Jake Nicholson-Lailey from Abundiflora is our first male Grower Ambassador and he is paired up with none other than Arend Roses. Besides a talented florist, Jake is also a great storyteller. So scroll down and let Jake guide you through the marvellous rose fields of Arend Roses.
Written by Jake Nicholson-Lailey
When you first walk up to Arend Roses, you sense a hive of activity lies just beyond the neat, white standard roses lining the entrance, and the noble eagle statue surveying all he owns. You would be right, once you step inside the world of Arend Roses, you had better be prepared for mania!
I was warmly welcomed by Pieter Filius, Arend’s Sales Manager, who, after a few introductions, about-turned and said ‘follow me’. This is a busy man. Being one of the largest rose growers in Aalsmeer, his speed and efficiency are justified.
Roses, roses, roses
Arend boasts an impressive but refined portfolio of eleven Roses, including Avalanche, Pink Avalanche, Lovelace+, Savita, Black Baccara, Prima Donna+, Talea, White Soda+ and the one I predict to be a top seller as a go-to Red Rose, Red Eagle.
Arend Roses occupy 15 acres across two sites, giving over 3.7 acres to Avalanche and 3.7 acres to Red Eagle. The staffing figures sore at 180 members currently, working 364 days a year. The only true day off is 1st January. I wonder if they are too hung over for picking roses, think of all those pricks!
Pieter whisks me off to a greenhouse, after donning some highly-attractive shoe covers. Great for preventing serious contamination, not so great for my street cred, nor my feet on a 30-degree day! Rotisserie chicken in a bag, anyone?
The greenhouses are a slick operation, using some of the latest technology to improve production and efficiency of harvesting. I was amazed when Pieter explained each 250-metre row of Rose plants is punctuated with a microchipped disc. This, when used in conjunction with the microchipped harvesting equipment, records the provenance of each batch cut. This allows the ripeness stage, defects and disease to be identified and managed within seconds and at the click of a button. Arend has also invested in climate controlling technology; which automatically adjusts blinds, misting and window openings, ensuring the right conditions are maintained throughout each plants’ five-year life. Incidentally, each plant produces 7 or 8 flowers a week and Arend harvest a staggering 1 million Roses every week! That’s upwards of 50 million in a year!
Arend Roses know their Roses
Pieter knows his onions, or rather, his Roses. Amongst the conversation, I picked up priceless gems which could only ever have been observed by someone truly passionate about what they do. Through years of growing, Pieter can say with certainty, an Easterly wind will halt the growth of his plants. Despite perfect conditions inside the glasshouse, he has narrowed this phenomenon down to the change in air pressure. Likewise, he has developed a harvesting system for those lipstick-like Red Eagle Roses, ensuring the bright colour develops as it should. With constant quality control taking place, I can understand why I have never experienced an issue with my Arend Roses. Red Eagle is relatively new to the market and set to become very popular I predict. It can take up to twenty years to bring a new Rose to market, so I won’t be hanging up my scissors just yet!
The technology continues as I’m taken to the packing area. Ladies quickly clip harvested roses onto a whirling rack. As the Roses fly past, like a crazed merry-go-round, the ladies flick a button above the flowers denoting whether it is 1st or 2nd quality. This is backed up by a camera that photographs each Rose 20 times to determine its head size, stem thickness and colour. Ultimately it is this which decides if a rose is A1 or A2. Very clever and very accurate. To give you an idea of how fast this all takes place, 3 or 4 ladies clip up over 8,000 Roses an hour!
Smell the Roses
Arend’s exquisite range boasts a number of popular wedding choices including everybody’s favourite, Avalanche. What I particularly like about this growers Avalanche, and many in the range, is the fact they are presented to market at ripeness stage 2-3. This makes them ideal for getting ‘wedding ready’ or using in day-to-day floristry. They have an excellent vase life and some are fragranced too. Which I find is the FIRST thing a customer does when they encounter a Rose…smell it!
So although on this particularly hectic Wednesday, I was probably holding up production, I have to say, given the glorious surroundings, I didn’t care, and I stopped and smelt those beautiful blooms.