“Alexandra Farms hosts EMC team members in Bogotá, Colombia, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
For 11 members of the European Master Certification (EMC) Core Educational Team, being hosted by Alexandra Farms, a boutique grower specializing in garden roses in Bogotá, Colombia, was like being kids in a floral candy shop. For six days late last March, the team from Romania, Belgium, Switzerland and the United States eagerly soaked in the beauty of the farm, the vibrancy of Bogotá and the history of rose growing in Colombia. “This is like having ice cream for breakfast,” described Jose “Joey” R. Azout, Alexandra Farm’s founder and president, who escorted the group through the production and post-production process for the more than 60 varieties of garden roses grown at the farm, including David Austin English Garden Roses. “We started with just seven varieties and were the first to grow the David Austin varieties in the Southern Hemisphere,” explained Azout. Today, Alexandra Farms is the largest licensed grower of David Austin English Garden Roses, as cut flowers, in the world.
The team were like church mice. “It was like there was a reverence for the roses as we walked through the green-houses,” reflected Christi Lopez, AIFD, EMC, business manager and shareholder of EMC International and owner and president of Bergerons Flowers & Events in Washington, D.C.
After the tour, the designers formed a focus group, viewing numerous test varieties. Petal count, color, texture and petal uniqueness were discussed within the context of design and ability to fulfill a market need. “These roses are not available yet for the commercial market,” said Azout. “We want feedback. This is how we learn. We need to see what designers feel is sellable for both events and retail.”
For two days, the EMC designers were in an open-air class-room, surrounded by vases of 1,200 garden roses cultivated at the farm. They incorporated the roses into individual designs, drawing inspiration from the environment while implementing knowledge gained during theory and practical exercises.
One highlight was an exquisite floral structure designed by Tomas De Bruyne, EMC, an internationally renowned floral designer from Bruges, Belgium and co-founder and CEO of EMC International. De Bruyne incorporated more than 500 pastel-hued garden roses into the floral sculpture, the foundation of which was a fountain in Alexandra Farms’ outdoor garden. The construction was transformed into an emotional expression when 150 locally cultivated monarch butterflies, in brilliant orange and cobalt blue, were released onto the floral art.
“When I designed the fountain, I wanted the designers, growers and those in the production process to experience the garden roses and to really discover their potential,” De Bruyne shared. “Thanks to Joey for adding the butterflies, which gave the design a special dimension and created an unforgettable memory for all of us.”
The Alexandra Farms experience was like a fairy tale for the designers. “It is a testament to the power of collaboration,” explained De Bruyne. “We, as well as Alexandra Farms, believe in the importance of bringing industry players closer together as we both share the same mission and values.”
“We are proud to work with the EMC group and support their mission to provide the highest level of education,” Azout commented. “It was truly our honor to share our farm and our garden roses with them, and to work together with them.”
(Above Image 1) Floral design by Christi Lopez, AIFD, EMC
Bergerons Flowers & Events; Washington, D.C.
(Above Image 2) Floral design by Julia Marie Schmitt, AIFD, EMC
Busy Bee Florist & Gifts and Pualeialii Floral Expressions; Marceline, Mo.