms that guarantee top grade flowers that have been harvested under certified and sustainable processes.

Our flowers go through many operational stages, and for this reason, it is vital to handle a standard process during this path because this guarantees that the flowers remain fresh and therefore have a lengthy vase duration.

However, this path of travel does not end when the flowers arrive in the United States. They go through a process of customs and pest control in order to maintain the biodiversity of our country and avoid the introduction of any type of pests or insects that could ruin an entire flower lot or harm local species.

We have compiled the most frequent questions that our clients ask us so that you can learn firsthand about our operation and distribution process.

 

Q: How is the process of receiving flowers, once they arrive from their place of origin to the United States?

Holland, Colombia, and Ecuador are our main suppliers of flowers.

The flowers we receive at Virgin Farms make their journey from many parts of the world. Our tulips, ranunculus, cymbidiums, hyacinths and some hydrangeas, among other flowers, are imported from Dutch growers in Holland. Garden roses come from our top farm provider in Colombia, Alexandra Farms. Virgin Farms is known for its high-quality roses, which are exported from Ecuador via UPS Air Cargo to Miami International Airport. Once the cargo arrives the product is then transported to our facility.

 

Q:  What are the most common problems you have when receiving flowers and how do you solve them?

We have a strict customs and inspection process to ensure that there is no pest that could affect the flowers.

At times we may face issues that are out of our control. When the shipment arrives in Miami the flowers must go through clearance and pass inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for pests and diseases. During this process, boxes are randomly selected and inspected. If the flowers do not pass the inspection they are held (PQ) by the department or the product selected may be damaged in the inspection process.

At our facility, our Quality Control team inspects each bunch upon arrival. We may encounter flowers with botrytis (fungus) for instance, in which case the flower is deemed non-shippable and discarded. Any other defects that we check for include falling heads or petals, moldy petals, and damaged stems. These defective flowers are also discarded.

 

Q: How long does your process of receiving flowers take to deliver to your customers?

It takes between 48 and 72 hours for the flowers to reach our customers.

The process of receiving the flowers at our facility and shipping the order to a customer takes 48 to 72 hours. For instance, the farm will ship roses from Ecuador and it arrives in Miami. Then we ship the custom packed box via FedEx Priority Overnight and it arrives to our client the next day.

 

Q: How much volume of floral shipments is handled at Virgin Farms?

We handle an average of 2,000 weekly boxes of flowers to supply the great demand that exists in our country.

The volume varies depending on the week; it can be as little as 700 boxes to as much as 2,000 boxes. This includes all the different types of products we distribute: roses, fillers, Dutch flowers, garden roses, and others. Throughout the two weeks of Valentine’s Day shipments, we will move between 4,000 and 4,500 boxes.

 

Q: How is your quality control process when you receive the flowers?

All flower bunches are inspected to ensure quality and verify that variety is correct.

When the flowers arrive at our facility, Quality Control Managers check the product before receiving it into the inventory management system. Each box of flowers we receive from the farms is placed on a conveyor inside the cooler which is maintained at 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the documentation from the farms and our receivers, we check that the quantities and varieties shipped are correct. Then each bunch is inspected for quality assurance making sure there is no mold or damage. If the product meets our standards, then we receive the flowers in our inventory system. Each box is labeled with a barcode listing the expiration date, the quantity, the variety, and the farm lot. This allows us to track our daily floral inventory.

 

Q: What is your flower distribution process once these are already in the cooler?

From its origin until the flower reaches our customers, we guarantee the cold chain.

Once the flowers are in the inventory, the product is available to our customers. When a customer places an order with our sales managers, a pick list is received in the shipping department. The picklist indicates the customer, the shipping address, the floral varieties, the quantities for each flower listed by lot number, and the total item quantity and total cubic weight. Our employees in the cooler use the picklist to pack the order. The varieties are picked by the bunch in our inventory cooler and taken to the adjacent packing cooler. Depending on the size of the order (in weight) the flowers are packed into one of our four box sizes. Each box is precooled and insulated to maintain the temperature of the ice packs within the box. Each bunch is strategically packed into the box to ensure the flowers are snug and protected during transit.

 

Q:  How can an order be placed with Virgin Farms?

We adapt to the needs of our customers; we have products to supply the wholesale and retail market.

Professional florists and event planners may order from Virgin Farms by calling our toll-free number 1-888-548-ROSE to speak to a sales representative. We like to call them our floral experts. Each account manager is trained on all products and is highly experienced in the floral industry. Although some companies may offer eCommerce, we prefer to speak to our customers when they place an order because our inventory is live, and our flowers are fresh from the farms. We do not carry over products. Customers may order varieties and quantities by the bunch. We accommodate the customer’s needs and custom pack the order whether it is for a small flower shop or a large wedding or event.

At Virgin Farms we have an established process to deliver variety and quality in flowers, we manage strategic alliances with the best floral farms in the world with whom we have exclusivity and direct representation. We also have the best suppliers of courier and transport of flowers. We have all the technology and adequate facilities to keep the flowers in perfect condition. The most important factor is that we have a committed and trained sales staff to meet the demanding needs of our customers.

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How Do Flower Growers Prepare for Valentine’s Day?

One of the most important dates for the flower business is Valentine’s Day, and without a doubt the protagonists of this date, are the flowers, especially the red roses. They make their journey from the volcanic lands of the Andes, so that the lovers and all those who celebrate friendship and love can count on the most beautiful flowers that day.

How Do Flower Growers Prepare for Valentine’s Day?

Roses Plants

The roses from Virgin Farms for Valentine’s Day come mainly from the Ecuadorian floriculture, which are planted at the altitude of 3,000 meters. At this level, the temperature in these areas is approximately 57.2 ° F.

In this equatorial region, the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly on the rose plantations for 12 hours a day, and this makes the color of the roses more intense and their button size larger, which is why these roses are considered the most alluring in the world.

To learn more about how our cut rose suppliers are preparing for this date, we had the pleasure of talking with Rafael Santillán from Flower Fest, who explained in detail how farms prepare to supply the high demand for flowers on the 14th of February.

It should be noted that roses are produced year-round, but the highest demand for roses is for Valentine’s Day. It all begins by prepping the land for the rose plants. The soil is disinfected, and the rose beds are created for the planting process. The beds measure an average of 31 cm in depth, and the distance between each plant is 15 to 17 cm. After this, the plant begins to sprout. The flowering cycle lasts between 3 to 4 months depending on the variety.

Throughout the flowering stage of a rose bush, the rose has a very vegetative life. During this time, the stem hardens, and the leaves and the thorns become larger making its appearance more enhanced. At this phase, the rose’s button size is more substantial with an incredibly striking color. It is thought that for February 14th planting is increased, but this is not so. Instead, the procedure for pruning the bushes is modified. This operation begins in mid-October, when the most significant number of stems and smaller sprouts are left in the rose bush, which will grow again and bloom the last days of January and first days of February.

Throughout the year, about 1 to 1.1 roses are produced per plant, per month. For Valentine’s Day, three roses per plant are produced for the Valentine’s Day harvest, which gives a reference for engineers throughout the year to plan and optimize the most significant production for February. The date of cutting the stems at the precise aperture is what guarantees that the flowers are ready on the required date. This process is a combination of science and knowledge that Ecuadorian floriculturists have obtained in more than 50 years of floriculture in Ecuador.

Once this cut has been made, the flowers begin to bloom from the end of December and reach their optimum opening point between January 15 and February 3 and are dispatched to the United States between January 25 and 28. Flowers will be on the market before February 12, the date on which roses are already being sold for Valentine’s Day.

 How Do You Guarantee That the Flowers Have a Greater Durability in a Vase?

Many factors should be considered to obtain quality flowers that guarantee the quality and duration of the roses in a vase. Among the main ones, we can highlight the fact that Virgin Farms purchases flowers directly from the farms. These, in turn, possess the highest quality standards. Our suppliers have certified processes when watering the plantations. They have the appropriate hydration solutions so that our customers have roses free of bacteria, diseases, or parasites.

The Transport of the Flower Is a Race Against Time

In addition to the entire production and post-harvest process, there are other factors to ensure that the flowers have the best possible durability. One of them is transport, and the other is the cold chain. For this reason, floriculturists have adequate facilities and are owners of the entire cold chain, which ranges from when roses are in the floriculture in the cold room until they are shipped to their destination. This process is why, in trucks where flowers are transported, the temperature must be constant between 35 ° to 39 ° F so that the flowers do not wilt. Another fundamental aspect of transport is the humidity of the air, the same air that is measured with special sensors to guarantee the ideal humidity.

 

Once the flowers have left the farm, they are transported via air to the United States. The shipments of roses arrive at the Quito airport, which is located about two hours from the floricultural sector.

This airport is specialized for the transport of floral cargo, which has a platform with extensive terminal areas to simultaneously park large aircrafts for the transport of roses. One of the advantages of this terminal is that it is located at 2,800 meters above sea level. The shipment is delivered to the terminal at dawn at a temperature of 53.6 ° F. Therefore, when the roses leave the inspection and pre-shipment rooms, their temperature does not vary significantly.

When the flowers arrive at the cargo terminal, the employees quickly transport the boxes to the vehicles, weigh them, measure them, take their temperature, and finally place them on pallets. One by one, the packages are loaded forming blocks that are arranged with molds. Another group of employees awaits shipments in the cold room. On this site, the flowers remain an hour and a half, until they can be embarked on cargo planes, which are also refrigerated. One of the cargo aircrafts that is used is the KLM Boeing 747, which can carry approximately 90 tons of flowers.

Without a doubt, being able to transport flowers to their destination is a race against time, but that is done methodically with standards and established procedures so that the flowers reach their destination in the shortest possible time.

When the transport arrives at the terminal in Miami, the flowers are immediately refrigerated in a cooling facility to maintain their duration.

Roses for Every Preference

The flowers preferred by the consumer to give on this date are red roses, but there are also pink, fuchsia, and spray roses (mini roses). Many bouquets for Valentine’s Day are complemented with white roses and gyp, a filler that takes on a significant role because it is the perfect complement to harmonize and fill the bouquets. The most popular varieties for this occasion are Freedom for its bright red color; Explorer, with a darker red hue; Hearts, that is a heart-shaped rose; Pink Nena and Sophie, which is praised for its pale, pink hue. Fuchsia roses also take center stage for Valentine’s Day, notably the Pink Floyd and the Topaz rose variety that are characterized by their bright color.

The Virgin Farms team, together with our strategic allies, work continuously and months in advance to ensure that all our customers have the best roses to celebrate love and friendship on February 14th—Valentine’s Day.

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Combining science and nature to create fascinating roses

The Breeders: Combining science and nature to create fascinating roses

Nature has bestowed us with roses that have incredible shapes and colors. Flowers convey happiness and awe us with their magnificent spectacle.

Roses are not only present in gardens, but also in many other places like in our homes, offices, and restaurants. They are also used to decorate special and unforgettable moments such as weddings. Have you ever thought why there is such an extensive variety of roses that stand out with varying shapes, colors, and appearance? The answer is science. A group of specialized scientists in the field of biotechnology and genetics is in charge of creating new varieties of roses. They are known as breeders.

In a breeder’s lab, a team of specialists is constantly researching and making new developments to create new and improved varieties of roses to keep surprising the world with unique flowers.

We had the chance to visit the De Ruiter company, located in Tabacundo, Ecuador, a region that thanks to its geographical location produces roses that stand out because of their quality and variety.

De Ruiter Flowers

De Ruiter Flowers

Juan Pablo Rengifo, the company’s sales manager, welcomed us to their facility where we had the chance to observe the whole process of breeding.

De Ruiter

Juan Pablo Rengifo -Sales manager- De Ruiter Ecuador

De Ruiter is one of the world’s most important rose breeders. Their headquarters is located in Holland, and they have offices in Africa, Colombia, Ecuador, and Russia. They have been in the floricultural Ecuadorian market for 30 years.

Currently, there are at least 20 breeding companies, most of which are located in Holland, Germany, and other European countries. In Ecuador, breeders became prominent at the same time floriculture began about 50 years ago. These companies are the ones that deliver flowers to all new flower growers, and they are responsible for creating new floral varieties.

 

 How do you obtain a breed?

The process to obtain new rose varieties takes around 3 to 5 years. Depending on the complexity of the variety that a breeder is trying to achieve, sometimes it can take up to 8 years to acquire. That is the reason varieties are so expensive—costing thousands of dollars.

At De Ruiter, the process begins in their labs in Holland, where experienced scientists using genetic-crossing, cross-pollinate two parent plants, meaning one female and one male, and after extensive research, observation, and trials, they achieve new varieties.

roses breed

Quality Check of New Breeds not introduced to the Market yet

Once the trials are over, they check if the color and size of the roses are adequate. Depending on these factors, a decision is made as to whether or not the new variety is going to be reproduced. When the plant is approved it is sent to the Ecuadorian breeders. In the beginning, they receive around 4 to 6 plants of each code and begin a trial phase. Depending on a plant’s productive, physiological and morphological characteristics, they thoroughly analyze the Ecuadorian farmlands. If the results are favorable for cultivation, they produce an average of 500 plants of that variety.

New Rose Breeds for Pink Flowers

De Ruiter in Ecuador has a 1.5-hectare land. Inside this space, 25% of the land is reserved to receive new varieties and test new codes. Another 25% is used for a genetic bank where the plants are cultivated, and the other 25% of the land is used to develop samples to send to Ecuadorian, American, Asian and European buyers. The rest of the plantation cultivates the rose plants that will be delivered to their end clients. “The breeder’s objective is to provide new and improved varieties for the lands, flowers showing great performance and varieties that adapt to different climates. It is a tool to provide each land with exclusive varieties and to achieve a better standing on the market,” commented Rengifo.

One of the most interesting aspects of the visit was observing the field covered with blooming roses. We were able to see the different phases of the roses’ blooming process in their natural habitat.

Roses Breed

Irrigating the new varieties

Endless varieties

 

New Rose varieties

New Rose varieties

Each variety created by this company is registered and turned into intellectual property. For this reason, flower growers acquiring these plants from De Ruiter need to pay royalties to produce the product and to sell the rose varieties the company offers.

In the years De Ruiter has been in the floricultural industry, at least 100 rose varieties have been registered. Each year they evaluate on average between 3,000 and 4,000 varieties of roses, and just 3 to 7 are released to the market per year. In 2019, they released 42 varieties including Pink Expression and Latte Coffee.

Among these varieties, there are many color variations such as latte coffee, yellow, orange, and a blend of brown and lavender. We observed buds with different shapes such as the peony rose and the orchid rose, all of which are still in the observation and research process.

At Virgin Farms, we strive for our clients’ absolute satisfaction. That is why we have strategic partners, such as De Ruiter, to deliver unique, high-quality roses with impressive colors and shapes.

 

What is trending in the floral industry?

There are many trends in the world of flowers. During Valentine’s Day, red and pink roses are the most popular. During Mother’s Day, pastel-colored roses are in demand. This year, the protagonists are roses with vintage brown, purple, pink and orange tones. That is why in order to fulfill the demand, De Ruiter travels around the world looking for the latest trends, analyzing the market preferences to create new varieties to please their clients.

Thanks to the thorough studies and developments performed at breeding labs and the combination of science, biotechnology, and genetics, we are able to have captivating flowers. Growers, in turn, can offer unique varieties to keep delighting us with the fascinating colors and the queen of flowers: the rose.

What is trending in the floral industry?

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Discovering the Quality Control Process of Ecuadorian Roses

We had the opportunity to visit one of our suppliers in Ecuador: Florícola Ecoroses, located in the city of Machachi. This beautiful region near majestic volcanoes such as The Illinizas, is surrounded by incredible rose plantations.

The region of Machachi is considered to be a blessed region thanks to its geographical position, the intensity of sunlight, and its climate, making it the perfect ecosystem to produce the most impressive flowers on the planet.

Photo of the Ilinizas Volcano from the entrance to the Flower Farm

This farm is family-owned and has 33.3 hectares of greenhouses. It is made up of 350 workers who work to guarantee that all its quality assurance processes are met. We spoke with some of the employees, and they told us about the strict and innovative procedures carried out.

We began with an overview of the floriculture where we could appreciate all the innovations that have been made recently and its competitive advantages. It should be noted that the farm controls its entire value chain, which ranges from flower growing to transportation to its 40+ destinations.

Flower Classification Line. A quality control factory.

Irrigation
The first hydration the flower receives guarantees its life

Watering is the first step to guarantee a long-lasting flower. The water used by the nursery arrives directly from the defrosting of the Ilinisas volcano and goes through an ultrafiltration system before being used in the plantations.

Wilfrido Cazar, Production Manager, told us about the recipes and fertilization formulas they use. Their irrigation system is completely mechanized, so there is no place for mistakes.

They also have a team called Experience, which guarantees a perfect blend and a standardized formula for irrigation. Once the solution has been prepared, it is taken to a pre-mix tank, which combines all the solutions and creates an ideal nutritional formula to fertilize the crop. This equipment guarantees that constant irrigation is carried out in the established periods of time. When there is a lot of sunlight, the equipment detects it and automatically delivers another irrigation.

100% computerized irrigation system and fertilized water control. Each greenhouse receives an exclusive nutrient recipe according to their needs.

Premium location
The equator

It should be noted that the geographical area where EcoRoses is located and due to its altitude, the production cycle of a rose is 30% slower. This produces roses with longer and thicker stems, more intense colors and larger flowers.

Post-harvest:
Processes to extend the life of the flower

From the moment the stem is cut the flower begins to die, but it must do so slowly with outstanding performance and aperture rate. For this reason, the post-harvest process is critical in extending its life.

Ecuadorian farms have made investments in cutting-edge technology to guarantee the quality of roses at the production and post-harvest level. Every flower that enters this process may have fungal spores; insects, almost microscopic (thrips) that feed on the petal. Flowers can also develop a fungus called botrytis, which is a bacterium that rots roses. This is why they have an electrostatic sprinkler system, which minimizes the use of chemical products to clean any fungus or insects. Then they pass through ultraviolet lamps with a fungicidal effect. All these processes extend the life of the roses.

Cold chain
The Farm guarantees its temperature-controlled supply chain

The cold chain is critical for the conservation of the flower. In the cooler, the temperature is always at 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It has devices such as aerocides, which are cleaners that eliminate any fungus or bacteria in the air. There is also equipment that removes ethylene, which is a hormone produced by roses and causes petals and foliage to decay.

Roses should spend 7 hours in a cooler after post-harvest; otherwise, forced cooling is carried out to ensure it reaches the proper temperature.

Roses remain in the cooler for 1 to 4 days. Then they are transported in refrigerated vehicles to the cargo agencies where they will be exported to their destinations.

Though a rose may seem delicate, it is very resistant. Just to give an example, it takes approximately 10 days for roses to arrive to Siberia and they can last about 10 more days in a vase. This is due to the cold chain process.

Roses from Virgin Farms in coolers ready to export. Hormones are eliminated with a complex cooling system and air filtration.

Technology
Key indicators to generate continuous improvement

EcoRoses uses a software called Unosof, which allows them to measure floricultural operations, generate projections and extract key indicators. Through this software, engineers can map everything that is happening throughout the farm.

This software provides also provides information on inventory availability and tracks the frequency of common issues such as fungi and botrytis. The system also detects which bunches have been harvested first, so that workers select these at the time of dispatch to guarantee the freshness of the flower.

By using an advanced system for its quality control processes—ranging from sowing to transport—EcoRoses ensures their integrity and product duration. Their continuous strides to improve their procedures makes them innovative cultivators that guarantees the consumer premium roses full of life and color.

 

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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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