On the scent of a rose bloom

Painstaking work over many years has turned Mike Athy's property into a sweet-smelling oasis, but he cautions, as any parent would know, that two fragrant parents do not make for a fragrant child.

Painstaking work over many years has turned Mike Athy's property into a sweet-smelling oasis, but he cautions, as any parent would know, that two fragrant parents do not make for a fragrant child.

A ROSE WITH A SPECIAL MEANING: Gisborne rose breeder Mike Athy has produced as rose called Rosa Sarah Elizabeth, which is named after young Gurnsey woman, Sarah Groves, who was tragically killed in 2013. The rose was unveiled at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show — the world’s biggest flower show. Picture by Liam Clayton

MIKE Athy has crafted the best smelling rose in the country. For 20 years the horticulturist has been engineering roses. He begins by breeding different roses together. He chills the seeds in a refrigerator for six weeks, then plants them on benches in his tunnel house.

Once the plants start to bloom around October, their journey really begins. They are evaluated in every way imaginable and only a few make the cut.

The entire process from seed to maturity takes about seven years. That is nearly how long it took to submit his now award-winning Caroline Bay breed to the New Zealand Rose of the Year Trial at the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival at the Hamilton gardens earlier this month.

“Fragrance is held by several genes in the plant," he said.

"It is luck how it gets passed on from generation to generation. Two fragrant parents do not necessarily make a fragrant child.”

The roses he creates are planted in varying stages of growth across his Waerenga-a-Hika property. They are also growing across yards all over the world.

Mr Athy markets his roses to nurseries worldwide. He has roses in the UK, the US, Argentina and South Africa.

“I like everything about gardening. The whole process, planning, the crosses you are going to have, then in spring you see how close to your goals you have come.

“Being outside and also at competitions like the rose bowl is great too.”

Marketing his roses

Getting his roses on the market is his passion. People around Gisborne will unknowingly have his creations blooming in their backyards.

“When a nursery buys a plant, they rename it and market it how they want. But with roses the denomination stays the same.”

For example Caroline Bay can be marketed as such — it has been on the market for a few years now — but when you buy a rose there will also be a denomination on the tag. In this instance it would read Athy Bay.

“If it says Athy on the denomination then it is one of mine,” he said.

Other popular roses Mr Athy has created include Hi Ho Silver and Blue Diamond.

He is no stranger to New Zealand awards. Accolades of a bigger scale came in 2013, when his Athyfalaa rose won the award for the most outstanding rose at the prestigious Biltmore International Rose Trials in the US.

That same rose was dubbed the most disease-resistant and won the title of best growth habit. This is a calling card of Mr Athy’s. As part of the culling process in the early stages of rose development, any rose that is not up to par is pulled.

“Disease resistance is a priority. I want to be able to let it to do its own thing, be tidy and maintenance-free,” he said.

When not concocting beautiful and fragrant roses, Mr Athy works as a private gardener. To help spur his roses along, he also has bees on his property.

“The first time I dropped some honey off to the neighbours, they were a bit confused, they said it tasted like roses.

“I suppose it does. It is really sweet and delicious.”

MIKE Athy has crafted the best smelling rose in the country. For 20 years the horticulturist has been engineering roses. He begins by breeding different roses together. He chills the seeds in a refrigerator for six weeks, then plants them on benches in his tunnel house.

Once the plants start to bloom around October, their journey really begins. They are evaluated in every way imaginable and only a few make the cut.

The entire process from seed to maturity takes about seven years. That is nearly how long it took to submit his now award-winning Caroline Bay breed to the New Zealand Rose of the Year Trial at the Pacific Rose Bowl Festival at the Hamilton gardens earlier this month.

“Fragrance is held by several genes in the plant," he said.

"It is luck how it gets passed on from generation to generation. Two fragrant parents do not necessarily make a fragrant child.”

The roses he creates are planted in varying stages of growth across his Waerenga-a-Hika property. They are also growing across yards all over the world.

Mr Athy markets his roses to nurseries worldwide. He has roses in the UK, the US, Argentina and South Africa.

“I like everything about gardening. The whole process, planning, the crosses you are going to have, then in spring you see how close to your goals you have come.

“Being outside and also at competitions like the rose bowl is great too.”

Marketing his roses

Getting his roses on the market is his passion. People around Gisborne will unknowingly have his creations blooming in their backyards.

“When a nursery buys a plant, they rename it and market it how they want. But with roses the denomination stays the same.”

For example Caroline Bay can be marketed as such — it has been on the market for a few years now — but when you buy a rose there will also be a denomination on the tag. In this instance it would read Athy Bay.

“If it says Athy on the denomination then it is one of mine,” he said.

Other popular roses Mr Athy has created include Hi Ho Silver and Blue Diamond.

He is no stranger to New Zealand awards. Accolades of a bigger scale came in 2013, when his Athyfalaa rose won the award for the most outstanding rose at the prestigious Biltmore International Rose Trials in the US.

That same rose was dubbed the most disease-resistant and won the title of best growth habit. This is a calling card of Mr Athy’s. As part of the culling process in the early stages of rose development, any rose that is not up to par is pulled.

“Disease resistance is a priority. I want to be able to let it to do its own thing, be tidy and maintenance-free,” he said.

When not concocting beautiful and fragrant roses, Mr Athy works as a private gardener. To help spur his roses along, he also has bees on his property.

“The first time I dropped some honey off to the neighbours, they were a bit confused, they said it tasted like roses.

“I suppose it does. It is really sweet and delicious.”

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