Time to choose your roses

The best time to plant roses is during winter so now is the time to start planning! The NZ Rose Society’s Rose Review is a handy reference tool with its candid reviews of newer roses by growers from around the country. The most recent (2022) edition also includes New Zealand’s favourite roses as voted by members. Purchase details here.

‘Paddy Stephens’ has been the Favourite Hybrid Tea rose for a whopping 18 consecutive years – and also again tops the Favourite Healthy Rose category. Breeder Sam McGredy named this plant for Waikato rosarian Paddy Stephens, who died in 2012 aged 95. Interestingly, second on the Favourite HT list is ‘Hamilton Gardens’, a sport of ‘Paddy Stephens’.

‘My Mum’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Favourite Floribunda is ‘My Mum’ (bred by Bob Matthews, Whanganui) for the second consecutive year; Favourite Modern Shrub Rose is ‘Sally Holmes; Favourite Miniature/Patio Rose is ‘Irresistible’ “by a considerable margin”; Favourite Large-Flowering Climber is ‘Red Flame’, regaining first place from second; Favourite Small-Flowering Climber is ‘Dusky Dancer’; Favourite Fragrant Rose is ‘Margaret Merrill’; and Favourite Heritage Rose is ‘Mutabilis’.

Looking for something different?

‘Green with Envy’ is the culmination of 29 years’ work for breeder Rob Somerfield. Photo: Glenavon Roses

‘Green with Envy’ (bred by Rob Somerfield, Te Puna) gathered plenty of comment from reviewers with the upshot being that the blooms are great for floral work, and last well on the plant or in a vase, and people didn’t mind swapping scent for novelty value. Not all reviewers, however, were sold on the colour. ‘Green with Envy’ won the World Federation of Rose Societies People’s Choice Award at the NZRS Trials in Palmerston North in 2013.

‘Thunderstruck’ was loved by reviewers in Northland, Waikato and Southland. Photo: Hayden Foulds

Released in 2020 by its French breeder, ‘Thunderstruck’ is something different with its blooms being a blend of chocolate orange with cream stripes. It makes for a great display and the dark burgundy-red colour of the new foliage contrasts well with the blooms. It will reach about 1.3m high.

‘Lights up the garden with its colour,’ the Gisborne reviewer said. Photo: Amore Roses

Another unusually coloured rose is Amore Espresso, bred in The Netherlands and available in New Zealand through Amore Roses in Waikato. New Zealand reviewers liked the plant’s good health and that the leaves stay on well into autumn. The flowers are said to have a spicy clove scent.

‘Eye Spy’ is a climbing rose from Rob Somerfield. Photo: Glenavon Roses

Persica, or Hulthemia, roses are being used more widely by breeders, resulting in better freedom of flowering, improved health and a range of flower colours.‘Eye Spy’ is a vigorous climber with blooms, larger than other Persica varieties, of peach aging to honey with a dark red ‘eye’. Read an earlier posting about Persica roses

Other unusual roses that got the thumbs up from most reviewers included ‘Midnight Rambler’, a dark-purple flowered climber; ‘Trish’s Rose’, a shrub rose with a flower that resembles a peony; and the lavender-blue flowered floribunda ‘Forget Me Not’. Happy planning!

Pride of Palmy

Rose shows are beginning to fall like dominoes in the face of Covid-19 but New Zealand Rose Society president Hayden Foulds has been in touch with news of a rose named by public competition.

Rob Somerfield at Glenavon Roses created the plant which has been named to mark the golden jubilee of the International Rose Trial Grounds in Palmerston North – coincidentally around the same time the city is marking its 150th birthday (the trial grounds’ birthday was actually last year, but the celebration was a Covid casualty, while the city’s sesquicentennial is this year).

The name chosen for the golden-flowered rose was Pride of Palmy, which wouldn’t have been my first choice for this beautiful plant, but it’s good we’re all different, eh? Six people submitted the name with Ann Cryer of Pukekohe drawn as the recipient of six rose plants including Pride of Palmy. Annette Nixon and Catherine Thompson (Palmerston North), Tessa Curd and Joanne Lockwood (Auckland) and Ellen Phillips-Collis (Christchurch) each received a Pride of Palmy rose plant.

Pride of Palmy is early to flower in spring and has a good repeat. It’s compact, growing to 1.1m high, and has deep green, glossy foliage. Image: Glenavon Roses

November is the month when roses are at their best across much of New Zealand and normally the month when many rose shows occur, although this year the early ones are falling victim to Covid, including the Pacific Rosebowl Festival in Hamilton. It’s also the month when results are announced from the prestigious – and exacting – trials in Palmerston North.

So far, the event, which this year is combined with the National Rose Show and Convention, is on track to take place. Fingers crossed and touch wood, as I’m sure the organisers are as they watch, no doubt with dismay, as the Delta variant takes a toe-hold in Christchurch.

Pride of Palmy plants will be available at the national show at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre on November 27 and 28 and will be more widely available in winter 2022. 

NZ Rose Trial Results 2019

By Hayden Foulds

A rose named for the breeder’s mother topped the list of awards presented at the New Zealand Rose Society International Rose Trial Grounds in Palmerston North earlier this month.

Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield, from Rob Somerfield Roses, topped the trials with his ‘Grandma’s Rose’ which won the Gold Star of the South Pacific, the top award at the trial grounds. “The name is a tribute to my mother from her grandchildren, they felt it was her colour,” Rob said.

Grandma’s Rose, bred by Rob Somerfield, is the winner of the 2019 Gold Star of the South Pacific. Photo: Hayden Foulds

Rob, who also did well at the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival in November, also received a Certificate of Merit for the cream variety ‘Old Friends’. Both his roses will be introduced to the market in the next couple of years.

Berry Nice, bred by Bob Matthews of Whanganui, received a Certificate of Merit. Photo: Matthews Nurseries

Certificates of Merit were also awarded to the magenta pink ‘Berry Nice’ bred by Bob Matthews of Matthews Nurseries Ltd in Whanganui and to the yellow ‘Lemon Ruffles’, bred by Canadian breeder Brad Jalbert and entered by Amore Roses of Hamilton. This is the first time a Canada-bred rose has won an award at the trials. Both these varieties are already on the market in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Rose Society trials are now into their 49th year and test new varieties from New Zealand and international rose breeders and are assessed over 2 years by a panel of 20 judges who mark for such as freedom of flowering, health, plant quality, flower quality and fragrance.

At the conclusion of each trial, those roses which have gained an average of 70% are recognised with awards and reflect the consistently high performance that they have achieved during the trial period.

In 2020, the trials celebrate their 50th anniversary and a number of activities and events are planned to mark this occasion, including the National Rose Show being held in Palmerston North, the naming of a new rose for the city and the publication of a book on the rose trials.

2018 NZ Rose Trials Awards

By Hayden Foulds

The annual New Zealand Rose Society International Rose Trial Ground awards were announced in Palmerston North at the beginning of December.

Tauranga rose breeder Rob Somerfield (Glenavon Roses) took the top prize –
the Gold Star of the South Pacific – with Ladies Night, which has pink blooms ageing to cerise. 

Rob Somerfield with Ladies Night at the trial grounds in Palmerston North. Photo: Hayden Foulds

Rob also received the World Federation of Rose Societies People’s Choice Award for the orange-red Amanda’s Choice, and Certificates of Merit for the pink French Connection and apricot Champagne Breakfast.

Champagne Breakfast, bred by Rob Somerfield. Photo: Hayden Foulds

The other Certificate of Merit was presented to Whanganui rose breeder Bob Matthews (Matthews Nurseries Ltd) for the yellow My Dad – Bob is also the breeder of the coral-pink My Mum, and My Dad has been bred from that.

My Dad, bred by Bob Matthews. Photo: Hayden Foulds

The New Zealand Rose Society trials are now into their 48th year and test new varieties from New Zealand and international rose breeders. The trial roses are judged over a period of 2 years by a panel of 20 judges who assess such things as freedom of flowering, plant health, flower quality and fragrance.

At the conclusion of each 2-year trial, those roses which have gained an average of 70% are recognised with awards and reflect the consistently high performance that they have achieved during the trial.

In 2020, the trials celebrate their 50th anniversary and a number of activities and events are planned to mark this occasion including the hosting of the National Rose Show in Palmerston North, the naming of a new rose for city and the publication of a book on the rose trials.

Something old, something new

Another snippet from my visit to Wellington Botanic Gardens was meeting the lovely rose Madam President.


Madam President rose, the full-bloom has the look of a camellia. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Bred by Sam McGredy and released in 1975, it is as popular today as it was then, according to the Rose Society of South Australia website (read the entry here). Sam had migrated to New Zealand from Northern Ireland in 1972 and was asked to “do” a rose to mark the golden jubilee of the Country Women’s Institute (CWI – now known as WI). The CWI picked the name and Sam’s New Zealand agent Phil Gardner chose the rose.

Georgina Campbell is establishing a collection of McGredy roses in her Cheops Garden near Hastings. Read more here.Hayden Foulds of the NZ Rose Society has been in touch with a reminder that May, June and July are optimum months to plant new roses. One of his picks from the new releases this winter is Magnifi-scent, a fragrant hybrid tea.

“Not red, but not pink either,” Hayden says. “A great colour to mix with other roses and garden plants. Blooms usually come one to a stem and with a quick repeat, the plant is never without flowers. A bushy, medium-growing plant with glossy disease tolerant foliage.”

Magnifi-scent. Photo: Amore Roses

Hailing from Vancouver, Magnifi-scent is from one of Canada’s leading rose breeders, Brad Jalbert, who says his philosophy is simple: “I listen to my heart, and my rose friends, and I try to breed roses that people will enjoy and can grow easily.”

Magnifi-scent is available in New Zealand through Amore Roses, near Hamilton.


Hot on the heels of his Rose of the Year win at the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival, Rob Somerfield was yesterday awarded a Gold Star of the South Pacific (the highest honour) at the New Zealand Trial Grounds in Palmerston North for Fireball.

Hayden Foulds of the NZ Rose Society describes it as a “striking orange floribunda with a silver centre and reverse. Masses of flowers, healthy and a compact, medium grower. To be released in New Zealand in the next couple of years.”

Hayden notes that this is Rob’s sixth Gold Star – Star Quality, Pacific Glory, Sunline, Love Heart, Christchurch Remembers and now Fireball. I believe that equals Sam McGredy’s record. Oh dearie me, no. I was very much mistaken – Sam has 16 Gold Stars although, as Hayden points out, “most of  those were gained when they presented one for best hybrid tea and best floribunda and occasionally for something else as well, so a different era”.

Certificates of Merit went to Rob (for two plants), Bob Matthews of Wanganui and Colin Dickson of Northern Ireland. Read a bit more about Rob and see a picture of Fireball here.

Compiling the items for the Events page can take some time – but it’s always lots of fun and it’s lovely to celebrate the people who come together to display plants, talk about them and get others enthused. And it’s nice to know that some groups are marking notable milestones, long may it continue.

The West Coast Gladiolus Society holds its 60th annual show in Normanby, Taranaki on January 31. As far as I can find out there is no longer a national society so this group is something special. There used to be a New Zealand Gladiolus Council but it was dissolved as an incorporated society in 2009. Read an article about the basics of growing gladis.

According to his entry in the Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, Sid Holland (prime minister from 1949-1957) was an authority of dahlias and gladioli.

The Morrinsville Horticulture Society celebrates its centenary show on February 19. At this year’s show the society released a new daffodil, Morrinsville, to mark the milestone – and it was named champion bloom! The bulb has been developed by society members Peter and Lesley Ramsay.

The society established the town’s popular Rose Gardens in 1946 and maintained them for many years before the gardens were purchased by the former Morrinsville Borough Council (now Matamata-Piako District Council).

Read a Papers Past article, published in the Morrinsville News on September 15, 1915, about the ‘newly formed’ society.

Meanwhile, the Royal Botanic Garden of Sydney is preparing to celebrate its bicentenary with a year of special events, including fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the opening of the new Calyx horticultural display centre described by the garden’s executive director Kim Ellis as “a cathedral of plants”. Read more here.

Rose-planting time

The annual New Zealand Rose Review had arrived in my mailbox, courtesy of Hayden Foulds at the NZ Rose Society, and the garden centres are stocking up on plants, although over the holiday weekend just gone I heard one staff member say “head office has dropped a sale on us and our roses haven’t come in yet” as she forlornly surveyed the few plants on offer.

Christchurch Remembers, bred by Rob Somerfield, on sale in 2016-17. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The Rose Review is a great little publication that’s available to purchase ($8.50) from the Rose Society. It contains the winners of the Trial Ground Awards, the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival and the top 10 favourite roses as voted on by rose society members – but the real value for gardeners is in the rating of various freely available plants by rosarians around the country. My Mum, for example (a New Zealand-bred rose), is being grown by people in Kaitaia, Waikato, Manawatu, South Canterbury, Otago and Southland which covers a good many of the climate zones in New Zealand (it gets a pretty good review by everyone).

A vase of My Mum, a rose bred by Bob Matthews of Wanganui. Photo: Sandra Simpson

There’s also a summary of the roses that have been reported on for 5 years with, for example, Absolutely Fabulous (Julia Childs in the US) receiving 7.7 (very good) as a garden plant, 6.4 (average to good) as an exhibition flower, 7.8 (very good) for health and 5.1 (moderate) for fragrance. “Very healthy with brilliant repeat flowering and its only fault is that the blooms can fade.”

And finally, a short article on using roses in mixed garden plantings, including some lovely photos.

The top plants on the favourite rose lists, by the way, all retained their number one spots from last year Paddy Stephens (hybrid tea and health), Raspberry Ice (floribunda), Sally Holmes (modern shrub), Irresistible (miniature and patio), Dublin Bay (large-flowering climber), Dusky Dancer (small-flowering climber), Margaret Merrill (fragrant) and Jean Ducher (heritage).

I’ve listed the always-worthwhile rose pruning demonstration in Tauranga by Laurie Jeyes on the Events page (July 19), but there are demonstrations on all around the country over the next couple of months and the Rose Society has a list.

Picked up a copy of the Te Awamutu Courier of May 28 this week and read this letter to the editor: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Te Awamutu Rose Society has been wound up”. Goodness, that sounds … interesting. Te Awamutu likes to call itself ‘Rosetown’ and makes much of its public rose gardens so it seems sad that it can’t sustain a rose society (but that “circumstances beyond our control” makes it sound like there might be a bit more to it).

Winners, various

Pacific Rose Bowl Festival, Hamilton

Love Heart by Rob Somerfield. It was photographed in the rain, but it actually much redder in person. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Rose of the Year: Love Heart by Rob Somerfield, Te Puna (entered by Glenavon Roses, Te Puna), red.
Best Floribunda: Little Miss Perfect by Rob Somerfield, coral.
Best Climber: Love Knot by Chris Warner, UK (Tasman Bay Roses), red.
Most Fragrant: Loving Care by Mike Athy, Gisborne (D&S Nurseries, Takapau), purple.
Children’s Choice: Picotee by Rob Somerfield, pink and white.

Rob took the Rose of the Year award last year with Wild Cherry.

Despite the rain on Rose Bowl Saturday, Rob Somerfield was out in Hamilton Gardens looking at blooms. Photo: Sandra Simpson

 NZ Rose Society National Spring Show, Hamilton

Champion of Champions: Solitaire, grown by J Barnett, Waikato Rose Society.
Champion Decorative Bloom: Joan Monica, C Lovett, Waikato.
Champion Exhibition Bloom: Solitaire, J Barnett.
Champion Full Open Bloom: Paddy Stephens, J Lusty, Matamata.
Champion Small Stem: Raspberry Ice, J Walker, Northland.
Champion Large Stem: Playboy, M & M Brown, Canterbury.
Champion Display Vase: Silky Mist, V Forshaw, Northland.
Best Exhibit in Section 4: D & H White, Northland.

The Champion Vase – Silky Mist grown by V Forshaw of the Northland Rose Society. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Miniature Roses:
Champion of Champions: Chelsea Belle, J Walker, Northland.
Champion Decorative Bloom: Chelsea Belle, D & H White, Northland.
Champion Exhibition Bloom: Stephanie, J Walker, Northland.
Champion Full Open Bloom: Amore, S Gare, Waikato.
Champion Small Stem: Chelsea Belle, J Walker, Northland.
Champion Large Stem: Sweet Dream, J Walker, Northland.
Champion Display Vase: Little Jackie, S Gare, Waikato.

Thanks to Hayden Foulds of the NZ Rose Society for the Rose Bowl and National Show results.

Bay of Plenty Floral Designer of the Year

Designer of the Year: Francine Thomas 1 (Tauranga), Pat Nairn 2 (Tauranga), Berwyn Pollard (Te Puke) 3. Francine now goes on to contest the national Designer of the Year title in March in Rotorua.
Other design categories: Stumped (Natalie Meredith 1), Celebrate the Season, novice (Janice Downer 1), Rustic Romance (Natalie Meredith 1).

Natalie Meredith’s interpretation of the Rustic Romance theme – each designer was given a set of three wooden boxes that had to be used in the final work. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Find contact information for a Floral Art Society club in your area.

When is a rose not a rose?

Went over to Hamilton yesterday to spend a day at the Rogers Rose Garden enjoying the annual Pacific Rose Bowl Festival and the National Rose Show – and although the enjoyment factor remained high, the weather was decidedly dismal with, at times, lashing rain and strong winds. And when it wasn’t lashing rain, it was still raining!

So when 2pm rolled round and rose breeder Rob Somerfield and national Rose Society publicist Hayden Foulds turned up to give a guided talk, the Vege Grower and I were their audience of two. The guys were game and so were we, the little matter of brollies being blown inside out a mere trifle.

We eventually stopped in front of Eye of the Tiger, a small bush, albeit with vigorous, thorny new growth, that the Vege Grower and I had remarked on earlier, drawn by the colours and look of the flowers. And here we heard an unusual tale.

Eye of the Tiger, a rose bred in England. Photo: Sandra Simpson

One of the parents of Eye of the Tiger is Rosa persica (or Rosa berberifolia) which for a while was known as Hulthemia persica and not considered to be a rose! The plant is native to Iran, Afghanistan, central Asia and through to Siberia. It has a single, open rose-like flower with prominent stamens, is thorny but doesn’t have a rose-like leaf and as you can see from the photo below the buds are something else again. It has a suckering habit.

Hulthemia persica or Rosa persica … a rose by any other name. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But, rose breeders being what they are, some have been attempting to use R. persica, partly because of its hardiness – R. persica takes everything from drought to freezing in its natural habitat – but the plant is difficult to work with and has resisted many attempts to hybridise it. Breeders want to lose the single flowering, the thorniness, the suckering and the sterility, but want to keep that “eye” splash of colour at the centre of the flower.

This 1977 article by renowned English rose breeder Jack Harkness (who died in 1994) outlines some of the history of attempts to use the plant (it’s a little technical). Harkness Roses released three hybrids using R. persica in 1985 (Tigris, Euphrates and Nigel Hawthorne) and a later one, Xerxes, but none of them were repeat bloomers.

American Jim Sproul also took up the challenge and in 2011 released the first plants under the Eyeconic label. Jim blogs about his work with R. persica here.

Bright as a Button. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Bright as a Button, a rose by Chris Warner of Shropshire, England – who has also bred Eye of the Tiger (breeding name Chewbullseye) – also uses R. persica and is an award-winning rose in New Zealand, while his For Your Eyes Only (only 30 years in the making!) has won the 2015 Rose of the Year title at the Hampton Court Flower Show. Read a personal blog about a visit to Warner Roses.

Pick of the bunch

The New Zealand Rose Review, put out by the NZ Rose Society, has this year collected information from 53 contributors about their favourite roses. Useful information to have at hand when you’re in a garden centre – and now is the best time to buy and plant a rose so that it’s well rooted in by the time spring arrives.

The  “Review of Newer Roses” section includes comments from growers in various parts of the country about particular positives and negatives they’ve noticed.


Dublin Bay, one of Sam McGredy’s most popular roses. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I won’t reproduce the full lists of favourites here, that’s hardly fair on the Rose Society which wants to sell copies of the Review, but will mention the top-ranked rose in each category.

Hybrid Tea: Paddy Stephens (top for the eleventh consecutive year). Floribunda: Raspberry Ice (top since 1991!). Modern Shrub: Sally Holmes. Miniature & Patio: Irresistible (top since 2000). Large-Flower Climber: Dublin Bay (27th consecutive year at number one). Small-Flower Climber: Dusky Dancer. Healthy: Paddy Stephens. Fragrant: Margaret Merrill. Heritage: Jean Ducher.