One of the world’s top breeders of Vriesea bromeliads modestly concedes that, yes, he may be among the vanguard of those creating interesting, new plants.
Andrew Maloy, who has “tens of thousands” of the plants at his Kiwi Bromeliads in Whenuapai (Auckland), believes he is the first breeder in the world to develop plants with notably wide leaves.
“I’ve consciously gone in the direction of wide leaves because, as far as I know, no one else is doing it,” he says. “There’s a bit of fashion setting involved simply because we’re working so far ahead in a very fickle market.
“Breeders have to be incredibly patient because we don’t see the results of our work for several years – from making the cross on the flower it’s six months to picking seed, then about three years before you see what you’ve got, then if it’s any good you’ve got to build up stock before it can be released to the market.”
Rare bromeliads, or those considered desirable by the market, can fetch high prices in Australia, Europe and the United States, doors that aren’t open to Andrew.
“The export of live plants is far too difficult for a variety of reasons,” he says, “but I can export tissue culture and occasionally do that.”
Andrew, who was born in Scotland, came to New Zealand in 1974 with his Kiwi wife Rhonda. A long-time member of the International Plant Propagators’ Society, he has lectured in horticulture and plant propagation, written books and articles and is a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture.
“Bromeliads caught my attention about 15 or 16 years ago,” he says, “and vrieseas because they don’t have any nasty prickles.”
Although he is constantly selecting plants for crossing, Andrew admits that he missed the potential of one of his plants, Dark Knight.
“I didn’t think it was that great but it’s proving very popular with home gardeners because it’s very tough, almost foolproof.”
He wants his plants, which are named in series – such as the Jewel series, the Tasman series and the Kiwi series – to have attractive foliage from an early age and to be desirable texture plants.
“One of the biggest disappointments for many people is that the plants they buy don’t stay the same once they’re in the garden – but there’s often an easy answer to that.
“Too much sun will markedly change the leaf colour. Vrieseas don’t like direct sun all day. They can tolerate a bit, but prefer dappled or light shade or filtered light.”
This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.