Tough economic times seem to be hitting the rose industry like an outbreak of black spot on a damp morning. After bankruptcy reorganization, Jackson & Perkins was acquired by J&P Park Acquisitions Inc. Weeks Wholesale Roses was bought and reorganized in 2011 by Gardens Alive. Other growers have consolidated or simply shut their greenhouse doors. What does all this mean for rose lovers?
I went on a hunt to find the answers, and caught up with Louise Clements, owner of Heirloom Roses, www.heirloomroses.com a retail and online nursery based in St. Paul, Oregon.
“The economy is still affecting everybody in our business,” Louise said. “But many of us are solid.” First off, she assured me that rose hybridizing is going strong. For example, Weeks Roses has retained renowned hybridizer Christian BÃ©dard at the helm. She observed that many companies are steadily introducing newcomers, including both David Austin and Harkness Roses in England.
It is a time of change. In past years, some of the toughest and most disease-resistant roses (with fabulous scent!) were developed by rosarian Ping Lim, www.rosesbyping.com. He worked on Bailey Nurseries’ Easy Elegance® line. Now the award-winning hybridizer has gone solo. You can find his amazing stock is online.
Sometimes even when nurseries sadly pass into rose history, not all is lost. Louise told me that Cliff Orent’s EuroDesert Rose Nursery in Southern California shuttered in 2011. But they turned over their rare and unusual stock to Heirloom Roses. Heirloom will continue EuroDesert’s mission—which means new roses that have never appeared in the U.S. will be introduced, beginning in 2013.
Apart from the economic stresses, buying trends could affect rose availability. For example, the push for easy-care plants may change the kinds of roses offered, according to Dave Etchepare, known as the Garden Doctor on radio and manager of Dennis’ 7 Dees S.E. Portland Garden Center.www.dennis7dees.com. “You might not see as many hybrid teas and grandifloras coming along,” he said when I spoke with him at Portland, Oregon’s Yard Garden and Patio Show.
Louise Clements acknowledged another trend—home vegetable gardening could take up space usually devoted to flowers—but she sees a sunny outlook for roses. “We need not only food for our bodies, but beauty,” she said. “There’s something about going out to the garden and picking a rose—the tactile sense, the beauty, the scent. We need to retreat in order to revive. And the best place to do that is in the garden.”
The same might be said for the business of rose growing. There’s been some retreat, and some revival, but certainly there’s plenty to celebrate with roses in 2012.