Roses of Ecuador

I gave up growing roses in my Arizona garden years ago. I found them demanding and disappointing. I virtually stopped buying cut roses as well since their life span seemed incredibly brief. But I have just returned from a trip to Ecuador, where roses reign supreme, and I have an entirely different view of the world of roses. 

Lush Green Landscape of Ecuador

The Ecuadorian landscape is quilted in green fields accented with white hoop houses growing sunflowers, vegetables, and roses, especially roses. My reeducation on roses began at Sacha Roses, south of Quito, Ecuador, where they claim to grow the world’s largest roses.

I could never find the best location to grow roses in my garden; Ecuador, located on the equator, is the best location to grow roses. At an elevation of 10,000 ft, with 12 hours of daily sunshine, the rose farm protects their crop in hoop houses with a UV-rated plastic cover specifically matched for the variety of roses they are growing. The UV-adjusted covering allows the colors to saturate precisely. These ideal conditions allow the rose bushes to produce an average of one long-stemmed rose each month, all year round.

Fernando Lopez, rose authority extraordinaire and a member of the family, gave me the tour. We started in their test house with all the wide variety of colors in one place. He identified each one by name, a white Tibet without thorns, Nina, an orange-red, a Tapas hot pink, and many, many more varieties all new to me. He made it clear the buyers have their favorite varieties in ordering and expect identical quality in each delivery. 

I’m 5’1″ tall, the roses are reaching for the sky

As we walked through the test house I looked up, amazed as the roses grew far above my head. The roses not only grow tall, but the buds are full and round. The high mountain temperatures can be quite cool, and this helps the roses “fatten up.” Fernando compared it to people adding layers of clothing in cold weather, making us rounder.  

Fernando’s family farming practices maintain a reverence for water, recirculating the runoff from the drip lines and cleaning the water before it is released downstream. Pest control is done with sacrificial plants outside the hoop houses providing tasty leaves for hungry insects keeping them off the roses inside.  

Selected, Graded, Inspected, and Packed for Export

The rose farms provide skilled employment for local residents. Cutting the roses at the right time, cleaning the stems, grading the buds, and packing for transport to meet international shipping standards is not casual work.

A long stemmed rose!

Why I wonder, did the roses travel with such long stems, 39” (1 meter)? Sacha Roses’ primary customer is Russia, specifically Siberia. Now my impression of Siberia was limited to spy movies before this conversation but assumed rose growing conditions are not part of their climate. Yet they love roses (though not yellow roses, something about a not-so-subtle message of death), and the nearly 40 million people living in Siberia want fresh flowers in their homes. Russians place their flower vases on the floor, so the height of the rose stem is essential to adjust for the pleasure of viewing the flowers.

A tabletop bouquet from the wedding

In my house, I cut long stem roses to fit the size of my vase. I place the vase on the tabletop and enjoy them there. Travel always introduces new perspectives.

It is a remarkable feat to grow a rose at the equator and ship it to Siberia. I stopped buying roses because they wilted so quickly; I read tips for preserving the life of the roses by cutting them underwater and never letting a second of air get into the stem! Here the roses are cut, bundled, and carried by small trucks to the sorting and grading shed. They are then dipped in a solution of water and chlorine bleach to ensure no insects are riding along. There they are cleaned of leaves and thorns, packed dry and tightly in bundles packed into boxes of 250 stems, loaded back into a truck, driven to the airport in Quito, placed into the airplane cargo, and flown into Miami, and then onto Russia. It can take seven days by transport! They are protected by temperature control, given no water, and shipped from the florist to the romantic, and expected to last ten days in the vase. These are not my grocery store roses.

A lobby bouquet

I learned one of the reasons the roses last so long is the removal of their scent. The hormone providing fragrance causes the flower to open faster and deteriorate more quickly. By breeding out the scent, the rose life is extended.

In the market, colorized roses, infused via the stem. Split into four, placed into colored water.

On the streets of Quito, roses are $2 a dozen. Roses adorn the hotel lobbies in mass arrangements. There are flower markets and rose sellers tempting you at every turn.

Wedding flowers

I traveled to Ecuador to attend my niece’s wedding. When I arrived at the wedding venue, Hotel Mama Cuchara, I was astonished at the breath-taking bounty of the roses in pale peach, apricot, pink, white, and orange.

Beautiful Abundance

My appreciation of roses and the growing of roses is forever altered.

Now, did you know you can look for the source of roses and flowers you buy? Many local retailers buy flowers from Ecuador. The roses on a 20” (50 cm) stem are only identified as red, yellow, purple, light pink, white, and hot pink, so you won’t see the lovely Nina.

I believe this variety is Nina

Some are part of a cooperative, Rainforest Alliance Certification, assuring you of sustainable growing conditions and worker protections. Florists also sell higher-quality roses and do ask your florist where they are grown. I’ve always appreciated being able to buy flowers at the grocery store as I consider them food for my soul. Now I am going in search of more beautiful Ecuadorian roses.

Impact

29 thoughts on “Roses of Ecuador”

  1. Several years ago I asked Sharon Luoma about the roses that last several weeks and she told me about them. I think I remember her saying they were from Equador Did you hear anything about such roses? As you know, Sharon is no longer with us to ask questions.
    Judy Shelton

  2. Linda, Amazing! Thanks for sharing the photos and interesting information about the roses. Sounded like a fantastic trip. Ann

  3. Fabulous. Wouldn’t Donna have loved these. Like you I gave up trying to grow roses in az. Although I had a friend who had them all over. Thanks again for the photos.

  4. Wonderful information.
    You are the luckiest woman in the world to see so many wonders of the world
    Thanks for all you do.

    1. Thank you JoAnn, I am so delighted to share these garden adventures and yes I am very lucky to have these adventures.

  5. I found this article so interesting and enjoyed learning about Equador’s roses. I love to get them at Costco! I thought they were special there and now I know that is true. Thank you, Linda!

  6. I so enjoyed this narrative about your roamings throughout rose country! I too have enjoyed the roses from Cost Co and I found out why. That’s a nice surprise. Thank you for your garden/flower travel stories.

  7. Thank you for this beautiful story! I, too, love roses but generally do not buy them since they wilt so quickly. But I will be taking a fresh look at Costco roses after reading your informative article. So glad you are able to travel again. Please keep the articles coming!!!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement to keep traveling. I bought some Costco roses and they are still beautiful 8 days in the vase. I’m amazed! Purely for research

  8. Thank you Linda for another fascinating, informative and beautiful journey that you shared with us all. Like you I gave up growing roses many years ago as they all ended up as decaying stems with sad blooms – though perhaps due to your encouragement I will try again.
    Jan (Surrey UK)

  9. Superb article, Linda, as usual. You teach us so much with such wonderful accompanying colorful photos–!!!! Thanks!!
    Keep traveling and sharing, great JOB!!
    Vangie Song

  10. Thank you Linda for sharing another wonderful journey with us adorned with roses all the way.
    It has made me consider the merits of growing roses , so perhaps will try again and not end up with bare stems and sad blooms.
    Jan UK

  11. Thank you soooo much for sharing your adventures. This has been a teachable moment for me. Gives me a whole appreciation for roses. happy to see you traveling again!

  12. Your stories always bring beauty, learning, and insights. And best of all, a delightful journey in each one! This one is extra wonderful since it combined a lovely trip with a beautiful family occasion. Thinking of you and Rich traveling again gives your readers “travels” to look forward to also — in words and pictures. Can’t wait for more!

  13. We will be visiting Ecuador in February 2022 which includes a visit to Sacha Farms. Thank you so much for the great review. We are looking forward to our visit even more now 🙂

    Cheers!

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