Rose of the year

The rose may be the national flower of England but German company, Kordes, saw off all English rivals as its ‘Sunny Sky’ bloom was crowned Rose of the Year 2016 at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

rose
Rose of the year, 'Sunny Sky'.
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A prestigious competition to find the UK’s finest new rose has been won by a German breeder – for the fifth time in a decade. Rose of the Year is an annual competition is run by Roses UK, the marketing arm of the British Association of Rose Breeders (BARB) for ‘promoting British rose breeders and growers’. But it is open to any BARB member with a commercial presence in the UK and Kordes qualifies through its Oxfordshire-based agent Robert Mattock Roses.

After two-year growing trials across Britain, ‘Sunny Sky’ was hailed by the judges as a ‘fruitily fragrant yellow hybrid’ with ‘great disease resistance and vigour’. Philip Harkness, of Hitchin, Herts-based Harkness Roses, presented the award to Kordes’ Thomas Proll at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on June 30.

Kordes, the Schleswig-Holstein-based breeder also scooped the award for the most promising new plant in 2012, 2011 and 2006.

Another German breeder, Rosen Tantau, triumphed in 2008 and English challengers have been left lamenting that Kordes and Tantau are now the ‘Mercedes and BMW of the rose industry’.

Harkness Roses landed the title in 2014 with English breeders successful five times in all since 2006 and a California-based firm also won once.

Philip Harkness said: “Like Wimbledon or the World Cup, the competition is open to breeders from all over the world. If you look at England versus the rest of the world, we are not doing too badly. It is just that the Germans are overly successful. They keep knocking in those penalties against us. Kordes have been breeding fantastic roses for as long as I can remember. ‘Sunny Sky’ has a very Germanic look to it. It stands up strong and has a good, healthy foliage. When I know that Thomas has been working on it for 10 years, you have to appreciate and applaud his victory on our patch and we have a friendly, competitive rivalry.”

Gareth Fryer, whose Knutsford, Cheshire-based, company Fryer’s Roses took the title in 2013, 2009 and 2007, likened competing with the Germans to ‘David and Goliath’.

He said: “Kordes and Tantau are the big boys, the Mercedes and BMW of the rose industry. They are two of the biggest breeders in the world with much greater financial muscle than us. But because we are small we can be more specialised and focused and we know the English market. We are fighting our corner and every now and again we catch them off guard.”

‘Sunny Sky’ is prominently displayed at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and will go on sale to the public in the autumn after two years of rigorous trials by 14 growers nationwide.

After accepting the award, a delighted Thomas Proll said: “It is always very special for us to receive this award.”

Gavin Shaw, of Kordes’ UK agent Robert Mattock Roses, said: “Sunny Sky is just a lovely shade of yellow, darker on the inside and slightly lighter on the outside petals. It is quite tall and a good, easy-to-grow garden performer.

BARB’s general manager Ian Kennedy said: “By virtue of having a base in the UK through a UK agent, Kordes are perfectly entitled to enter the competition. It should also be noted that many UK-bred varieties enter and win in rose trials in numerous other territories around the world.”

Read more about roses

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Growing roses

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Matt Appleby

About Matt Appleby

Matt is a former teacher turned journalist. He took up writing while in New Zealand and trained as a journalist there. He has since written five books (three on cricket and two on gardening) with The Children's Garden due out in spring 2016 published by Frances Lincoln. He writes for Horticulture Week and other publications. Married with two boys, aged 3 and 6 he lives in London.
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