French Tasmanian rose production stamp pays dividends in cut flower market

When buying a bouquet of roses, are you looking for color or freshness?

Maybe it’s the shape of the rose or the length of the stem?

One of the many varieties of red roses commercially grown in the Tamar Valley greenhouse.(Rural ABC: Laurissa Smith)

There are many genetic traits that flower breeders select to ensure that roses grown for the cut flower market arrive at their final destination in optimum condition.

Some of these traits originated in France by international breeder Meilland.

Matthias Meilland said the company is working with growers around the world to develop commercial roses, including in Tasmania.

“The game is that it’s selected here for conditions in Australia and specifically Tasmania,” he said.

“It’s productivity per square metre, disease resistance, can it withstand heat shock and rain shock?

“Something that can be selected here can go to Japan or Mexico at high altitudes.”

Several buckets of roses in shades of pink, red and yellow.
There are 62 varieties of roses grown on the Tasmanian property and at least 10 new lines are tested each year.(Rural ABC: Laurissa Smith)

Family floral collaboration

Meilland has worked with the Lee family of Tamar Valley Roses in northern Tasmania for over four decades.

Each year, between 10 and 20 new French varieties are tested at the Rosevears farm for their commercial suitability.

Plant material can take up to six months to pass Australian quarantine before reaching the property.

A smiling man in high visibility holds a large rose inside a greenhouse.
Andrew Lee, General Manager of Tamar Valley Roses, with one of the popular rose varieties for Valentine’s Day bouquets.(Rural ABC: Laurissa Smith)

Andrew Lee is responsible for hydroponically growing over 60 varieties in large greenhouses.

Each greenhouse can hold up to 38,000 plants and produce 400,000 rose stems each year.

Flowers are sent throughout Australia.

Queensland is the biggest buyer.

“It’s interesting – until the pandemic, around 90% of Australian flowers, of all types, were imported from overseas,” Mr Lee said.

“Thanks to the pandemic and the reduction in flights, many flowers grown in Australia have returned to the market, which is definitely sustainable in terms of CO2 miles.”

A bouquet of pink roses in a bucket inside a cold room.
The roses are stored at -2 degrees Celsius before being shipped to Australia.(Rural ABC: Laurissa Smith)

The fragrant roses return

Have you noticed that roses in a bouquet don’t have much fragrance?

This is because other genetic traits for cut flowers, including longevity and disease resistance, are more dominant.

A large bouquet of light-colored roses, seen from above.
Apricot is one of the trending colors for weddings in Australia.(Rural ABC: Laurissa Smith)

But with more and more consumers asking for a scent in their rose, Meilland is investigating how genetics can be selected to amplify scent.

“The market is increasingly in demand,” Mr. Meilland said.

“It’s not the producer who asks, it’s not the wholesaler and it’s a bit like the florist.

“So we have a program right now in France with the universities to see what kind of genetics is behind the perfume.”

Meilland said the company’s research has shown that fragrant flowers do not lose their vase life.

Terisa K. Carn