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.

Agapanthus

Out for a walk this morning and I paused for a moment to admire a bank of blue and white agapanthus flowers. A bit guiltily, I might add, as we’re all supposed to be wary of agapanthus after Weedbusters and the Auckland Regional Council declared the southern Africa native a threat to our native bush, although it’s still to appear on the National Plant Pest Accord.

It escaped inclusion in the 2011/12 updated list but the trade off was a banning of sales in the Auckland region of agapanthus types that grow over 50cm tall.

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A bank of miniature agapanthus at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

But agapanthus have plenty of fans too. Their fibrous root systems are great for holding banks together, the plants are drought tolerant and can be used to give a tropical look to a garden, they have reliable, showy flowers over a long period and will grow in full sun or heavy shade, and are a sure bet for coastal gardens … but they can quickly grow into large, difficult-to-remove clumps (stock will eat the leaves down to the ground, but the tubers are likely poisonous) and should be dead-headed to prevent seeding.

So, a six and two-threes situation.

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Agapanthus Thunder Storm bred by Ian Duncalf. Photo: Courtesy Ian Duncalf

However, plant breeders are coming to the rescue with sterile and low-fertility forms. Renowned Australian plantsman Anthony Tesselaar waxes lyrical about his company’s Storm series of agapanthus, which includes the variegated – and sterile – Thunder Storm bred by Ian Duncalf of Te Puna, near Tauranga.

There has been some research done into sterile and low-fertility forms, including at Landcare Research (the information is undated on the link, but is from 2012) and at Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens (the trial to find “ecopanthus” continues there this summer), which is where Agapanthus Seafoam originated.

 

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Agapanthus Finn, a sterile dwarf agapanthus bred by Ian Duncalf and named after his youngest son. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Non-invasive agapanthus bred by Terry Hatch of Joy Plants in Auckland include Pavlova, Baby Pete and Sarah.

The Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture in 2012 published an illustrated article on agapanthus in this country (pdf).