By Hayden Foulds
The weekend was a good one for Palmerston North rose breeder John Ford, who scooped the main awards at the New Zealand Rose Society International Rose Trial Grounds in Palmerston North.
His rose ‘Bright Eyes’ won the Gold Star of the South Pacific for the highest score across the trial, the Silver Star of the City of Palmerston North for the highest score by a New Zealand amateur rose breeder, and the Nola Simpson Novelty Award.
Mr Ford, who is the chairman of the Trial Grounds Committee, was “blown away” with the success of the rose which has clusters of light mauve blooms with a dark pink ‘eye’ in the centre. Winning the Nola Simpson award was the icing on the cake – the late rose breeder was his aunt and encouraged Mr Ford’s interest in roses from an early age.
Certificates of Merit were presented to Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield of Glenavon Roses for the pink ‘Smart Choice’ and the pink/red ‘High Fashion’. Whanganui rose breeder Bob Matthews of Matthews Nurseries also received a Certificate of Merit for his yellow ‘Valerie Webster’ and collected awards for overseas breeders Colin Dickson of Northern Ireland with the light pink climber ‘Checkmate’ and Christian Bedard of the United States with the yellow ‘Sparkle & Shine’.
‘Valerie Webster’ is already on the market in New Zealand while the other winners will be released in the year or two.
The New Zealand Rose Society trials, now into their 50th year, test new varieties from New Zealand and international rose breeders and are judged over two years by a panel of 20 judges who assess freedom of flowering, health, plant quality, flower quality and fragrance.
At the end of each trial, those roses which have gained an average of 70% are recognised with awards reflecting the consistently high performance they have achieved during trial.
Unfortunately, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the trials was disrupted by Covid-19 and many events have been postponed to 2021, including the hosting of the National Rose Show and the publication of a book on the trials history.
However, the anniversary was marked at the weekend by the cutting of a 50th anniversary cake by Mr Ford and Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith.