You can’t miss roses when you visit Quito. Perfectly formed, large blooms sit on cafe tables and fill arrangements in lobbies across the city. Better yet, bouquets of long-stemmed roses cost about a dollar in the local markets.
The abundance startled me. In California terms, roses are expensive extravagances reserved for special occasions. When I moved into my Southern California home I inherited a half-dozen rose bushes. I’ve been on a learning curve, nudging them to bloom ever since. Haven’t lost a bush yet but my garden roses look nothing like the ones I found in Ecuador. They also smell differently. While most nursery roses in Quito are fragrance-free (a trade off for the big blooms and long stems,) they also create ‘garden varieties’ for scent and shorter stems.
Find out where your roses come from in this short video:
Why is Quito the Capital of Roses?
Among many of Ecuador’s riches is a high, Andean zone with near perfect growing conditions for all kinds of flowers. The equatorial climate offers direct, natural sunlight year round. The altitude of the Quito region, nearly ten thousand feet above sea level, with its cool nights, is perfect for long-stemmed roses. About 400 varities grow in the highlands. (When you visit, this earlier post about fighting altitude sickness in South America, may be helpful.)
In villages and on plateaus outside of Quito, thousands of Ecuadorians tend to roses. Most grow in long, poly-fabric tunnels that shelter the roses from the blistering equatorial sun. I spied several as my flight home rose into the clouds.
Exporting flowers boosts the economy by over 100 million dollars yearly. Roses were massively popular in Russia until their economy sank. The United States became the primary importer until political jousting led to cancellation of import programs in place since the 1990’s. Those programs encouraged jobs over illegal crops and drug trafficing. Americans have also favored shorter stemmed roses. Now, it appears that China is interested in importing Asia-rare varieties. It takes one to four days to deliver the bundles across the world.
Tending to roses has been a boon for many Ecuadorians. Robin Penaherrea, owner of LatinFlor Ecuador, has seen both social and economic changes in counties that have flowers. About fifty percent of the jobs are for women. Adult and grown offspring often work together, which helps them live in their communities too.
Roses with a Conscience
With so much at stake and so many involved, a group of seven certified flower producers formed the Ecuador Fair Trade Association. They pledged to provide fair working conditions, freedom of association (the right to organize,) and respect for the environment. In those organizations the workers receive ten percent of the price paid for the flowers. While the average wage for flower workers in South America is around $250 a month, Ecuadorian flower workers fare better. Those working in Fair Trade companies also have another benefit. The Fair Trade Premium money, that ten percent, goes into projects that directly benefit the workers. They decide how to spend the savings through surveys and ‘democratic’ processes. The benefits include education, computer access and training, health programs, loans to buy land or improve homes.
Renewable energy, reduced pesticide use and organic fertilizers have also been part of the Fair Trade Association member growers mission.
Back in San Diego I wondered if any of my garden blooms evolved from varieties imported from Ecuador. For decades their garden roses have been promoted in the US for their scent, shapes and color. I’m no gardener but hopefully, I’ll enjoy them for years to come and will never forget Quito’s beautiful bouquets.
More blossoms in Quito:
- Visit the Botanical Garden for tours and don’t miss the Orchid House
- Take an Orchids and Flowers of Ecuador Tour
- If you qualify, attend the International Flower Show in Quito in September, 2018.
Post sources include: Reuters, Why Ecuador’s Roses Stand Out, Floralinkla, How changes in Ecuador Affect You, Ecuador.com – Supporting producers in Ecuador through Fair Trade.
We saw all the greenhouses when we were in Ecuador and knew they were for roses, but didn’t get to visit any 🙁 I didn’t realize that so much of the work was done by women.
I was drawn to the rosebuds that were everywhere and the story unfolded. It would be wonderful to explore more and walk through the greenhouses as well.
I don’t want to miss it, you just ignited a spark in me. My girlfriend loves white roses and they are very hard to find here. Thanks for sharing this post.
I hope you go!
So beautiful! How is it that in all of the posts I’ve read on Quito this is the first one to mention the roses? I’m the daughter of a greenhouse owner, so I love being able to see the flower/plant culture of different destinations. I also loved that the people of Ecuador formed the Ecuador Fair Trade Association. That’s amazing for this beautiful world of ours. Great, unique Quito suggestion!
Thank you, Paige. I was inspired by seeing all the roses in town. Didn’t know what I’d find as I started researching.
Lovely roses! Do they bloom all year round? I’d love to visit when they’re in season. (In Japan, we only see them in May and November.)
It seems that being close to the Equator the roses grow year round.
It’s so crazy that Ecuador produces so many roses—we had no idea it was one of their main exports until we visited this past year. I hadn’t heard about the Ecuador Fair Trade Association, but I’m glad it was created. It’s so great to learn about organizations that work to protect their people and the environment. So interesting to learn more about roses in Ecuador—thanks for sharing!
You are welcome, Jenna. I’m glad you found out about the roses when you visited as well.
Roses have different meanings depends on the color and I love the color red the most, it’s romantic and filled with love! When I lived in the north of the Philippines, I always bought a bouquet of baby roses on the market and it’s so fresh it certainly made my day! I would love to visit Ecuador, it’s going to be on my bucket list now!
I used to buy bundles of Irises when they were in season and keep them in my San Francisco apartment. Something so lovely about having fresh flowers near.
Hmmm… I never knew those beautiful roses we find in our flower shops come all the way from Ecuador. Isn’t that something? It’s great that exporting the roses boosts the country’s economy by so much. Ecuador really needs this boost. I love their roses. They seem to be the best kind – the kind that lasts long and also smells! I grow my own roses but they are not even close to what I see in your pictures. Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year, Elaine, and many wonderful travels in 2018.
Thank you, dear Anda. I’m tickled to know you grow roses too. Perhaps we’ll both have more time to stop and enjoy them this year.
We visited Quito a few years back and I definitely did not stop and smell the roses – I had no idea that the city was famous for them! We were in South America during the Festival of Flowers in Medellin so I actually thought that was the flower capital of the region. I’m happy to hear that the Fair Trade Association is utilizing renewable energy and organic fertilizers – yeah for sustainability in Ecuador!
Thanks, Val. Wonderful to hear that you were in Medellin for the flower festival. That would be something to see (and smell!)
WOW!!! So timely… I just got lots of roses of photos from a friend who just visited from Ecuador, posting some soon. ANd now…. I got some facts too. Thanks for sharing.
Don’t you love serendipity?!
Wow that was informative! Ecuador is leading exporter of roses was not known to me. Good to know that EFTA in working in favor of workers and that they receive 10% of the sale of flowers. Love these pics.
Thank you, Indrani. I hope that more and more of the rose growers move towards sustainability and care for their employees.
Never thought of visiting the botanical garden in Eucador. Nor have I ever thought to associate them with roses. Very cool would love to go see this.
Botanical gardens can give you such a different feel for a place. I loved seeing the one in Rio and it was so calming after the being in the buzzing city just before Carnival. I hope you get to visit Ecuador some day and that I get to see more of your New York region.
We had no idea Quito was a rose-growing region. Definitely would love to see inside some of the greenhouses – we love roses, and might be able to pick up some hints on growing our own. That would be really helpful, since we tend to have anything but green thumbs. 😉 Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust!
I love visiting ‘Conservatories’ as they call them in California. They’re a bit old fashioned but something like an indoor botanical garden. My favorite was in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia. Glad you liked the post.
In Australia roses are also expensive extravagances reserved for special occasions. So what a treat it would have been to visit Quito and see them displayed so prominently and with such full blooms! Amazing that exporting flowers boosts the economy by over 100 million dollars yearly – that’s a big industry! It’s fabulous to hear that fair trade practices apply here, and there’s a push to make sure flower workers are being compensated fairly.
Thanks, Megan. I hope more of the greenhouses will continue the thrust toward better compensation and sustainable practices. It’s a big industry and the workers definitely deserve it.
I was in Quito 2 years ago and I had no idea that it was the “capital of roses”. Roses are my favorite flowers. Unfortunately, during my weekend, I did not see them. I guess a return trip will need to happen
Yes! Return, Nathalie. I hope you see the roses then and perhaps visit the Botanical Gardens.
They are so beautiful! I had no idea that it was such a country of roses. I’d love to visit one of those botanical gardens to see them all in bloom. Not only does it look pretty, but I bet it smells amazing in there, too!
Roses are really magnificent. I hope you get to see them in Ecuador one day too.
Cuenca is similarly prone to gorgeous floral displays. We often admire our neighbour’s gardens and can’t wait to start our own. However, I had no idea about the Fair Trade Association. We’ll have to stop at the Botanical Garden when we fly up to the States.
Lucky you! I hope you find the Fair Trade roses and get to see the Botanical Garden.
I had no idea Equador was so famous for roses – you learn something new every day! I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear about the Ecuador Fair Trade Association though – as with all these industries, it is so important to ensure the rights of the workers. Good luck with your roses, they are a job (I have a few wild ones here in France), but so rewarding when in bloom!
Don’t you love the home blooms, Hannah? Sweet to think of the varieties that grow in France too.
We leave for Ecuador on January 21st. Thanks for the tip about the botanical garden. We try to visit those, but I never would have thought of it for Quito.
I really regret not getting to the Botanical Garden. Would have loved to see the Orchids. That would have been as close as I’d get to the Amazon! Have a wonderful trip, Suzanne.
Wow. Ecuador has been on my bucket list for a long time, but mostly just about the amazing Galapagos and the exotic animals that we could see on the island. Thanks for such information and now I have another things on my itinerary when I go there ~ @ knycx.journeying
Glad to be of service. There’s much to explore throughout the country although the Galapagos Islands are the most spectacular.
I’m not a flower person but I love to visit this botanical garden too. The roses are so pretty and “dangerous”. I love the champagne rose and the different flower arrangement too 🙂
Thanks,Chloe. Roses are definitely among flower royalty!
What a fun fact, I had no idea there were so many roses in Ecuador. We have a couple rose bushes but definitely have not mastered the art of the big blooms.
The roses were a surprise and it quietly dawned on me that I was seeing them everywhere. Wish I’d taken more pictures. Good luck with your blooms!