skip to main content

For our latest South American trip, we visit flower farms in Quito, Ecuador

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Located in the northwest part of South America, Ecuador’s name betrays another fact about its geographic location. Ecuador is Spanish for equator, the imaginary line that separates the Earth into northern and southern hemispheres.

Quito, Ecuador’s capital, sits more than 9,000 feet above sea level. That combination – proximity to the equator and high elevation – are what make Quito a near-perfect place to grow flowers. A 2015 article in the Financial Times noted that Ecuador was the world’s third-biggest exporter of cut flowers, 73 percent of which were roses.

“Roses grown at high altitude have a much longer growing cycle than those cultivated at sea level, up to 15 weeks as opposed to eight, so it is perfect for long-stemmed varieties with big heads,” said an official with a Dutch flower breeder. “The cold nights mean that you get a lot of bi-colors, with contrasting hues on the edges and the insides of petals, which are very sought after in certain markets.”

Tom Royer, our senior vice president and chief operating officer, had been to Quito on multiple occasions prior to his latest visit in September. His nephew, area manager Geoff Royer, had previously joined Tom on trips to flower farms in Bogota and Medellin in Colombia.

Because more flower growers ship out of Bogota than from Quito, freight costs are more competitive in Colombia, Geoff said. Quito also has a higher minimum wage that gets passed along to flower buyers.

While Royer’s has tended to buy most of its roses from Colombia because of cost, Tom and Geoff felt compelled to visit Quito because of the undeniable quality of the product there.

This was Geoff’s first exposure to Quito.

“The first thing you notice when you get into Quito is the landscape,” Geoff said. “Where Bogota is a plateau and very flat, Quito sits in a river valley.”

Bigger roses, brighter colors

Quito is some 700 feet higher in elevation that Bogota.

“That 700 feet is what makes all the difference,” Geoff said. “Because the flowers are closer to the sun, it’s intensity is much higher. This leads to bigger roses and brighter colors. You can buy the same varieties in both places, but in Quito they are that much better.”

Tom and Geoff wanted a first-hand look at “what’s out there and what’s new,” Geoff said. “We visited a few growers, some whom we’ve dealt with before and others not. As always, we are trying to find the best, longest-lasting product that’s out there.”

Among the Quito-grown products that Royer’s customers could be seeing:

–Hydrangea: “It’s a bigger head and the colors are different from the white and blue that we carry now. There are even some with variegation in the colors,” Geoff said.

–Painted rose: This is a white rose with outside petals hand-painted red. “We sometimes have that that variety of white rose, but the painting is different from anything we’ve had before,” Geoff said.

–Babies breath: Tom and Geoff visited a new grower. “What we get now is called Million Star, a variety that has a smaller flower. This grower offers that but also other varieties with bigger flowers and sturdier stems,” Geoff said.

Our annual rose sale returns May 16-June 16

Roses are most closely associated with Valentine’s Day, but they are available year-round.

They’re a particularly good value in June thanks to the natural rose growing cycle, as evidenced by Royer’s annual rose sale, which coincides with National Rose Month in June.

This year’s sale runs May 16-June 16 with specials including:

  • Three roses added to any arrangement for $4;
  • One-dozen loose red, yellow, pink or rainbow roses for $15.99;
  • Two-dozen premium rose arrangement for $69.99 (normally $89.99).

A rose farm typically harvests its crop every six to eight weeks: conveniently, after the Valentine’s Day harvest comes the one for Mother’s Day. But while there’s another big crop of roses in late spring, there is not a corresponding holiday to absorb all those flowers.

Our rose sale taps into that abundant availability, which makes roses less expensive for us and, by extension, for you, our customers.

Up until the 1970s, Royer’s grew its own roses (and many other flowers) in greenhouses at our headquarters in Lebanon. But when the oil embargo hit and the price of crude oil spiked, it became cost prohibitive to operate those greenhouses.

By contrast, Bogota, Colombia, sits on a plateau, giving it year-round fall temperatures that are ideal for growing flowers.

But we leave nothing to chance. For more than 30 years, Royer’s has made at least annual trips to South America to visit the farms that provide our roses and other flowers. In fact, Royer’s may be the only local florist in the United States that visits South America in this fashion.

As we noted in this blog post, which described the efforts of Tom Royer, who is one of the Royer’s family owners: “By visiting the farms, Tom can inspect the latest crop in the field. He makes sure that the farms cut the flowers at the right maturity. He always carries his measuring tool to ensure that he’s getting the right length and head sizes for the flowers that Royer’s buys.”

Royer’s primary rose variety is called Freedom, which makes a big impression with its deep color, size (flowers range from 5 to 7 centimeters across), and long vase life.

No matter the variety, roses have similar characteristics. However, care requirements can differ whether the roses arrive in a vase, loose or in a box, as these care tips explain.

Of course, with our annual rose sale, it’s a great time to give roses as a gift to someone else or to treat yourself.

Revive your roses with these easy steps

thumb_DSC_0783_1024

Even when handled with great care, the heads of your beautiful roses could drop over within a few days of receiving a bouquet.

It’s not that the flowers are old. Rather, it’s likely that an air bubble got stuck in the stem, preventing water from getting in.

With these easy steps, you can bring the roses back to a robust state:

1. Fill a sink with 2 inches of water;

2. Remove the roses from their vase and submerge the stems in water;

3. While they are submerged, cut the stems (scissors are fine) approximately 2 inches from the bottom. A diagonal cut is best as it provides the most surface area for water to get in;

4. Allow the stems to soak in the water for an hour.

When you place the roses back in the vase, they should be in good shape once again. Be sure to add the plant food that your florist should have provided.

Our flowers are rooted in many places around the world

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

North America to South America. Europe, Africa and Asia.

Oh, the places we’ll go to procure high-quality flowers.

We’ve previously told you about our regular trips to Bogota, Colombia, which has an ideal climate for growing roses, for instance.

Here’s a sampling of other flowers and the couuntries from which we source them:

Carnations/alstromeria: Bogota, Colombia
Dendrobium: Thailand
Gerbera daisies: Canada
Gypsophilia: Quito, Ecuador
Hydrangeas/pompons: Medellin, Colombia
Hypericum: Ethiopia
Iris/tulips: Holland
Sunflowers: United States
Sweetheart roses: Holland

Postcard from South America: Day 3

Click here to see Day 1 and here for Day 2.

See Day 1Day 3 found Tom Royer and Geoff Royer again in Bogota, again inspecting Valentine’s Day roses, this time at the Multiflora farm.

“The quality was very good from what we saw,” Geoff said. “It’s impossible to look at every bunch we get, but we make sure we go through the process with them about the cut point, again.”

As noted in our Day 2 entry, cut point is crucial. It’s the stage in a flower’s life when it is cut from the plant. The cut point has to be just right to ensure that our customers get the best quality and most value from their flowers.

Multiflora has invested in its processes to make them more accurate and efficient. Workers used to grade flowers in the field, so it was not as accurate as it could be, Geoff said.

Now the only thing they do in the field is sort the roses, long-stem vs. short stem. Now there’s a post-harvest building where the roses are graded more accurately, prepped and packed in boxes for shipping to customers such as Royer’s.

Multiflora now cools its loading dock, so there is no break in the “cold chain” between the post-harvest building, the loading dock, and the refrigerated trucks that will transport the roses to the airport.

“The better that flowers can be kept cold, the longer they will last throughout the process and for our customers,” Geoff said.

Multiflora is switching to a hydroponic growing system, so the plants are growing in raised beds rather than directly in the ground. This gives the farm more control over the nutrients the plants receive — and increases the yield by 50 percent.

Headed for home

Tom and Geoff also visited the Hossa farm, which provides us with spray roses (multiple small blooms per stem). But the focus of this stop was Hossa’s lilies.

Hossa has developed new varieties that produce more blooms per stem. And like Multiflora, Hossa has improved its processes, namely packing.

“They tightened the lilies into the boxes better so during transport they don’t shift,” Geoff said. “If the lilies shift in the boxes, it damages the buds and leaves bruising and creasing once the flowers open up.”

Their farm tours completed, Tom and Geoff are going their separate ways. Tom will fly to Miami for another inspection of the Valentine’s Day shipments, ensuring the highest quality before the flowers are packed on our truck for delivery to our Lebanon distribution center.

Geoff is headed back to Pennsylvania, arriving in Lebanon in time for the start of Valentine’s Day production Saturday in our central design department.

There, teams of Royer’s employees will handcraft thousands of holiday arrangements using the roses, carnations and other Colombian-grown flowers that Geoff and Tom saw firsthand only days earlier.

Postcard from South America: Day 2

We started Tom Royer and nephew Geoff Royer’s trip to Colombia, South America, in the city of Medellin. Day 2 found them some 335 miles southwest in Bogota, the nation’s capital.

Bogota sits in the center of Colombia, on a high-altitude plateau that provides year-round steady temperatures that help make it one of the world’s great flower-growing regions.

Tom and Geoff visited two more farms. The first was Elite, one of the largest growers in Bogota and our source mainly for roses and alstroemeria (lilies).

“Today was an inspection day,” Geoff said. “We examined some of our roses and discussed the cut point of the flowers.”

The cut point is, as the term suggests, the stage in the flower’s life cycle at which it is cut from the plant. There is an art to this, as we have to factor in the amount of time from farm, through customs in Miami, to our distribution center, to our stores and, finally, to our customers.

“Roses cut too open will blow open more quickly and not last as long,” Geoff said. “Roses cut too tight may not open at all. We are very critical of this part of the process and work with the growers to ensure that they have our cut points correct so we can provide the best possible product to our customers.”

While Elite has machines to help newer employees with grading the roses for head size and length, all of Royer’s roses are hand-graded by Elite’s experienced crews to ensure the best quality.

From Elite, Tom and Geoff visited the Geoflora farm, a carnation grower whose quality, Geoff said, is second to none. Besides inspecting the mini-carnations and carnations that Geoflora is growing for us for Valentine’s Day, they got a glimpse at some of the new products the farm is developing with its breeder.

“They have developed a carnation head size that is almost in a class of its own,” Geoff said.

 

 

Postcard from South America: Medellin flower farms

While they’re getting ready to play a big football game in Houston, Royer’s is gearing up for its version of the Super Bowl with our annual pre-Valentine’s Day trip to South America.

Tom Royer, our senior vice president and chief operating officer, has been making the trip for decades. In recent years, he has been joined by his nephew, Geoffrey Royer, who is a Royer’s area manager.

Their trek allows them to ensure that the roses and other Valentine’s Day flowers growing specifically for our customers are of the highest quality.

Day 1 found Tom and Geoff at the Liberty and Mira Monte farms in Medellin, Colombia, from which Royer’s mainly purchases daisies and cushion poms.

“The thing I took from today was how very technical it all is and the precision and detail needed to make it all work correctly,” Geoff said.

Conversation at both farms turned to propagation, or the process from seed to mother plants from which cuttings are taken. The cuttings beget plugs that are planted into vast beds and become the flowers we buy.

Planting for Mother’s Day

Geoff noted that while we’re focused on Valentine’s Day, the farms are planting for Mother’s Day.

“Planting any later than the next week or so could cause the crop to be too late for Mother’s Day,” Geoff said.

He noted the multiple variables that play roles in how flowers develop, from minerals such as phosphorus and potassium to sunlight and temperature.

Whatever their current products, the farms aren’t resting on their laurels. They work with breeders to create the varieties of flowers that Royer’s and other florists purchase.

“It’s not a simple process,” Geoff said. “Hundreds of thousands of seeds are gone through and tested to see which ones produce plants and products that could be valued in the marketplace.

“They are then propagated and tested over time to see if they have issues with disease or how well they produce. If they have a winner, it takes time to then create enough cuttings to have a large enough production to make an impact.”

 

 

 

‘Freedom’ on the march when it comes to roses

freedom-1

We’ve all heard the line from Shakespeare: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Far be it for us to quibble with “The Bard,” but names do matter when it comes to distinguishing among rose breeds. This certainly is the case with our standard red rose, which is anything but standard.

Known as the “Freedom” variety, it has been our primary rose since its 2004 introduction by the rose-breeding experts at Rosen-Tantau in Germany. The pure-red Freedom rose, which is grown in South America and Mexico, is known for being a productive plant that is highly resistant to pests and diseases.

What’s more for consumers, the Freedom rose makes a big impression with its deep color, size (flowers range from 5 to 7 centimeters across), and long vase life.

ROSE PETALS

Some tidbits about roses courtesy of aboutflowers.com:

  • Shakespeare referred to roses more than 50 times in his writings.
  • Napoleon’s wife Josephine grew more than 250 rose varieties.
  • Archeologists discovered fossilized remains of wild roses that were more than 40 million years old.
  • The world’s oldest living rose is 1,000 years old and flourishing on the wall of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.
  • The rose hips (the part left on the plant after a rose has finished blooming) contains more Vitamin C than almost any other fruit or vegetable.

Football just had its biggest day, now it’s our turn

Valentine’s Day is to the floral industry what the Super Bowl is to professional football.

But it’s not a perfect analogy because everyone wins when it comes to beautiful flowers, whether you’re on the giving or receiving team.

Our pre-game festivities are in full bloom, as evidenced by these photos from our Lebanon distribution center and central design department.

Petals to the metal: gearing up for Valentine’s Day

To make a sports analogy, Valentine’s Day is a florist’s version of football’s Super Bowl.

So consider what you are seeing in these photos — taken at our distribution center and central design department in Lebanon — as our pre-game show.

Kickoff is five days away.