Three years ago, for Mother's Day, I decided to surprise my wife with one beautiful red rose.
Only one rose, you ask.
Some will say "how romantic," others may say "how cheap."
Yes, only one, albeit this rose happened to be one of those gorgeous Ecuadorean roses grown in Ecuadorean rose and flower farms and greenhouses high up in the Andes. An industry that earns Ecuador more than $700 million in exports a year -- most of the exports going to the U.S.
You say, "Don't change the subject, just one rose?"
Well, this particular rose was not only beautiful, it was one of those unbelievably long, long-stemmed roses. The one I bought happened to be a full three feet tall. I wish I had taken a photo of it -- before I broke it.
I had carefully selected the tallest and most vibrant long-stemmed, red rose in the store, then took it very carefully to the cash register and nursed it and protected it from the wind and the elements while crossing the parking lot to the car. Finally, I laid it ever so carefully across the backseat of the car.
I drove home very slowly -- and very carefully -- anxious to present my wife with such an unusual and romantic Mother's Day surprise. I had even prepared a little speech, something to the effect that each inch of that rose stem represented one-and-a-half years of blissful marriage, give or take a couple of years. I have always liked math...
As to the length of such rose stems and the size and beauty of the large, single bloom, there are many theories advanced by horticulturists and geophysicists as to why Ecuadorean roses grow so tall -- some reaching a height of almost four feet -- straight and strong in the Andes region of my native Ecuador.
Long-stemmed roses growing in an Ecuadorean greenhouse. Photo courtesy Claudia Krasnoff.
One reason given is the strength, duration and direction of the sun's rays. On the equator at elevations of nearly 10,000 feet, the earth and the roses receive high intensity sunlight for a nearly constant 12 hours a day, year-round. These conditions along with ideal day/night temperature variations, the rich, volcanic soil, ample snowmelt from the Andes mountains and -- I have heard mentioned -- the straight pull of gravity at the equator are said to produce taller, stronger, more straight rose stems with larger and more lush flower heads.
It is also said that Ecuador cultivates over 400 varieties of roses in every imaginable color, such as the beautiful yellow roses below. (Photo courtesy Claudia Krasnoff)
All this science and perhaps some fiction did not help me when, as I was about to enter the house from the garage carrying my Mother's Day treasure in both hands, I tripped, dropped the long-stemmed rose and stared in horror at the decapitated, 36-inch rose stem in my hands.
After recovering somewhat and after picking up the fallen rose from underneath the car, I sneaked into the house, grabbed the scotch tape and retreated back to the garage to do some serious floricultural repair work.
Alas, nothing will put a large, beautiful, red rose back onto its original 3-foot-long stem.
So, I finally confronted reality and my wife, a 36-inch-long stem in one hand and a red rose in the other.
It all ended well. I heard words along the lines of "it is the thought that counts" and "just be more careful next time."
I thought I had been extremely careful already, so I have not tempted fate and gravity since.
For those men who are less clumsy and more adventurous than yours truly, I would definitely recommend presenting your wives with one of those amazing long-stemmed Ecuadorean roses that arrive at your flower store or supermarket "fresh as a daisy," flown directly from Ecuador's capital, Quito,also high up in the Andes, just a couple of days after leaving the greenhouse by refrigerated truck.
Roses being readied for shipment at a rose farm in Ecuador. Photo courtesy Claudia Krasnoff
Should you buy that fabulous long-stemmed rose and encounter disaster at the last minute, do not despair.
Rush to your computer and celebrate Mother's Day by helping mothers all over the world obtain life-saving heart surgery for their children by making a $25 donation to HeartGift, the organization that helped heal the heart of Emily from Ecuador and that has helped mend so many other children's hearts. Your wife will be promptly notified by HeartGift of your donation made in her name.
Lead photo: The author's lovely niece, Emily, holding a rose at an Ecuadorean rose farm. By permission of the W. Colyer family.
The early years of the Ecuadorean flower industry were marred by poor working conditions, the use of potentially harmful pesticides, low wages, etc.
Most of the industry has now corrected those conditions and today the Ecuadorean flower industry is a major, vibrant industry.
The world's third-largest flower exporter, Ecuador's flower industry employs about 50,000 workers and is indirectly responsible for another 110,000 jobs and an industry where more than half of floral workers are female, thus providing economic opportunities especially in the rural areas. of Ecuador, a phenomenon referred to by some as "the Flower Effect."
Watch the New York Times video on the multi-million dollar -- two billion dollars to be more precise -- Mother's Day flower business and on the intricate choreography to get those flowers fresh and on time for Mother's Day to your store. The Ecuador "rose logistics" starts at minute 2:30.