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emc team floral design inspiration trends Nov 05, 2022

Growing the ultimate bridal rose

The story of Alexandra Farms nursery

Alexandra Farms is a famous boutique grower, located in the incredibly fertile savanna of Bogotá, high in the Andes Mountains of Colombia. The garden roses and David Austin varieties from Alexandra Farms are famous all over the world and it's any designer's dream to work with the stunning roses that wow us with their looks and dazzle us with their fragrance. 

When Alexandra Farms first started, there weren’t too many garden roses for the cut flower market available. The first tests included 12 to 15 varieties that were found in England and France. As the years went by, Alexandra Farms constantly made a big effort to find new varieties. The goal was to increase it to 100, 200, even 300 a year and right now the farm has more than 300 different garden rose varieties on trial. The decision to grow them commercially depends on a variety of things. One of the most important is vase life. The roses that are selected must have a 10 to 12 day vase life in the end consumers’ vase. Other considerations include consistent shape, productivity, stem length, stem strength - that the stem can carry the weight of the bloom, and another issues that are considered important by the company's high standards of quality. 

It takes an expert biologist, working year-round with new varieties and growing techniques, to make all that beauty of garden roses become reality. At Alexandra Farms, that key player is Pilar Buitrago, a plant scientist who has been working at the farm since 2011. She is in charge of the ‘introduction of new varieties program’ and works with a young woman called Venilde, who becomes very familiar with the varieties and develops a certain affection for each of them. She’s the one who presents the varieties to the leadership of the company every six or so months for consideration. A selection process starts and some varieties that don’t have the vase life or don’t have a consistent shape or don’t have the stem length are being discarded. From here on, more of the selected varieties are propagated up to 300 plants each. 

On these plants, additional testing is carried out: shipping testing, vase life testing after they’ve been in the cooler for more than four days of refrigeration, performance testing. This comes to show the dedication of the team to only source quality products, that can ensure the end customer that wow experience when seeing the flower in their hands or in the designs of their events. The testing process takes time and certainly commitment on behalf of everyone involved so that the roses reach the quality standards that are self-imposed by Alexandra Farms. 

During the 2019 visit to Alexandra Farms, the EMC core team had the opportunity to visualise and experience the process of producing these amazing garden roses. On the first day of the trip, the Alexandra Farms team treated the EMC group to a tour of the grower’s greenhouses. The first stop was the new variety block where unreleased varieties are grown and tested for possible future release to the commercial market. Joey Azout encouraged each team member to pick their favourite test variety, and then the group discussed the qualities they liked about each rose. It was a magical moment for all of us, as we quickly realised that space of the nursery was like non other on the farm. From exciting vibrant colours to discreet velvety texture, every type of rose was in that place and before we could even realise it, each of us was gradually captivated by one or another. 

AF passionately sources new varieties from virtually every nation on the planet that breeds them. There are very few varieties that they grow that are actually directly off the shelf. Because they specialise in unique roses that have different characteristics than most, Alexandra Farms invests passion and effort into finding them. Each rose actually has a story. For example, Alabaster - the very first AF variety - was found underneath a flower bed at a breeder. "We were told that it was a Floribunda rose that would probably not be very good as a cut flower. But we loved it, so stubbornly we decided to test it out and invest in its potential. It turned out the variety blooms beautifully in the vase, and it’s a very popular variety for us now." says Teresa Ahlberg, Marketing and Communication Manager at Alexandra Farms.

There’s a story of passion in all of the varieties, just from the names that have been given to them. Although most varieties are named by the breeder, Alexandra Farms has established relationships with several breeders that allow them to name varieties.

Alexandra Farms is a one-of-a-kind "laboratory" that gives birth to so many flowers that later end up in the hands of designers and florists all over the world. It is their commitment to quality and passion for roses that set them apart in the industry. Consistent in their efforts, they partner with designers as well an actively involve them in the process of selection, listening to feedback and being open minded about the various usage and the design potential they see in a rose. Integrating different perspectives in the quest for that next big, lush and romantic garden rose is how new varieties are produced and new trends emerge.

The story of the Alexandra Farms nursery was featured in the first edition of our EDGE fanzine, as well, which is freely downloadable on our EMC Circle Community and as we are preparing the 3rd edition of the fanzine, we're ready to dive deeper into the world of Alexandra Farms and their fabulous roses with an insightful article as to why they are the ultimate bridal rose. So, stay tuned for there's more to come!

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