GG: How would you characterize the health of the overall rose market? How about the different types of roses (i.e. hybrid teas, grandifloras, shrub roses) and the overall health of those submarkets?
BD: The rose industry has been going through a significant amount of change over the past decade. Over the past hundred years, we as an industry were so focused on flower type (hybrid tea) and color, that disease resistance and hardiness were a plus but not a requirement. We taught our customers to fear the product that we were producing. Roses were separated into their own world and not thought of as a practical or dependable perennial landscape plant.
Bringing a new variety to market, from hybridization to introduction, is about 10 years. That’s quite a long time. In the early 1980s this effort was well underway, but not until Knock Out hit the market did the nursery industry as a whole became aware of the ease of production and the new opportunities that could exist with roses. Knock Out opened the flood gates and the nursery industry regained confidence in roses as a landscape plant.
GG: Considering the shakeup in some of the big rose breeders and growers over the last year or two, is there a better overall focus from both breeders and growers to meet consumer needs?
BD: The Conard-Pyle Company, Kordes and Weeks (Roses) have put forth tremendous effort over the past two decades. We were first exposed to the Knock Out family of roses and now the Drift Roses. I can say that over the next two to three years, everyone is going to be blown away by the new genetics and varieties that will be hitting the market.
GG: Roses have obviously evolved over time from the Grandma-style hybrid teas and grandifloras to the shrub type. Last year, we saw Greenheart’s bedding plant-style roses introduced at the California Spring Trials. Do you look at the bedding play-style rose as the next big thing or a complement to the smaller, shrub-type roses?
BD: It was imperative that nurseries erase what they knew about the “old style” roses. Disease resistance, hardiness and performance were the first traits to accomplish, and all the major hybridizers have focused on these traits. The new genetics are phenomenal. There are no rules for roses anymore. It is my belief that the possibilities are endless for roses, as long as they have been thoroughly trialed from beginning to end.
GG: What excites you most about the rose market in the upcoming year or two?
BD: Large flowered, colorful and fragrant roses. The hybridizers have done a phenomenal job taking what has been learned from developing the disease-resistant hardy shrub roses of today and creating novel performers for the future. Being on the front end of buildup and production, we get to see it all first and it is very exciting.