Mini-Doc Tells Story of Kentucky Derby Garland for Kroger

The Kentucky Derby, running since 1875, is known worldwide as the “Run for the Roses”. Each year, since 1896, the winning horse has been awarded a garland of flowers. Since 1987, the massive project of creating this rose garland, dubbed the “most famous flower arrangement in the world”, has been meticulously handled by folks from Kroger. But that’s only part of the story, which involves hundreds of people and starts on a Rainforest Alliance certified farm outside of Bogota Colombia.

Above Image: A bundle of freshly cut “Freedom” roses eventually bound for Kentucky.

Hired by national grocer chain, Kroger, in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, Wander was tasked with telling this fascinating story. Traveling with a small team to Colombia in January of 2016, Wander followed the over 7,000 sustainably grown, red “Freedom” roses which are eventually whittled down to only the very best flowers to make up the famous garland.

blog_09-16-16cThe Wander team moves into position for their next shot inside of one of the hundreds of greenhouses on the farm.

In a small village called El Rosal we found ourselves on Flores-Ipanema Farms. There, we met the farm’s co-founder Jamie Peisach. Peisach and his team, alongside the Rainforest Alliance, worked to protect the soil and wildlife, reduce chemicals, and provide good living conditions for workers in order to meet the standards necessary to earn the farm its Rainbow Alliance certification. Of this certification, Peisach said, “More than anything, the Rainforest Alliance represents our values and what we represent.” Needless to say, both the socially and environmentally conscious farm and surrounding village were greatly inspiring!

Moving on to the next stop, we then followed the roses to the Kroger Floral Design Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Of the nearly 7,000 roses shipped from Colombia, only 462 were used to create the approximately 40-pound garland for the Derby. The annual sorting process is long and arduous, but Kroger boasts a devoted team that hand selects only the finest of the bunch. A well-known annual event, anyone who visited the Kroger store in Middletown, KY the night before the Derby could watch the team assembling the garland.

blog_09-16-16bThe Wander team shoots some b-roll between setups.

During this time, we were also able to meet some of the dedicated people on the assembly team. Carol Belser, the manager of the Floral Design Center, has worked on sorting the roses and constructing the ornamentation for the past 29 years. The garland assembled is not only beautiful, but carries a deeper meaning as well: the rose at the center of the garland’s crown symbolizes the struggle that horses and jockeys must go through in order to win the race.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of heart, soul, and laboring of love that goes into the making of the roses. After having witnessed it firsthand, we’re excited to release the completed project, Journey of the Roses, to you. From the eco-friendly farm to the time-intensive sorting process, we know you’ll be surprised by the incredible backstory of this iconic garland.

Kroger: Journey of the Roses


Wander is a multi-dimensional creative shop that produces award- winning work in a variety of media, including TV and web commercials, short films, design and brand integrated content. More information is available at



Client: Kroger, Inc
Title: “Journey of the Roses

Creative Collective: Wander
Executive Producer: Aaron Weber
Director: Wander
Cinematographer: Martin Linss



For inquiries, please contact:
William Trusting
ph: 323.230.7361