Medellin Flower Farm
Visiting Medellin’s Flowers
When we set on a trip to Colombia I started making a list of things for us to see and flowers were high on the list for me. I wanted the kids to see first hand how flowers grow and how people have a career tending to living things, nurturing the land, and being a part of their country’s long cultural history.
Colombia grows flowers!
When I found out that Colombia is the 2nd largest exporter of cut flowers in the world I knew flowers would be something we should add to our vacation to Colombia. Part of exploring any country is to learn about their livelihood and the Colombia exports include flowers. Flowers grown here include the Christmas orchid which is Colombia’s national flower.
Colombia is the 2nd most biodiverse country in the world.
Colombia grows so many wonderful flowers, fruit, and coffee beans. It is the 2nd most biodiverse country in the world. Considering how small the country is compared to the country that comes in the 1st place, Brazil, you can see that Colombia squeezes a lot of wonderful things into their space. Biodiversity means there are many types of growing climates and regions which means the plants that do well only in certain regions have a place to grow in Colombia.
While Colombia only exports great quantities of roses, carnations, and orchids, many many more types of flowers actually grow in Colombia. For example, Colombia has more species of orchids than any other place on Earth – more than 4,000 types.
Colombia grows more than 130,000 plant species including the top Colombia exports: flowers, coffee, fruit.
The US gets flowers from Colombia.
Question: How many flowers find their way from Colombia to the US? Answer: A LOT! More than 70% of all flowers in the United States are imported from Colombia. The Miami airport processes 187,000 TONS of freshly picked flowers every year from Colombia.
The top three flowers that come from Colombia: roses, carnations, and orchids.
Family Flower Farm Tour
Since I love to garden, visiting a farm in Medellin was high on my list of things to do. My gardens are always a mixture of things to eat and things that are planted just to admire. Not only is this combination pretty to look at an enjoy near your home, but different plants can bring in insects to help the plants nearby.
My hope was to see rows and rows of flowers like things growing on farms in the US. I envisioned color for as far as the eye can see. Instead, I saw something just as beautiful and far more intimate and environmentally conscious that the farms that grow rows and rows and rows of the same plant.
We chose ZoOming for our flower farm tour. We left the city by private car (two for us because we couldn’t all fit into one) and headed into the very green countryside of Santa Elena near Medellin. The lushness on both sides of the car had me in heaven from the moment we left the hotel.
See familiar flowers and new ones
The first thing I saw when I stepped out of the car was the very flower that I used in my bridal bouquet! Except – it was larger than any version I had seen before. Natalia, whose family works on the farm showed us many of her prized flowers. I was delighted to see them so close together – very busy, crowded and English garden style. This is a very natural and healthy way to grow flowers.
One of the biggest surprises was this giant, black anthurium. You’ve probably seen the familiar red one. Natalia was especially proud of this unusual flower.
We love succulents and grow them at home. This enormous hanging flower pot had me stopped in my tracks. This would take me ages and ages and ages to grow so I was shocked to learn this gorgeous plant is just 6 months old.
Getting the family outside is great for kids
My kids are used to mom coming up with things to do that surprise them. I’m sure not every family has a tour of a flower farm on their list of things to do, but you should!
We spend way too much time with something electrical. Kids love video games and watching shows. Once, while substituting in a middle school class I eyed a child suspiciously for being on his phone during reading time. He was confused and showed me his phone – with a book on it! Don’t they ever get away from those darn (and wonderful, too, I know) phones? Get out into nature! Smell the flowers! Watch the bees! Feel the sunlight on your face! Visiting one a Medellin flower farm is a great way to do just that.
A guided tour makes exploring a family flower farm easy
Our guide, Maria Claire, from ZoOming put us at ease instantly. Her English is as good as mine (high praise from a former English teacher) which meant she could answer any and all of our questions. She was also a huge help to us 5 days later when we had hotel troubles in Cartegena!!
We visited the family flower farm of Natalia, who is proudly continuing the family tradition of working on the flower farm. In addition to growing flowers to sell to countries around the world, she grows flowers all year with the August Medellin flower festival (Festival de las Flores) in mind.
From Flower Farm to Festival de las Flores
This Festival de las Flores festival is a sight to behold! The week-long celebration includes parades, music, and food. To get a good seat for the parades you’ll need tickets ahead of time. Be sure to contact ZoOming for help. The whole city of Medellin celebrates this really beautiful part of the Colombian culture.
Each family flower farm competes within a very specific set of rules for honors and ribbons. Look at these proudly displayed winning ribbons from years past!
Natalia showed us how she builds the week-long flower celebration in for the August each year.
There are four categories for the flower competition:
This category includes symbols of the Colombia culture.
The flower designs in this category are very big!
Companies can hire flower growers to design a silletera to advertise for their company – like a logo.
Each family farm can compete in as many categories as they like but they must grow all of the flowers on their display.
The main exhibit at the Festival de Flores – the Silletas
The family uses the flowers they grow each year on their farm to create a silletera or ‘chair’. Originally, this chair was used to transport Spanish, who conquered the land, throughout the countryside. Now, this same chair, once a part of slavery of the people, is used as part of a cultural expression through flowers.
Each silletera can weigh as much as 300 kilos.
During our visit to the farm, Natalia created a silletera for us. The flowers she used were purchased though so as not to waste any of her precious homegrown flowers which were slated for the big contest and parade!
Each competitor creates the silletera and then carries it to the town.
This heavy structure is primarily carried with the weight on your forehead with a strap. Then you use your arms to help life the weight on the sides. My whole family tried it and it looked HARD! I totally chickened out because a) I’m a total weenie and b) have neck problems from a car accident years ago. Don’t they make it look easy?
All materials for the silleta are natural.
Not only do you use a traditional wooden silleta and ONLY flowers that you, yourself, have grown on the family flower farm but you are not allowed to use any florist materials to hold the flowers together or keep the flowers fresh. None of that green foam you see at the bottom of floral arrangements in the US and none of the green tape of wire that is often used to hold flowers just so.
Family Flower Farm Tour is fun for families.
This tour of the flower growers farm in Colombia is perfect for families. You get out into the countryside and smell the fresh air. Kids can explore without having to be quiet. It is the perfect option to combine with indoor activities like museum visits. ZoOming and Maria Claire made the day smooth and easy.
**NOTE Family flower farms are not open for tours on Sundays so be sure to plan your trip to Colombia with this in mind!**
Medellin is a stunningly beautiful place to visit in Colombia. I was shocked at the beauty and the weather is just perfect. Medellin is called ‘Eternal Spring’ because of the perfect temperatures! Be sure to see this fantastic city.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist