You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Last Sunday, I fell in love.
Alas, the object of my devotion was unattainable, feet firmly planted in Palmerston North.
When I first saw her in the morning, she didn’t even have a name and was known as 5091. By early afternoon, she was called Bright Eyes, a fitting moniker for such a charmer.
Bright Eyes is a stunning new rose, bred by John Ford, of Palmerston North.
Then came the Nola Simpson Novelty Award and finally the big one, the Gold Star of the South Pacific for the top rose overall.
Receiving the awards from Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith was an emotional time for John, chairman of the trial grounds committee, as he dedicated his win to his aunt, influential rose breeder Nola Simpson, who died in 2011.
"Nola put so much effort into the rose garden [and] into me," he said.
Although heavy rain meant voting for the usual people’s choice was cancelled, I felt a bit smug that the rose I liked best had done so well.
Actually, I’m not much chop as a judge, it seems, as my second favourite, Bob Matthews’ My Treasure, didn’t get an award. I contend, though, that this pretty apricot floribunda has plenty to recommend it.
The trials, in a dedicated part of Palmerston North’s Dugald Mackenzie Rose Gardens, assess shrubs from New Zealand and overseas. The majority come from New Zealand but this year two of the five merit awards went to northern hemisphere breeders. They were Christian Bedard, of the United States, for a bright yellow floribunda, Sparkle and Shine; and Colin Dickson, of Northern Ireland, for his pink climber Checkmate.
Of the other three merit awards, one went to Bob Matthews’ yellow floribunda Valerie Webster, while Rob Somerfield gained two, both for reds, floribunda High Fashion and hybrid tea Smart Choice.
On Sunday, Diane Taylor, of Feilding, was checking how roses had coped with heavy rain, pointing out a couple that had balled badly. How they and the others in that bed will fare overall won’t be known until next year’s results are announced.
Professional and amateur breeders submit entries through the NZRS, then the plants go to head gardener Belinda Phillips for planting — "Somehow I squeeze them all in" — and the two-year trial begins. After the trial, the roses are removed and returned to the breeder or trashed.
Belinda has been in charge for 15 years and does most of the work, including pruning.
"They are sprayed once a month with an insecticide/fungicide and get a specific rose fertiliser three times a year," she says.
"And I deadhead once a month, from the end of November to maybe the beginning of April, depending on the season, as judges need to see how they perform."
Belinda is also a trials judge, saying: "I judge before I deadhead and after rain, as that’s indicative of how they perform."
She describes this year’s line-up of some 45 varieties as being of a very high standard "with lots of goodies".
NZRS national president Janet Pike summed it up, saying: "The trial grounds people have done a fabulous job."