For the love of the rose

Jan Bar­nett’s pas­sion for roses led her on a re­mark­able jour­ney full of un­ex­pected de­tours… in­clud­ing sell­ing the fam­ily home and tear­ing up re­tire­ment plans!

NZ Gardener - - Contents - Amoré Roses Open Day is on De­cem­ber 8. 275 Vaile Road, New­stead, Waikato. Ph 07 824 1996. amoreroses.co.nz.

The un­ex­pected jour­ney that led Jan Bar­nett to start her Waikato nurs­ery.

We are all fa­mil­iar with that wish to turn a life­long hobby into a dream job. Noth­ing could be bet­ter, surely, than do­ing what we love and mak­ing a liv­ing from it. So it is easy to un­der­stand Janette Bar­nett’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to bring into the coun­try new roses that would thrive in New Zealand con­di­tions with­out too much fuss and more im­por­tantly, with­out any spray­ing.

To that end, Jan and her hus­band Paul have es­tab­lished Amoré Roses, sourc­ing the plants from breed­ers all over the world, in­clud­ing France, Canada, the US, North­ern Ire­land, the Nether­lands and Aus­tralia.

Jan then tri­als them in the 188 pur­pose-built beds lo­cated at a 7ha prop­erty in New­stead on the out­skirts of Hamil­ton, which the cou­ple had bought in 2014… af­ter chuck­ing in their re­tire­ment plans and sell­ing the fam­ily home!

Here, Jan’s goal is to of­fer roses that are dis­ease re­sis­tant, with su­pe­rior fragrance and flow­er­ing per­for­mance. “We fig­ured that if a rose can thrive here in the Waikato hu­mid­ity, it would do well any­where in New Zealand,” she ex­plains.

Her fam­ily back­ground and story go some way to ex­plain her pas­sion for this an­cient flow­er­ing shrub. She has spent her life amongst roses. Jan mod­estly main­tains that it all be­gan with her hobby of show­ing roses. In fact, her home gar­den has al­ways been filled with roses – all fra­grant, el­e­gant, per­fectly formed and award-win­ning, thank you very much. As an ex­hibitor and New Zealand Na­tional Rose Judge whose job it is to de­clare that one sin­gle rose is the most per­fect out of hun­dreds in com­pe­ti­tion, one would ex­pect no less.

In her grand­fa­ther’s ram­bling, ro­man­tic coun­try gar­den filled with ev­ery type of flower and veg­etable imag­in­able, Jan was al­ways drawn to the roses.

Jan is a life mem­ber of the Waikato Rose So­ci­ety and has writ­ten a suc­cess­ful ci­ta­tion to the World Fed­er­a­tion of Rose So­ci­eties to have the Rogers Rose Gar­den in Hamil­ton Gar­dens recog­nised with the WFRS Award of Gar­den Ex­cel­lence. She has also trav­elled widely to rose conventions around the world.

Roses were a con­stant fea­ture of her child­hood as well. Jan’s grand­fa­ther Al­lan G. Scott MBE (“Poppa”) was a renowned au­thor­ity on the peren­nial plant, and wrote a rose col­umn for NZ Gar­dener for more than 30 years. In his ram­bling, ro­man­tic coun­try gar­den filled with ev­ery type of flower and veg­etable imag­in­able, she re­calls, she was al­ways drawn to the roses.

Her mother and aunts also dab­bled in com­pe­ti­tions and shows. “They were all pas­sion­ate gar­den­ers, for all types of gar­den­ing.”

And even if you didn’t know all that about Jan’s fam­ily and back­ground, you might still sus­pect her pas­sion when you saw her per­son­alised li­cence plate – ROSEQN.

It fol­lows then, that Jan and Paul’s daugh­ters Me­lanie and Bri­ony bill them­selves as the “rose princesses” on the Amoré web­site as they run the busi­ness to­gether with Jan.

And surely this is how rose dy­nas­ties be­gin. Af­ter all, many Kiwi plant nurs­eries are fam­ily busi­nesses, some in their sec­ond and third gen­er­a­tions al­ready. Yet, few have taken on the oner­ous im­port and quar­an­tine process re­quired by the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries (not to men­tion the costs), and Jan – de­ter­mined to get new stock into the mar­ket – stepped into the breach.

She is the first to ad­mit that the learn­ing curve has been steep. “We are get­ting more and more ex­pe­ri­ence in bring­ing the roses over,” she says.

“But at the same time, the hoops are get­ting higher.”

One can spend a whole life­time lov­ing roses with­out know­ing how to trans­port them from half­way around the world and then get them to flour­ish af­ter such an epic jour­ney. Add lay­ers of bu­reau­cracy and just the sheer del­i­cacy in­her­ent in hor­ti­cul­tural en­ter­prises, and it is not dif­fi­cult to ap­pre­ci­ate the risks that Jan and Paul had taken on when they em­barked on this thorny jour­ney.

All of Jan’s roses must first be quar­an­tined upon ar­rival in New Zealand. MPI au­dits and in­spects the quar­an­tined roses reg­u­larly through­out the cy­cle, to en­sure they are free of pests and dis­eases such as Xylella (a bac­te­ria trans­mit­ted through in­sects) which could harm the coun­try’s well-de­vel­oped and lu­cra­tive hor­ti­cul­tural and agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

There are six quar­an­tine units on the prop­erty – one for each coun­try they get roses from. This is so they can all be kept sep­a­rate and tracked through the process, which gen­er­ally takes six to nine months. Each unit hosts its own jack­ets, gloves, tools and other essen­tial equip­ment which are never trans­ferred or used be­tween the units. Af­ter each cy­cle is com­pleted, the units are thor­oughly washed and dis­in­fected be­fore new plants ar­rive and the cy­cle be­gins again.

Plants just re­leased from quar­an­tine are hard­ened off be­fore they are homed in the dis­play and trial gar­den beds, which are filled with gar­den mix from a lo­cal sup­plier and topped with peat. Here, each rose is left to face its fu­ture.

Jan means to make roses more ap­peal­ing to ev­ery gar­dener (and not just rose lovers) by of­fer­ing plants that are fra­grant with good flow­er­ing per­for­mance, but don’t re­quire too much work. Cre­at­ing best­sellers, she be­lieves, is both an art and a science.

Dis­ease re­sis­tance, she rea­sons, is an im­por­tant part of this equa­tion, and she wants to se­lect roses that don’t need to be sprayed – some­thing that she ob­serves to be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to gar­den­ers here. “In the north­ern hemi­sphere, you can’t buy sprays any­more,” she says. “So the roses there are bred to be as dis­ease re­sis­tant as pos­si­ble.”

This means she has to be ruth­less in her ob­ser­va­tions of the spec­i­mens in her trial beds. She takes metic­u­lous notes on plant be­hav­iour and char­ac­ter­is­tics, record­ing growth, bud size and gen­eral changes. Not all will come off, well, smelling of roses as they strive to adapt to our con­di­tions.

In­deed, it all seems a rather bru­tal busi­ness and Jan has to be rather stoic about it. “Some will wither, oth­ers die. Some get black spot or show they are re­sis­tant to that but then, will get rust,” she ex­plains. Yet other roses do bet­ter on their own roots while

some are bet­ter bud­ded – and Jan is there, watch­ing and learn­ing.

Size is an­other im­por­tant trait. “Euro­pean gar­dens tend to be smaller than ours, so their rose plants are of­ten smaller too but they still have big flow­ers,” Jan ex­plains.

She be­lieves medium-sized shrubs would best suit the mar­ket here – plants that won’t get too tall but will still pro­duce big and showy blooms.

In gen­eral, Kiwi rose lovers choose their plants for fragrance and colour, Jan has found, “and they ex­pect the breeder to get the rest of the plant right.” Sim­ply put, if they have to do too much to get the flower they want, peo­ple get turned off. In at­tend­ing to the rest of the plant, Jan has given new names to her roses and at­tached la­bels to ex­plain their var­i­ous good qual­i­ties.

What she calls Bam­bina roses, for ex­am­ple, have been bred to be the dar­ling of the mod­ern smaller gar­den and out­door en­ter­tain­ment ar­eas (pre­cious few mil­len­nial gar­den­ers can af­ford much more, af­ter all).

As shorter grow­ers (less than 1m), they take up less space than more tra­di­tional large roses, which makes them sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile. They can be planted in pots for small pa­tios and bal­conies, or used as low main­te­nance and easy care hedges and borders, and the large blooms still de­liver an im­pact as Bam­bina roses are also bred for fragrance and a long flow­er­ing time over sum­mer.

In con­trast, the Pic­colo range of tra­di­tional minia­ture and pa­tio roses is bet­ter suited to cut flower en­thu­si­asts look­ing to make hand­some bou­quets for their home or crafty gifts for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

For those who ap­pre­ci­ate more size­able plants, there is also a se­lec­tion of big­ger flow­er­ers avail­able, in­clud­ing Flori­bun­das and Hy­brid Teas grow­ing to over 1m.

It was one from this range, the ‘Mag­nifi-scent’, that won the pub­lic vote as the most fra­grant rose on trial at the Pa­cific Rose Bowl Fes­ti­val in Hamil­ton last year. Be­fore that, the red-ma­roon re­peat flow­erer had been judged to be the Most Fra­grant Rose on Trial and also picked up the Gar­den So­ci­ety Award for Per­fume in Barcelona in 2016.

De­spite her ob­vi­ous abil­ity to pick win­ners, Jan ad­mits to the oc­ca­sional doubt about how one of her roses will be re­ceived. This is when she goes back to her cus­tomers. “At last year’s open day, we passed out forms to visi­tors ask­ing them to rate the roses we just weren’t sure about tak­ing to the mar­ket,” Jan re­calls.

“Peo­ple loved do­ing it, and they did a fan­tas­tic job help­ing us choose which ones to go with. We’ll be do­ing the same this year.”

STORY: MEI LENG WONG PHO­TOS: KELLY HODEL/STUFF & AMORE ROSES

Wonder ‘Sweet Marzi­pan’. The Wonder line de­scribes “roses to be ad­mired”.

Jan’s grand­fa­ther Al­lan G. Scott MBE.

Jan show­ing a rose in 1992.

Jan in her trial and show gar­den.

‘Sun­blush’.

‘Le­mon Ruf­fle’.

‘Royal City’.

‘Painted Pizazz’.

‘Gary Michael’.

‘Fields of Fromelles’.

‘Mixed Feel­ings’.

‘Black Lace’.

‘Berry Shim­mer’.

‘Espresso’.

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