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Meet: Finbarr O’Leary, horticulturist and rose trialler for Swanes nursery

Swane's Nursery CEO Finbarr O'Leary talks about the effort required to bring new roses to market.

What’s involved in producing a new rose?

Each year we receive specimens of new roses from breeders all around the world. After 3 -9 months in quarantine we propagate about 20 to 30 plants of each rose at our Narromine property and start an evaluation process from the first flowering. If a rose performs well, we propagate more. Eventually we bring it to Sydney for further evaluation in the ground and to see if it pots up well for sale. Roses that are considered worthy will be sent to the National Rose Trial garden in Adelaide. We compare the score it receives there to our own, and if it is considered suitable we start to develop stock for the market. It takes 5-8 years to bring a new rose to market.


How many roses are you trialling at one time, and how many make it to market?

At one time we would have 600 – 1000 roses on trial, and release only about five new named varieties each year.


Are the good roses obvious?

Some roses stand out, while others may seem unremarkable, and it can take some time to discover their true potential. A rose may eventually become a modern alternative to a well-known old rose. For example, the new ‘Governor Macquarie’ rose is very similar to ‘Queen Elizabeth’, but has much better disease resistance.


The new 'Governor Macquarie' roes from Swanes Nursery. Photo - Swanes Nursery 


How do you name a new rose?

Sometimes we use a name we inherited from the breeder, but usually we look for a name that may have significance for our buyers. ‘Governor Macquarie’ for instance is named for the 200th anniversary of the swearing-in of Lachlan Macquarie as governor.

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Author: Libby Cameron