Recent honours

Val Burrell, of Te Puke, has been made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to the community and horticulture in the 2019 New Year Honours List.

As well as being active with the NZ Women’s Institute for 57, at local, regional and national levels, Val has also been involved with the National Dahlia Society for 33 years and has been northern secretary, national secretary/treasurer, and privacy officer.

She has been national treasurer since 2010 and over the years has assisted with producing the society’s magazine and various fundraising efforts. Her 40-year involvement with the Floral Art Society of New Zealand has included being regional and local treasurer.

Her husband, Peter Burrell, is a well-known breeder of dahlias, claiming he only got involved because he was driving Val to shows.

Fiona Hyland of Dunedin was recognised with the World Rose Award for services to the rose at this year’s World Rose Convention in Denmark in July.

Fiona is a long-standing member of Heritage Roses New Zealand and has an impressive record as an editor, researcher and speaker at a local, national and international level. She has a strong interest in the collection of heritage roses at the Dunedin Northern Cemetery and played a key role in Dunedin’s 2005 hosting of the International Heritage Roses Conference.

Fiona has edited booklets featuring the writings of well-known NZ Heritage Rose experts Nancy Steen and Ken Nobbs, been editor of the quarterly Heritage Roses NZ journal, and was also editor of the electronic journal for the World Federation of Rose Societies from 2006–2010.

An Award of Garden Excellence was given to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens at the same convention. The Central Rose Garden dates from 1910 and the Heritage Rose Garden from 1952 (redesigned in 1999). Read more here.

Derek and Jenny Beard from the Western Bay of Plenty Camellia Society won Grand Champion and Best Hybrid at this year’s NZ Camellia Show in August with Jamie, an Australian hybrid. Derek and Jenny won a total of 10 first places,  four seconds and one third.

Kawerau arborist Scott Forrest was last month named the nation’s best tree climber for the fifth time, at the NZ Arboriculture Association Husqvarna National Tree Climbing Championships (NTCC) in Dunedin. After his win he gave away his haul of prize gear to his fellow competitors.

Scott won the same national title in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016, and won the International Tree Climbing Championships (ITCC) in 2011, 2013 and 2014. His Dunedin win qualifies him for next year’s ITCC in the US.

2018 Pacific Rose Bowl winners at the Rogers Rose Garden in Hamilton in November: NZ Rose of the Year & Best Floribunda: Little Miss Perfect, bred by Rob Somerfield (Tauranga). Best NZ-raised Rose & Children’s Choice Award: Strawberry Blonde, bred by Rob Somerfield. Best Hybrid Tea & Most Fragrant: Hi Ho Silver, bred by Mike Athy (Gisborne). Best Climbing Rose:
Lady of Shallot, bred by David Austin (England). Best Shrub Rose: Rhapsody in Blue, bred by Frank Cowlishaw (England).

Dahlia show

Of the 150 seedlings Te Puke dahlia breeder Peter Burrell starts each year, he normally saves three or four, although last year retained eight.

“I’ve been involved with dahlias for about 25 years,” Peter says. “My wife Val was the keen one, I just drove her to the shows.”

However, it wasn’t long before the former MAF employee decided to use his horticultural knowledge and began his quest to breed new varieties.

“I saw a champions table where 90 per cent of the blooms were white or yellow,” Peter says. “I swore I would never see that happen again and ever since I have been aiming at new colours.”

Peter Burrell with Kotare Noah, named for a grandson and released last year. Photo: Sandra Simpson

He imports breeding stock from England, which costs him something like $200 for six tubers after biosecurity inspections and certification.

Every dahlia breeder in the world adopts a breed prefix and Peter has chosen Kotare (kingfisher). Plants that make it through his selection process are grown for three years and constantly reassessed. The best tubers are released for sale in year four.

He used to lease part of the section next door and had 360 tubers all up but that land stopped being available so Peter has looked to extend the plantings around his home.


Dahlia Rural Fanfare. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Peter, a past president of the national Dahlia Society, formerly co-managed the North Island dahlia trial grounds in Rotorua (now defunct), while Val is the current national treasurer. Son Mark is now the show driver and also helps in the garden which is blooming umbrellas to protect flowers from sun and rain in preparation for the show season, which in the North Island traditionally begins with the Waihi show.

For last year’s Waihi show Peter took along blooms of Hillcrest Candy from England, the first time it had been seen in this country.


Dahlia Hillcrest Candy growing in Peter Burrell’s Te Puke garden. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Peter is a member of the Hamilton, Rotorua and Te Awamutu dahlia groups after the Bay of Plenty went into recess. “We’re hoping some young ones might come through and it will pick up again,” he says. “It’s all there waiting.”

This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.