Updates about the Horticulture Wales project, along with industry news and opinion.

David Austin Roses Study Tour Review

18 February 2015

Earlier this year, we were delighted to lead more than a dozen Welsh growers on a study tour to David Austin Roses – one of the world’s largest and most renowned garden rose breeding programmes.

Olivia Rose Austin The nursery in Albrighton, Shropshire, is home to nearly 900 varieties of rose – of which approximately 200 are own-bred David Austin Roses – as well as the National Collection of English Roses. Established by specialist grower David CH Austin back in 1969, the business has gone from strength-to-strength over the past five decades, particularly since the early 1980s and the introduction of hugely successful varieties such as the Graham Thomas Rose.

Our visit started with a tour of the packing and storage facilities at the nursery before we got to chat with Robert Corbett, ‎Legal and Projects Manager, and Michael Marriott, Technical Manager, about the business’s development and current plans.

Horticulture Wales study tour to David Austin Roses

Robert and Michael then showed us around the extensive rose garden plus its specialist research and development glasshouses, while we also caught a glimpse of roses destined to appear at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – plants being grown in precisely-controlled conditions to ensure they are looking at their very best for the annual event in May.

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The visit also took in the nursery’s production lines, which see bundles of 20 roses checked, sorted, separated, and potted ready to be laid out in beds for growing on. Our visit in early January saw two lines in operation, but at busier periods, three lines manned by five staff each can process as many as 8,000 pots a day.

We then got to check out two vast cold stores used to increase winter dormancy in controlled conditions – by regulating the temperature and humidity, frost damage is almost eliminated. These facilities are capable of storing more than 250,000 roses.

Plugs 2 (965px * 694px)Pots (743px * 973px)

Growing of David Austin Roses cut flowers is undertaken in countries with a specific, constant climate, such as Columbia and Kenya. Research and development is carried out to ensure roses re-flower with long, strong stems, with many varieties having an extended vase life of around seven days, more than twice the usual average (two to three days). All new varieties are thoroughly trialled for seven years prior to being made available for sale.

POS 5 (726px * 970px)Our growers learned how crucial branding has been in the ongoing success of the business. Eye-catching ‘Point of Sale’ materials, tags and promotional materials are supplied to all licensed retailers and wholesalers – where necessary after it has been translated into German, French, and other languages for international audiences! Incidentally, nearly half of roses sold by the business are exported, with Germany its biggest current overseas market, followed by Russia and France. Between 30-40% of roses sold by the business are potted, the remainder sold bare root.

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