The first rose Rob can remember at the age of 8 or 9 was growing by his Grandfather's cow shed in Motueka. This was called 'Rima' which is a sport of Prima Ballerina. He would watch the buds developing from one day to the next and can still remember the amazing scent it produced.
Around the same time he was also shown a Red Delicious Apple tree that had a small branch with three Golden Delicious apples on it. To him as a small child this was magic! Rob was becoming totally infatuated with plants. As he grew older he spent many years grafting Kiwifruit, Avocados, Macadamia nut and many Ornamentals.
His rose interest was reignited while doing some part time work for Mr Peter Bailey, a Tauranga Rose Nurseryman. Peter obviously saw his interest and gifted Rob three roses at the completion of the work. Rob was hooked!
Rob started breeding roses in 1983. Right from the start he set himself high standards in his rose breeding, the most important aspect being good health. It is Rob's long held view that it is pointless producing a stunning flower if the plant on which it sits is a dud.
The next important attributes in Rob's mind are Freedom of flowering and quick repeat. Good foliage, bush shape, weather tolerance and beauty of the flower, are all on the list of standards that must be achieved in his breeding program. To achieve all of the above and fragrance is the ultimate.
Many years have been spent making many crosses to achieve the health goal. Rob is focused on reaching his breeding goals and is very critical of his own seedlings during the selection process. Roses are the queen of flowers and releasing a new variety of rose onto the market is always a thrill. Any new rose that we release is done with great consideration as Rob won't release just any old rose. If a rose is to have Rob's name on it he must be totally satisfied that it's going to perform well. Putting the best varieties on the market is his top priority. A lot of roses are sold 'in flower' these days, and as a result, many of our newer releases are selected on the ability to perform well and look good in a pot.
Rob and his wife Linda have their own rose nursery, Glenavon Roses Ltd, that grows approximately 40,000 roses a year for the wholesale market. Seventy five percent of these are sold in flower. Growing other people's roses commercially gives Rob a good opportunity to compare his newer varieties with those already on the market.
All of Rob's roses are thoroughly trialled on his property and he also uses rose trial grounds extensively, both here and overseas, to gain a broader assessment and also to test his roses in different environments to see how they perform.
Rob considers himself fortunate to have had Sam McGredy's support over a long period of time. Sam's advice, encouragement and mentorship has been invaluable to someone getting started in the Rose breeding game.
Rob believes he is very lucky to have chosen this career path and is often heard to say "I have the best job in the world".