In 2023 we will celebrate a quarter of a century involved with introducing Australian bred roses. It is an interesting story and one that I wish to share with you all.

Our first involvement with an Australian breeder happened in 1995 when South Australian Ray Courage approached us to see if the roses he had bred we could introduce for him. At the time we were Master Agents of Meillands of France and could not represent any other breeder but did obtain propagation material to at least trial for him and advise their potential.

Only a few years later the Meilland Company advised they were changing their Australian agent and we were then free to represent any breeder we wished. With quite a few overseas breeders having incredible roses we could introduce here, careful consideration was undertaken which of these would be the best for us to approach – breeders in Japan, USA, England, India, France or Italy.

While considering our options we were advised a local breeder in Mt Barker had a new rose to be introduced the following year as the major introduction for the Adelaide Rose Festival. I travelled to his property to obtain propagation material as although the rose was to be the major introduction no plants had actually been made yet.

Howard Florey

Howard Florey

When I drove up his driveway a man met me at the main shed. He was George Thomson and after introductions he took me to his garden. There were roses everywhere with many I had never seen before. I saw a beautiful yellow rose and asked what it was, no name – new seedling. What is that purple rose? No name – new seedling. After a dozen or more of these the thought of representing all Australian breeders was a definite consideration. I felt like a kid in a candy store. So much quality and none on the market yet.

The roses both Ray and then George had bred were exceptional dispelling the myth that Australian bred roses were no good.

When looking at the current Australian market at the time there was virtually no Australian bred roses on any grower’s lists. All that could be found easily were Lorraine Lee, Victoria Gold, Black Boy and Nancy Hayward, grown by the largest wholesale growers. A huge opportunity could be seen to get the roses onto a market where virtually no opposition existed.

Once this concept was decided an approach was made to both men and a brand ‘Australian True Blue Collection’ was created. We felt it was better to create a brand with all breeders being part of instead of trying to promote each individual breeder. This was a long term vision as new breeders could also join under this banner.

After Ray and George others also were approached or approached us. Bruce Chapman from Melbourne, Ron Bell from Melbourne and Gordon Nolan from South Australia were all breeders with something to see. We met Fran Pearce, Wendy Matther and a few smaller breeders all creating roses in their gardens.

For its success I consider it to be like a three leg stool. Take away one leg and it falls over. My legs were Quality, Availability and Marketing. If varieties did not have good quality no matter where they are available or how hard we promote them it will fail. Also if we promote hard with incredible quality but can’t be purchased anywhere it will also fail.

Now all preparation work was done a collection of roses was needed to be released to the Australian public. Ten varieties were firstly selected with Australia Fair, Flinders, Mawson, Summer Glow, Onkaparinga, Red Cavalier, Howard Florey, Philadelphia, Tapestry and Loves Gift.





In 2000 a national release was executed with major presentations in Better Homes and Gardens, Gardening Australia, Your Garden and Burkes Backyard. The segment on Burkes Backyard saw 1,200 emails in 12 hours in a time when only 1 or 2 were received each day. Tens of thousands of plants were sold out across the country with this first promotion.

With the initial success the second stage of the promotion took place. All rose nurseries across Australia were approached to grow these new roses with some such as Knights Roses, Adelaide Roses, SA Rose Growers, Roses and Fuschias, Treloar Roses, Brocklands, Roworth, Melville and Monbulk Roses the initial businesses to help grow these varieties. I still remember one grower who said to George ‘don’t waste your time breeding roses – they will never be as good as overseas bred’. The laugh is they are now one of the larger growers of Australian bred from other breeders.

Our third stage was getting Australian bred roses overseas so royalties will return to the hybridists in this country. Incredible numbers of hours were untaken talking with nurseries in New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, England, Canada, Italy, France and India. Most were excited to see what had been developed and getting propagation material sent became a priority.

For some countries it was easy as no restrictions existed however a few were hard work. An example was Japan. To send to Japan we needed a Phytosanitary Certificate to prove it is free of specific pests and diseases.
Australia – ‘ what are we looking for.’

Japan – ‘nothing specific just a health certificate needed.’
Australia quarantine – ‘ but we must inspect for something to give a certificate.’
Japan – ‘nothing to inspect for’.
Australia – ‘so we can’t give certificate’.
Japan – just look for ‘mango curvy spotted beetle’ (fictitious name).

Australia then undertook a 2 year study in all quarantine facilities across the county, in all regions, to assess and make sure the pest or disease did not exist in this country. After this time it was then cleared to provide a certificate for this consignment or any other breeders wanting to send to Japan in the future could then do so without delay.

This process happened to several other jurisdictions and now most barriers have been cleared it is open to any breeder of roses to send to those countries as well. Few know these facts and the massive number of hours Maureen Ross undertook for this to happen. Maureen also had the importation of roses directly into the USA placed on the USA/Australia trade negotiations. Australia – ‘The subject of importation of new roses to the USA.’ Reply from USA … ‘ can’t happen as you have wilt and dieback in your country – next item on the agenda!

Getting through official channels was the aim but with this blunt no getting there has to be through a third party country such as Netherlands, England, Canada or Japan.

One by one the overseas nurseries received their new roses and placed in trial. Some found growing in their climates proved not suitable or growers did not see a market for them. Although disappointing it was better to have them not introduced and keep the Australian bred name strong than introduce rubbish and destroy the market for breeders in the future. Just needed to select more good ones and offer more choices.

With the introduction of the roses here in Australia there came incredible investment. Varieties needed to be protected with many Plant Breeder Rights protected and a larger number Plant Patent protected. All had Trade Mark protection and some considered for Registered Trade Mark protection. For every rose sold a royalty label was needed with a vault of labels printed. Advertising was the largest expense to try and get the public aware of these wonders with all areas of the media used.

It has been incredibly hard work but now we see the Australian brand accepted. Our early work has opened the doors for other breeders to now develop. Warren Millington has his roses available from Hannamann’s Nursery and the centres they supply. Paul Hains has seen his roses accepted by Swanes and now a few other nurseries. Brindabella has developed a number of varieties sold direct through their nursery. Wendy Matther organised for Knights roses to introduce and supply her ‘That’s Life’ rose. Lastly Richard Walsh, one of the best current breeders, has seen Green E  Roses, Wagners and Treloars stock a few of his varieties and we too have now added his best roses to our list.

As a nursery we do have many options where our sales can come from with several areas not covered in the market yet, but my passion is still to help small local breeders achieve the chance of getting their roses into gardens.

We are proud of all we have done so far but where the future lies is cloudy. The initial rose breeders we worked with are either not with us now or very few great new varieties are available to introduce so our time as a major Australian Bred introducer may be limited. We do need more interested rose growers learning how to breed roses for it is both interesting and can be rewarding.

Here is where my three legged stool comes back into place. Without more quality new varieties the future of the Australian bred rose could be at risk and could all fall over.  This would be a tragedy for Australia is an ideal country to develop its own roses and we have come so far in its development.

Created   10/12/2022