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GRDC 2023 Winners and Guests Visit Alexandra Farms to Celebrate Achievement


When the 2023 Garden Rose Design Contest (GRDC) winners were announced last September, Alexa Howe was “elated” to learn of her first-place win in the Everyday Design category with a dynamic wreath made with many of her favorite Alexandra Farms' varieties. 


“It was such a beautiful surprise I had won,” she said.


While glowing from her win in the annual contest, Alexa was also anxiously awaiting her prize: a trip for two to Alexandra Farms in Bogotá. In February, she and her husband arrived at the farm, meeting 18 other guests from around the globe to explore and absorb the fascinating processes of Alexandra Farms' production.



The trip was an eye-opening experience for the group. It provided insights into the inner workings of the farm and exposed the many layers of detail and care at every level. 


The farm was special to visit,” Alexa said. “To see the process from beginning to end and to understand the timeline of it all was very educational. I loved getting to see the whole operation.”


An Education

On the first day of the trip, visitors traveled early to the San Ignacio farm for an introduction to the company’s dahlias, a walk through a greenhouse full of garden rose trial varieties, and an olfactory encounter. Educational experiences such as lessons on composting and diversification were also nestled between the visually stimulating visits among the flora.



“Getting the chance to see the garden roses at their most open stage was really impactful,” Alexa said. “I will forever be influenced to allow time to let the roses open up before designing with them.”




One of the most coveted visitor experiences is being introduced to new varieties and learning about the many rounds of experimentation prior to launch. 


Washington, D.C.-based floral designer Amy Balsters was heavily influenced by the time spent with new varieties and was particularly taken by the number of varieties currently on trial. “It was mind-blowing to see how few actually make it to the mass market,” she said. “It was incredibly eye-opening to learn about how much labor is involved in growing and harvesting garden roses.”




Hands-On

The second day allowed for plenty of time to interact with varieties and create designs at the El Jardin farm, while guests also learned about Alexandra Farms' mission and processes with a presentation from Jose R. Azout, the company’s president.


Amy said the hands-on experiences and tours around the farm made quite an impact on her understanding of the farm and production. “The attention to detail and commitment to excellence in quality was really impressive,” she said. “Learning about the history of each variety was also really interesting and helpful.”



Of course, the trip would not have been complete without acknowledging the achievements of the GRDC winners and their designs, complete with a celebratory traditional dance presented by farm employees and a traditional Colombian meal afterward.


Bonding and Networking

Visitors to the farm are always pleased to have the opportunity to meet like-minded industry professionals and learn from each other’s experiences. 




“I loved the networking opportunities we had throughout the trip to get to get to know one another,” Alexa said. “The group of people we were around has years and years of experience in the floral industry and a wealth of knowledge.”




Amy said she’s excited for future visitors to experience the full wealth of the farms, and she would encourage them to be bold and ask many questions during the visit. Her time at the farm was “so fascinating and reinvigorated my love of garden roses to an all-new level. I hope to return one day!” she said.




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