So you may be thinking, we’re still talking about her trip to Colombia? To which I would respond, hello… Thanksgiving! I assumed most of you would be gorging on turkey, stuffing and football last week, and not necessarily paying attention to my awe-inspiring blogging skills. But now that we’re all back to reality, I thought I’d hit you with one more, and it’s a good one. Garden roses are one of my favorite flowers, especially those of the David Austin variety. While in Colombia, I was lucky enough to be included on one of Alexandra Farm’s tours, followed by a delicious brunch, followed by a bumpy bus ride back to Bogotá. But I won’t go into that bus ride, we’ll focus on the garden flowers here, but I might stick in a picture or two of the food, just to remind you of all the delicious food you got to eat last week. Here goes…
Alexandra Farms is located about an hour and a half outside of Bogotá, though locals would probably tell you it’s a half hour. But don’t believe them. Always assume your “twenty minute drive” is going to take at least an hour, traffic in Bogotá is crazy! But I digress. Alexandra Farms is home to a wide variety of garden flowers, currently offering thirty varieties from a handful of breeders and twelve David Austin varieties (swoon). Sidenote: They are one of the select few farms chosen by David Austin to help test and grow the varieties he has selected for the cut flower industry, while keeping the integrity and fragrance of Old Garden roses. Pretty awesome. Anyway, so how did they come up with these forty-two varieties, you ask? By testing the breeds, that’s how.
The process of testing different varieties is a very slow process, taking up to three years to achieve the first commercial launch of a new variety. Once they have selected their favorites, they move into the production phase. Each flower is different, so the farm has to adapt to each variety, and create technological innovations to commercially cultivate them. Something I found interesting was how they split up the work. They specialize workers by variety, giving each worker responsibility over a particular set of beds. Each worker knows the ins and outs of their variety, and works hard to grow the highest quality flowers possible. The final step of production is postharvest. Once they have been cut, they are put in hydration buckets until it is their turn to go through classification. Their foliage is removed and they are then sorted into categories based on length and cut point. Garden roses are more delicate than all other roses, so they must be handled very carefully during this process, as well as packing, storing, and shipping.
Our tour was pretty spectacular, and smelled damn good too! We started with a tour of the variety testing areas, then saw production, and finished with the postharvest and classification processes. Here are some pictures of the tour:
Thanks again to Alexandra Farms for a great tour, and a special shout out to Maria for being a fabulous tour guide and dinner host the night we arrived in Bogotá! I hope you have enjoyed following my first big trip in the business, and hope to have more to share with you in the future!