Mountain Roses

13 Feb

We visited a rose farm in the Andes. When cultivated roses grow at 10,000 feet they have a number of unique characteristics that distinguish them from roses grown all over the world. Their stems are especially long and of significantly larger circumference. Their blooms are full and regular. And they have a long “vase life.”

The Trebol Rose Farm has been in the family for four generations. Founded as a dairy farm, rose growing was added to the farm land twenty-two years ago.

Now the farm exports 9 million roses a year to countries all over the world. Celebrations from Chinese New Year to Valentine’s Day in the United States are marked with specific bloom colors.

Different countries prefer different colors. The Chinese value colors not found in nature. Royal blue and bright kaleidoscopic roses are big. In the U.S red is the tradition for Valentine’s Day. In some cultures, yellow roses are considered an insult or a curse.

The Ecuadorians who work on the farm are from many of the same families. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons work side by side, some on stilts to reach and cut the tallest blooms.

But there have been changes and innovations over the years. The farm is reached by turning off the main road and up several dirt tracks. Rose workers used to walk to work, then they biked, now it is motorcycles.

We visited the farm 2 days before Valentine’s Day. The last shipment went out the week before. After growing, sorting, trimming, packaging and shipping one and a half million roses, preparations began for Mother’s Day in Britain.

Walking through the 10 acres of greenhouses, the owners told us of the challenges of growing in Ecuador. On the plus side is 12 hours of daylight per day, warm daytime and cool nighttime temperatures and abundant pure water. But the land in the mountains is dynamic and hilly. It is hard to find any flat land, so it must be created.

As with most farming there are long days in hot greenhouses. But the result is hectare after hectare of Ecuadorian mountain roses .





4 Responses to “Mountain Roses”

  1. Dede February 13, 2019 at 6:09 pm #

    Hi Jill and Dana. This is wonderful! MUCH nicer establishment than the rose farm I worked on in Hadley MA, during a college summer. It was HOT in the greenhouses, and long sleeves were imperative because of the thorns which were unavoidable when reaching in to cut the long stems in just the right place. Even so, I remember going home and pricking vitamin E capsules to rub the fluid into my cuts. Yeesh! For decades I avoided roses and advised boyfriends/husbands on the subject! I do, however, remember appreciating (and photographing) Dana’s beautiful roses in Santa Barbara.

    • Jill and Dana February 13, 2019 at 6:19 pm #

      We noticed one of the women cutting and stripping the stems had elbow-length, very sturdy gloves and a special stripping tool. The day we were there was low-60s and cloudy. Even so, the greenhouses were warm and steamy. Wish we could have gotten a photo of the women cutting the rose stems on stilts. Ecuadorians are much smaller than Americans. Dana couldn’t fit between the rows, let alone trimming the stems.

      One of my favorite photos is one you took in our garden in Santa Barbara. It hangs in our kitchen now.

  2. Maryl Travis February 13, 2019 at 1:43 pm #

    I can smell the roses just seeing the photos. Was there an overwhelming rose fragrance? Most of the roses we get in the US, don’t seem to have a strong fragrance anymore. I also was surprised at the height that the roses grow. Was the rose/cattle farm listed on Trip Advisor?! I bet most tourists have not toured the grounds. Did you make your own arrangements to tour and did the owners speak English? So interesting to see where the roses are grown and how far they have to be shipped.

    • Jill and Dana February 13, 2019 at 2:37 pm #

      Actually, there was no fragrance. We asked about that. It seems that there is an inverse relationship between fragrance and vase life. The more fragrant blooms are the first to fade. You can imagine that growers want their blooms to last as long as possible. Actually the flower brokers and, ultimately, the final rose buyer wants that too. So fragrance was sacrificed for longer life. The day we visited the farm the owners greated us with a light refreshment, gave us an information-rich tour of the farm and the greenhouses with the gift of a dozen roses for each visitor. Then we had a vegetarian lunch prepared by one of the daughters, who is a trained chef, in the outdoor kitchen of the farm house. Every detail of the day was carefully planned by the family with open-hearted hospitality. We heard about the farm in a newsletter, “Cuenca HighLife,” that we subscribed to for a year before coming to Ecuador. Few tours are given of the farm. We were just lucky to catch this rare one 2 days before Valentine’s Day.

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