As you pick up some roses for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day and pay twice the rate of the rest of the year, take solace in the fact that they went through a lot to get here. Those pretty flowers you are holding were probably growing in the soil of Ecuador or Colombia just a few days ago.

There’s a bit in the Quito and the High Valley story we published recently about a rose plantation I visited near Otavalo. There I saw the process in action, people working against the clock in the short window they have between cutting and shipping.

Basically the process works like this. The flowers grow until they are exactly the right shape, the workers moving through the rows each day cutting just those particular ones. They move on a cart to the cleaning area, where some of the excess leaves are stripped and they are cut to a uniform length. Then the flowers moved to a refrigerated packing room where like colors are sorted and packed together. They go into a colder refrigerated room and are packed into boxes. The packed roses go onto a refrigerated truck where they make the journey to Quito’s airport.

Each night thousands of boxes of roses leave the Quito airport and fly to the U.S., Russia, and Europe. On the other end they are loaded onto more refrigerated trucks to go to distribution centers. After that they get to your local florist then onto a dining room table or cubicle desk. All within a few days so they don’t start wilting.

So what are you paying for when you lay out the cash for those flowers? A little for the flowers themselves, but mostly for a lot of coordinated shipping.

Want some chocolates instead? Ecuador won’t mind. They ship out plenty of cocoa as well.