We are still in the middle of the summer season, but at Grupo Arbusta, fall colors are popping in their lily greenhouse. On 70 ha in Cayambe, this Ecuadorian farm - one of the country's oldest - grows roses (35 ha), carnation (20 ha) and lilies (10 ha), that they mainly export to the US. Fall is one of the main seasons for lilies and they cannot wait to go into this season, the middle of September.
Fall - one of the most important seasons
"After Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, Fall is the most important season for our lilies", says Juan Pablo Ponce, Sales Manager at the company. For 24 years now, this farm has been growing lilies year-round and change the assortment according to the season. They carry around 16 varieties of the LA Asiatics and 14 varieties of the Orientals. "We handle almost all varieties there are, and we carry them in both 3-5 blooms and 2-3 blooms, to meet the needs of clients that range from event planners to local florists and wholesalers, as well as fresh cut flower importers. We can even produce lilies in 4-5 blooms for special requests."
According to Ponce, the demand for lilies has been quite steady over the years. "Lilies have something particular. They are among the favorite flowers of many designers and event planners - and it's actually also one of my favorites. Over the years, we have seen that the Asiatics and Orientals have become more popular. And a positive thing is that they are still exclusive - not seen as something common. I think growers have done a good job in keeping its value."
And at Arbusta, they are eager to keep it seen as an exclusive product and even contribute to making it a more exclusive product. "Next to our best sellers Starfighter and Siberia, we also have some exclusive varieties in the assortment, like Flashpoint, Tabledance and Concador. On top of that, we are always on the lookout for new lily varieties, particularly for the different seasons."
Siberia (left) and Starfighter (right)
From bulb to lily to customer
Most of the bulbs are imported from the Netherlands in containers. Then, they are grown on 10 ha and after harvest brought to their processing area, where they will be prepared for transport.
"We pack them in our customized sleeves and boxes and we have three presentations; quarters, halves and hampers (wet packs)". With this latter presentation, they started just recently. "In Ecuador, where one often cannot control the logistics, wet-packs is not an attractive option for many growers, but as we have an inventory in Miami (since 2009) we can manage to do it. It started with a requirement of one of our customers, to ship the flower at a bit more open stage. Now, we can offer more clients this, more exclusive, option."
But before the lilies leave the farm, they stay for 4 to 12 hours in the "hydration area". "We invested in a hydration system that allows us to guarantee the quality of the product, we cut to the height requested by the customer, processed and immediately placed in water".
What makes the lilies special?
90-95 percent of Arbusta's lilies go to the US, but what makes their lilies different from all other lilies? "Due to Ecuador's climatic conditions and altitude, we are able to grow a bit bigger lilies than the lilies grown from Costa Rica, which is probably our biggest competitor. On top of that, we invest a lot in packaging and we can offer the lilies in different cut stages for different customers. We can all control it on farm level."
Grupo Arbusta is one of the oldest and largest farms in Ecuador and was established in 1984. Over the years, they have produced many different varieties of flowers and 20 years ago, they started to decide on three crops, namely roses, lilies and carnations. These products are grown at 6 farms (Arbusta for Roses and Agritab for Lilies and Carnation) on a total acreage of 70 ha. Since 2009, they are selling their varieties in Miami and opened their own inventory in 2016. "We now can supply our clients faster."
Eager to see the varieties of Grupo Arbusta, visit their booth # 64 at the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), which will be held in Miami (FL), from November 5-7, 2019.