At 9:45am, about 25 of us boarded a modern tour bus (Greyhound sized) and set out for the country. Once we got off the highway, we were on crude roads climbing up into the hillsides. I kept thinking, why so far away from all the services of shipping, etc? We got down to a 1-lane dirt road that seemed a bit steep of such a massive bus. At one point, we had to force a guy in a pickup to back up a few hundred feet. We did a little backing up of our own (to the gasps of women aboard fearing we would plummet off a precipice) because the bus tires were spinning out in the wet dirt. As we approached the farm/plantation, we barely cleared the trees, poles, and whatnot lining the edge of the road. People came out of their homes along the way and gawked at this behemoth acting like a 4 x 4. Kids were in awe. What the.....??? I think even the cows and sheep were baffled. Chickens scrambled everywhere. I swear I could hear them shrieking 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling!!'.
We arrived at a beautiful finca (farm) with a hacienda-style house with walkways lined with a zillion white calla-lillies, as well as iris's, and hydrangeas.
The owners, a very handsome couple probably in their 40's, greeted us. The operation has been in the family for 3 generations. Originally, it was strictly a dairy farm, but Juan Carlos saw the opportunity to grow roses and started that part of the operation 15 years ago. As of now, the rose farm consumes approximately 30 acres. JC (so I don't have to type Juan Carlos) and his wife are part of the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce and opened his operation to us as a way to engage Ex-Pats and, hopefully, take advantage of the knowledge and expertise we bring to Cuenca. Trebol Roses is generally not open to the public. No one could agree on whether this was a farm, or a nursery, or a plantation because it had an air of charm even though it was a million-dollar business.
So, off to the greenhouses we went. Each greenhouse housed thousands of rose bushes...all hybrid teas. Each section was a color/breed. JC detailed their day to day operations....how every day roses are cut at the right time, every day shipments in refrigerated trucks drive to Guayaquil and/or Quito and then flown to various countries, someone inspects all the rows (with a magnifying glass) for any bugs, how certain breed names are in demand more at one time of the year than another, and now some simply no longer have a demand and are pulled up and thrown away. ARRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!
As you'll see in one of the photos, some of the rose plants reach 8ft tall, or higher. They strive for LONG STEM roses as they pay more $$. The longest is 1 meter, which is about 39" or slightly more than 3 feet long!!! They export to many countries, aside from the US, to Russia, Argentina, Germany, etc.
Everything is done manually, except for the fact that a lot of infomation is documented and tracked via the computer. Other than that, no machinery is used to process the roses. Read the captions on the photos and you'll see just how manual this entire process is.
At the end of our tour, we convened in the hacienda (house) which was a dreamers dream come true of warmth and charm. Lots of old memorabilia and history was seen. It was a bit chilly, so several of us gathered around an old cast-iron wood-burning stove. We were served hot drinks (dunno what it was but it was good) and the dining table was outfitted with an array of sandwiches, pastries, and cookies common to Ecuador. The hacienda was so charming , we threatened to not leave. I asked...how many bedrooms??? The hosts thanked us for coming and presented us with a gift....
TWO DOZEN LONG-STEMMED RED ROSES!!!!!
Ok, do the math. 25 of us, 2 dozen roses. They forked over 600 roses as gifts!!!
Back on the bus and down the winding roads and back to Cuenca, everyone was satiated by a great trip. We were back by 3:30pm
Ok, get THIS.
- Bus for an hour's drive each way, to and from
- Tour (about 2 hours)
- 2 dozen long-stemmed roses for each person
|Row after row after row of greenhouses nestled waaaay back in the hills far off the main highway.|
|Cut little church as we neared Trebol Roses.|
|This photo may not look too exciting because there aren't a lot of roses in bloom. That's what you DON'T want, because each rose must be cut before it blooms, while it is still a tight bud.|
|The metal structure you see above us is the mechanism used to move the buckets filled with cut roses along to the sorting and boxing area. Sort of like a manual aerial tram to move the cut roses along.|
|These things are TALL!!! I'm 6ft. (ps...bad hair day)|
|Those paper sacks are placed over buds to give them warmth and speed along their development, especially if that particular breed/color is in high demand at the moment.|
|After cutting, the roses are placed in a cage box to keep them upright and separated, then the cage is sunk into vats of water which contains chlorine to keep bacteria from damaging the flowers.|
|Though it looks like a dozen, there's actually another dozen enveloped in the same bundle. The top portion of the flowers are protected by cardboard wrap and dividers.|
|Would you believe these are THROWAWAYS!!! Because the bloom has opened too much.|
|In the refrigerated room, ready to be placed in cardboard boxes and loaded onto a truck, bound for who knows where.|
|Ok, so it's not a rose, but this sucker located at the entrance to the house was about 4ft in diameter!!|
|View from inside the house to the gardens in back.|
|The 2 dozen gifted roses on my dining table|
|Located far off the highway, way back in the rolling, green hills of Ecuador. A long ways from the nearest HomeDepot!!!! (there ain't any)|