There is so much talk currently about Australian bred roses riding the crest of a wave and the future looks bright.

I don’t want to rain on the parade but I still have reservations on where it is going and how it can be sustained. Since the early 1900’s roses have been bred in Australia with some breeders having great success in both reputation and quality. As I have started researching them more I have seen some as good as anything that is on the market now and also as good as those coming from overseas.

So why cannot many of these be found now?

A rose will stay on a growers list for a number of reasons but mainly it comes down to sales. Without someone wanting it there is little chance it will stay on any growers list. This is not exclusive to Australian bred roses but any rose on any growers list.

So why have they not been popular and stayed on a growers list? Again there are several theories but I consider either they have not been seen to be good enough or something better came along. In most cases older varieties fall from lists as something new and exciting comes along and as all growers cannot have a 2,000 plant list something must go. Sadly in many cases it has been the Australian one.

When looking at the Australian bred roses currently I see it more like building a house than riding the crest of a wave. The foundations have been laid by past breeders and now we are putting up the walls. Unless the walls are sound it is impossible to get the roof on to complete the building.

For me the walls must be sound or risk collapse. The walls for me consist of quality, availability, promotion and continuation.


For a rose to be strong in the market it must be quality. It must stand the test of time by itself and not rely on it being Australian but instead be known for its quality. Currently we do have some which are well established. Amazing Grace, Joyce Abounding, A Passionate Gardener, Mawson, Crown Princess Mary, Playtime, Magic Moments and Judy’s Song to name just a very few.

So why have these become popular?

I feel it is now through reputation for their quality through growing and being seen in gardens, catalogues and through vibrant colour labels in selling centres.

Virtually all consumers purchase from a picture of a rose which they like and want. In all these varieties the flower has taken their interest and the sales have occurred. So what makes a flower popular?

  1. In the market full flowers sell. Singles must be perfect and probably have another selling feature such as intense scent or massive numbers of flowers continually. Even then singles would only account for less than 1% of sales.
  2. Colour is also important for 75% of all roses on the market are pink. So hard to break into the market with another pink unless it is different or better. With such quality on the market at present it is hard to be better so having a selling feature will help its future.
  3. Currently some colours are not popular. The release of a variety can be a failure or successful just by understanding the current colour trends and what consumers are currently wanting. At present lavenders are not popular as are some hot colours. Striped roses have been popular but currently this phase has greatly reduced. It is sometimes best to hold back until the particular colour becomes poplar again.
  4. One area which can help is plant size. With overseas bred roses all do become much larger when they hit our shores. With property sizes getting smaller a niche market can be smaller growing varieties. I can see a huge future for good roses that grow under 1m tall. The success of Joyce Abounding has been due to its low growing height but not miniature flowers but larger size.
  5. Bred climbers are still in good demand. These must have fully double flowers of good size and the climber must be neat and compact with continual flowering. If fragrance was available it would clinch the sale.
  6. Austin’s currently I could not give away. However Hans Heysen sells more than ALL the Austin’s on our list- combined. Why? It has Austin style flower, it has Austin strong scent, it has Austin good health but differently it is small and compact. This is not unique for this variety for Deane Ross (even though lavender/pink) still sells exceptionally well.


There is no point having the best rose every developed if the consumer cannot find it to buy. This has always been the problem with any introduction and not unique to Australian developed.

When we had the Meilland agency we developed a network of growers to cover as many markets as possible. At its peak 37 growers were growing our varieties and covered all states of Australia with each state growing on their preferred understock.

Currently we have 12 growers with so many now closed but does cover most states and does provide the product to be seen in many different markets.

I am sure that as the Australian developed roses become more popular pressure will be forced onto other growers to seek out the popular varieties to add to their growing lists. It is a catch 22. Unless the variety is popular many growers do not want it but it will not be popular unless growers start growing them.


One aspect which can break the catch 22 scenario is large scale promotions and marketing. IF a gardener is aware of a wonderful new rose they will ask for it. If asked for a sales centre will seek to get it and if their grower sees demand they will be forced to grow it or lose the sales.

But promotion does costs lots.

For an individual it cannot be afforded for a large advert in 1 magazine for 1 edition would be thousands and could not be covered by sales made. That is unless the grower is keen to grow large numbers of a variety in readiness for the magazine promotion. We have seen some successful promotions however they are rare and very often most do fail. Lady Endo has been a success with the Treloar Company using this variety in the Better Homes and Gardens selection. Time will tell if this variety will continue to be popular but it has received the most wonderful start to its life with this promotion.

For most breeders you are unlikely to get this promotion. Most introducers are linked with overseas breeders and they have contractual obligations to promote their introductions first. Of course you may be fine to just have your variety make the market but this is fraught with danger. Our past is littered with so many wonderful varieties that have been dropped. China Sunrise is a perfect example with a quality variety only receiving a small number of years before it was gone from the market.


For the long term future of Australian bred roses we need continuation. This is where many overseas companies WILL win over locally developed. Kordes, Meilland, Harkness, Delbard, Austin or Tantau are all well-established breeders with a long history or introductions and most with next generations to continue the brands success.

In Australia we do not have this as most breeders either start when they retire or reach their peak when they retire. After 20 years no new introductions are available and whatever name has been created is lost with this breeding program finished.

As a rose marketer I have many ideas which I feel may address this problem but until it has been addressed it is the biggest problem with the continual support of Australian bred.

Once all these factors have been completed we can then consider putting the roof on. NO. Unless these factors can be strengthened the structure is too weak to handle the roof.

I do not have much confidence the major growers will automatically start to grow Australian bred roses just to be nice. ALL are highly professional growers and most know the market intimately. They know what will sell and what will not. They know how to promote and to gauge sales potential. They also know of threats to their other introductions and how to control the opposition.

I do feel the future of the Australian bred roses comes down to 1major point. What is needed is an individual or company solely dedicated to the introduction of Australian developed roses. Who can introduce, market, promote and continue to pressure the major growers through their exposure of the local industry. When this stops be prepared to see the past comment of’ we are not interested’ being a common occurrence.

Why would someone with the exceptional quality product of a Meilland, Austin, Delbard or Kordes even need to look at local. I know. We had Meilland and when approached by a local breeder didn’t even look. We had the best so not interested in the rest.

Of course all this WILL change if we see changes in the Quarantine of roses coming into Australia. Currently roses can come in. It is more difficult but can happen. Once a total ban on importation happens it will change it all. For a new variety to enter the market it will have to be locally developed unless the importer is prepared for the huge expense involved with other ways to import.

Australian breeders must be ready for when this happens but don’t hold your breath. This may happen next year or could be 10 years or the diseases they want to keep out suddenly appear and there is no point in placing restrictions on importation.

Yes, Australian bred roses are riding the crest of the wave but always remember at some stage the wave will break and we could all end up at the bottom.


Created   2/1/2020