Roses tested in Palmy

Amateur breeder John Ford pipped the professionals with Bright Eyes, which won Gold Star of the...
Amateur breeder John Ford pipped the professionals with Bright Eyes, which won Gold Star of the South Pacific for the best rose at the Palmerston North rose trials. PHOTOS: GILLIAN VINE
Gillian Vine reports on the New Zealand Rose Society’s international rose trials at Palmerston North.

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.

Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield (left) of Glenavon Roses Ltd, Palmerston North rose garden...
Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield (left) of Glenavon Roses Ltd, Palmerston North rose garden head gardener Belinda Phillips and New Zealand Rose Society vice-president Hayden Foulds stand behind High Fashion. Glenavon won a merit award for High Fashion.
A multiple winner in the New Zealand Rose Society’s annual trial-garden awards in Palmerston North on Sunday, Bright Eyes won the Silver Star of the City of Palmerston North for the best rose from a New Zealand amateur breeder.

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.

Tangi Utikere, elected MP for Palmerston North in October, accepts the new rose Pride of Palmy...
Tangi Utikere, elected MP for Palmerston North in October, accepts the new rose Pride of Palmy from New Zealand Rose Society vice-president Hayden Foulds.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the trials, a joint venture between the city of Palmerston North and the NZRS. It also saw the release of Pride of Palmy, a golden yellow rose bred by Rob Somerfield of Glenavon Roses. At the awards, Tangi Utikere, elected Labour MP for Palmerston North in October, was presented with a Pride of Palmy by NZRS vice-president Hayden Foulds.

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.

Ignoring the rain, trial judge Diane Taylor, of Feilding, considers some of the whose assessments...
Ignoring the rain, trial judge Diane Taylor, of Feilding, considers some of the whose assessments will be presented in 2021.
Palmerston North is ideal for trialling roses, John Ford says, as it has a lot of diseases, including downy mildew, powdery mildew, rust and black spot. Those negatives mean roses from, for example, mildew-free regions are tested to their limits under the watchful eyes of a team of judges, who make individual visits several times a season over the two-year trial.

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.

Bob Matthews’ My Treasure did not win but for lovers of apricot, it’s a rose to consider.
Bob Matthews’ My Treasure did not win but for lovers of apricot, it’s a rose to consider.
At the awards presentation, John thanked all the breeders who sent roses to the trials, saying: "Without you guys, we have nothing."

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."


 

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