Coming up from Tesselaar

One fine day and the world’s gone to the garden centre! If one of the big box stores was anything to go by yesterday – carpark packed, people loading up potting mix, plants, pots, stakes, etc – we’ve all been busting to get into the garden.

The Vege Grower and I were surprised to be stopped by a woman who opened with “you two look like serious gardeners” and followed up with a really surprising question – how do I get rid of the barley that’s come up in what was my strawberry patch? She reckons the (well-known brand) barley straw she used as mulch has seeded all through her raised bed! She seemed intent on ‘dabbing’ on a poison so our advice to hand pull it or dig it over probably fell on deaf ears.

We weren’t immune to the bursting out of spring either, coming away with a glazed pot (been promising to repot a wisteria for a year!), a white Cosmos (99c and just the thing to set off some terracotta marigolds I got from another big box store this past week), a supposedly-dwarf Grevillea, Ignite, and another Osteospermum Blue-eyed Beauty to join last year’s plant which has got a bit leggy. And I finally got the zinnia seeds out, bit late I know, but better than never.

At the Tesselaar-hosted lunch in Auckland at the beginning of the month, we were not only treated to delicious food and the Flower Carpet Pink story to celebrate its 25th anniversary, we also got to hear about some new plants that are coming through the trial system, including one from Auckland plantsman and head of the Auckland Botanic Gardens, Jack Hobbs.

He’s crossed a pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) with the dwarf M. ‘Tahiti’ to create something with felted new growth, a bright flower with deep-red stamens that will bloom at a different time to our native trees. Jack says it looks like it’s going to be sterile.

Volcano Phlox. Photo: Anthony Tesselaar International

As well as two new Flower Carpet roses (which we were sworn to secrecy over), Anthony Tesselaar was also singing the praises of Volcano Phlox, developed from an old species found in Siberia, one of the only phlox species not from North America. The plants are proving to be disease free (no powdery mildew), tolerant of a wide temperature range (they’re being trialled in the northern US, as well as Australia) and are scented. The first plants in the range are already available in the US with more coming through.

Tuxedo is a line of dark-foliage hydrangeas – the images I’ve seen show a deep purple-bronze leaf – that grow 1m x 1m. “We want to create excitement to get people into gardening,” Anthony said. “This has a very distinct colour and will be a sensation.” Tuxedo hydrangeas are about 3 years away for New Zealand.

Something else that’s about 3 years away here – but will undoubtedly be a sensation when it lands – is a rose with the working title All in One. From Noacken Roses in Germany, which produced Flower Carpet, All in One is a compact bush that is disease resistant, has glossy foliage and covers itself in scented flowers.

The combination of disease resistance and perfumed flowers is a major breakthrough in rose breeding as genetically one has generally precluded the other.

Anthony saw field trials of the rose 5 weeks ago in Germany and was delighted. “The buds open like a Hybrid Tea rose, become more full and by the time they’re in full bloom look like a David Austin flower – and you see them concurrently all over the bush.”

He says the bushes are “a bit bigger” than a patio rose and that the flowers easily last 10 days in a vase.

“We’ve always said Flower Carpet are roses without the work, this new rose will be a garden rose without the work.”

Sweet Spot ‘Calypso’. Photo: Anthony Tesselaar International

Finally – and available now – is the Sweet Spot rose, part of The Decorator Rose stable. Single flowers with a colourful ‘eye’, the roses have been developed from work started by the renowned English rose-breeder Jack Harkness and completed by Dutch rose-breeder G Pieter Ilsink of Interplant Nurseries. Here’s a 2014 post I wrote about Helthemia persica, one of the parents used in the breeding of such roses.

I notice that the accompanying information suggests the roses will need to be sprayed to perform at their best.

“Young people aren’t buying plants, they’re buying decoration,” Anthony said. “They could just as easily buy a cushion so we have to give them a good reason to buy a plant.”

He has a theory that women become gardeners a year after the birth of their first child – and, as couples have delayed having their first child, this has meant a loss of some 10 years to the gardening industry (ie, women start gardening at 32 not 22).

Flower Carpet Silver Anniversary

A lunch in Auckland last week put on by Anthony and Sheryl Tesselaar celebrated 25 years since Anthony Tesselaar International of Australia introduced the world to Flower Carpet Pink rose.

From left, Justin Cartmel, Sheryl Tesselaar and Anthony Tesselaar. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple, along with production co-ordinator Justin Cartmel, were in New Zealand to meet growers and breeders and to host the lunch to tell the Flower Carpet story and tantalise guests, a mix of media and plantspeople, about some forthcoming releases, including two new Flower Carpet colours due here within 2 to 3 years. I’m sworn to secrecy but as everyone at the table reacted the same way to one of the colours I guarantee you’ll be bowled over too.

Anthony had been working with tulips for 25 years when he was told about a rose so good “that it should be put on a pedestal”. (The family is still involved with tulips and Anthony reckons their annual Tulip Festival in Victoria could be the largest, by visitor numbers, flower event in the southern hemisphere.)

Werner Noack in Germany had been breeding roses since 1957 when, in 1988, he developed what he’d been trying for, a robust garden rose, later called Flower Carpet Pink. His son Reinhard continues to breed Flower Carpet roses and has introduced ‘second-generation’ colours such as Amber, Scarlet and Coral – and developed the two new colours, likely available in New Zealand in 2018 and 2020.

“I was told that this rose of Werner’s was an opportunity that shouldn’t be put in the stream and be allowed to pass by,” Anthony said. Still, he thought long and hard before taking it on but when he did go for it knew it would need a special marketing campaign – after all, it was a rose that wasn’t aimed at rose growers.

“We put it in a pink pot so it was eye-catching,” he said. “You’re selling them when they’re not in flower so it was important to attract attention and in those days everything  was in black or green pots. But we had one buyer for a group of independent garden centres in Australia who hated the pink pot so much he cut his order for 30,000 plants to 6,000.

“Guess what? Those 6,000 plants sold out in a week! We got him another 6,000 and they went just as fast and that was all we had. He later told me changing the order was the biggest mistake of his career.

“It was the biggest plant promotion ever seen in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US, and at the same time we re-introduced the rose to Holland, Germany and France. No one had seen a plant advertised on television before; a lot of garden centre managers didn’t get it.”

Flower Carpet Pink. Photo: Anthony Tesselaar International

Gardeners got it though – a tough rose that covers itself in flowers, doesn’t need spraying, is quick to repeat flower and (but only if you want to prune it at all) can be pruned with hedge clippers. Or, as the slogan had, “roses without the work”.

(Sheryl: “Ask Anthony about the time he cut his tie in half with the hedge clippers when he was doing a demonstration.”)

Flower Carpet Pink has won three prestigious international gold awards, including one in the All-Deutsche Rose Trial (ADR), notable for its rigorous three-year performance test conducted with absolutely no spraying. When first released it was the only rose out of 43 entered to obtain ADR approval. All others failed to qualify.

To date, more than 80 million Flower Carpet roses have been sold internationally and in New Zealand we buy more per capita than anywhere else. Our favourite? Flower Carpet White (the general agreement is that it’s our bright light that makes white more popular).

Flower Carpet White. Photo: Anthony Tesselaar International

The company trials all its plants around the world – including in places with short growing seasons and cold winters and in places with long growing seasons and hot summers – to try and get an accurate a picture as possible about how a plant performs.

Flower Carpet roses do as well in Minnesota as they do in Perth making them a favourite for public landscaping and – 25 years on – still a favourite with home gardeners.

Gardena Gardener of the Year

Bay of Plenty Tree Society volunteers are finalists in the Gardena Gardener of the Year competition run by NZ Gardener magazine. Unlike the earlier competitions, this year’s finalists are not representative of all of New Zealand with two from Auckland, one from Thames, the Tauranga area group and one from Balclutha.

Read the magazine’s profile of the BOP Tree Society, published this month and written by yours truly. At the bottom of the page is the online voting form (and/or you can clip one from the magazine).

For the past 52 years the society has been responsible for the collection of rare and unusual trees at McLaren Falls Park in the Kaimai foothills, a park enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year.

Coming up clivias

Popped out to the Clivia Display at Te Puna Quarry Park this afternoon – just the tonic for a grey day that ranged between drizzle and wind-blown downpours! And for anyone who thinks clivias come only in orange, the breeding work of  Ian Duncalf of Te Puna and Jude Coenen of Apata might surprise you.

Clivia Deanna, bred by Ian Ducalf. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Moonbeam, bred by Jude Coenen. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Leigh, bred by Ian Duncalf. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Clivia Adele, bred by Jude Coenen, has many admirers and it’s not hard to see why. Photo: Sandra Simpson