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Ecuadorian Baby’s Breath — 30 years of evolution

Gypsophila, also known as Baby’s Breath, has been grown in Ecuador since 1988. It all started with the Perfecta variety and over the last thirty years has evolved faster than Darwin’s Galapagos finches.

The Ecuadorian gyp market currently includes varieties such as Petite, Million Stars, Overtime, Mirabella, Xcellence and Snowball, and breeders constantly outdo each other in order to tout whiteness, pinkness, dye absorption and production. If all of this confuses the grower, imagine what it does for the humble U.S. buyer. But rest assured dear readers, those varieties all have good vase life and it’s often just a matter of size —and yes, size matters. 

GYP-COLORSBaby’s Breath comes in all kinds of colors and offers unlimited design possibilities.A dynamic and enthusiastic Juan Jose Albuja refers to weather and workers’ expertise as the most notable factors contributing to the quality of Ecuadorian gypsophila. He owns and manages Flodecol, one of the bigger gyp-producing farms in Ecuador, and he is also the first gyp grower — and the youngest — to be president of the board of directors at Expoflores, the Association of Producers and Exporters of Ecuadorian Flowers. 

“In the last 25 years, gypsophila cultivation has revitalized previously impoverished areas of the Ecuadorian Andes Highlands,” said Albuja. Flodecol provides breakfast, lunch, transport, uniforms, dental care, and even physiotherapy as benefits for its 600 mostly women farm workers.

With over 20 years in the flower industry, Enrique Aguilar, owner and manager at Savisa, thinks that some people in the U.S. floral industry undervalue gyp. However, he noted, “Gyp is the perfect eternal filler; it complements the importance of the focal flower and provides structure to the bouquet.”

In recent years, Savisa has invested in research and technology; even partnering with Ball SB on Mirabella and Snowball plant breeding.  

Lourdes Reyes, marketing director at Ball SB, believes that “the constant dry climate and professionalism of the growers will enable Ecuador to continue to be the major world gyp supplier. Additional light is not needed to induce flowering so it can be grown in areas where they were not grown before.”

Carolina Arcos, flower coordinator for the Ecuadorian Institute for Export and Investment Promotion, added, “Roses have opened the door for the rest of Ecuadorian flowers and few people realize that most of the gyp used in the United States is grown in Ecuador. Over 3,000 workers owe their livelihood to gyp cultivation.”

According to Expoflores, six percent of total Ecuadorian floriculture acreage is devoted to gyp. Europe continues to be a major gyp buyer, but Russia’s importance waxes and wanes according to global banking policies and oil income. The emerging market has turned out to be China, which is enamored with dyed gyp. Will pink and green gyp also catch on with your customers?

Ramiro Peñaherrera is director at the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation. He can be contacted at ramioro@memorialdayflowers.org.