The first rose I can remember at the age of 8 or 9 was growing by my Grandfather's cow shed in Motueka, New Zealand. It was called 'Rima' which is a sport of Prima Ballerina. I would watch the buds developing from one day to the next and can still remember the amazing fragrance it produced. Around the same time I was also shown a Red Delicious Apple tree that had a small branch with three Golden Delicious apples on it. To me as a small child this was magic. I was becoming totally infatuated with plants and as I grew older I spent many years grafting Kiwifruit, Avocados, Macadamia nuts and many Ornamentals.
My rose interest was reignited while doing some part time work for Mr Peter Bailey, a Tauranga Rose Nurseryman. Peter obviously saw my interest and gifted me three roses at the completion of the work. I was hooked!
I started breeding roses in 1983 and right from the start I set myself high standards, emphasizing the most important aspect of a rose is good health. It is my long held view that it is pointless producing a stunning flower if the plant on which it sits is a dud. The next most important attributes in my mind are Freedom of flowering and quick repeat. However, good foliage, bush shape, weather tolerance and beauty of the flower are also all on the list of standards that must be achieved. To accomplish all of the above, as well as fragrance, is the ultimate success.
Many years have been spent making many crosses to achieve the goal of outstanding health. I am still very focused on reaching my breeding goals and am very critical of my own seedlings during the selection process. Roses are the queen of flowers and releasing a new variety of rose onto the market is always a thrill. Any new rose that I release is done with great consideration, as I won't release just any old rose. If a rose is to have my name on it I must be totally satisfied that it's going to perform well. Putting the best varieties on the market is a top priority. A lot of roses are sold 'in flower' these days, and as a result, many of my newer releases are selected on the ability to perform well and look good in a pot.
My wife Linda and I have our own rose nursery, Glenavon Roses Ltd, that grows approximately 55,000 roses a year for the wholesale market. Seventy five percent of these are sold in flower. Growing other people's roses commercially gives me a good opportunity to compare my newer varieties with those already on the market. All of my roses are thoroughly trialled on my property and as well as extensively at rose trial grounds, both here and overseas, to gain a broader assessment and also to test my roses in different environments to see how they perform.
I am very fortunate to have had Sam McGredy's support over a long period of time. Sam's advice, encouragement and mentorship has been, and still is, invaluable to someone getting started in the Rose breeding game and I am forever thankful to him. I am very lucky to have chosen this career path and I truly believe that I have the best job in the world!