After working for a pot rose grower in Denmark for several years and starting up and running an own pot rose nursery, Rosa Eskelund's passion for breeding was born. She wanted to achieve a large head compact pot rose and achieved it in 1995 and immediately established breeding company Roses Forever. After winning an award for this variety for the big heads a couple of years later, followed by another award for the smallest variety (in a 4cm pot) some years after, Roses Forever really took off. Growers started to contact her and good relationships started to grow. Nowadays, Rosa is working with several growers worldwide to trial her varieties and over the years, together with the help of her licensed growers, she expanded the assortment with garden, cut, edible and over the last years, she is working hard on fragrant pot roses.
Fltr: Harley and Rosa (1988) in their first production greenhouse, Rosa and Harley with some of their new ‘baby’s’ 20 years ago , and Harley and Rosa Today
From employee to grower to breeder
Already when she was a child, Rosa was highly interested in flowers and plants. She started growing pot plants when she was 17 years old (43 years ago). After school, when she was 21, she started (together with her husband Harley Eskelund) working at the first greenhouse company in Denmark that grew pot roses and propagated cut roses. The company was based in Kolding and they worked there for six years. Roses have become her and Harley's passion and they therefore wanted to grow them themselves as well. They bought a greenhouse in Lading just outside Aarhus, Denmark, and started to grow.
Rosa in her breeding greenhouse around 20 years ago.
Quickly, Rosa saw that there was more to gain in this potted rose market. "We were quite a small nursery and as the big nurseries always got the new varieties first, we were always a bit behind. On top of that, the pot roses on the market at that time were really mini roses and I thought, and hoped, that I could make a change." So, she started crossing. "I was so enthusiastic about breeding that I immediately bought jacket with 'Breeder' printed on it. Harley was laughing at me at first, but I kept going. I wanted a variety that had large flowers and a short cultivation period. In this way, we as growers could really make a difference."
In 1995, she succeeded and she put the first crossing on the market. She always kept in touch with her previous boss and after seeing this rose, he advised her to start more breeding. He didn't had to say that twice, in the same year, Rosa established Roses Forever. Later in the year, she won the a price in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the pot roses with the biggest flowers and later, one for the smallest rose (in a 4 cm pot), which has gotten very big in Japan.
Harley and Rosa's son Anders Eskelund, who is now also one of the owners of Roses Forever .
The business was established, the years were running well and she found it time for a breeding greenhouse. They built one far away to their production nursery, she hired some specialists to help her and she went off. She traveled the globe and participated in many exhibitions. As a result, increasingly more growers, from all corners of the world, who have seen the varieties have knocked on her door and in this way, she started corporations in many different countries.
Infinity White and King of Infinity.
Over the years, she continued developing new colors in the Roses Forever line and in 2012, she added a new line: the Infinity line, a line that is known for the mini pot roses with large flowers (diameter of 7cm) and long durability (+5 weeks indoor). Over the years, she expanded the line and scooped several awards; White Infinity, for example, won the Floradania Innovation Award in 2012 for best indoor plant IPM, Princess of Infinity won a medal at Plantarium in Holland in 2013, King of Infinity won a golden medal in the category ’Novelty of the Year’ at ’FlowerExpo 2018’ in Moscow.
Princess of Infinity and Maasland Gold Roses Forever
More types of roses
During the breeding of potted roses, she started to add new products. "I really breed for my growers, so if they are looking for a different type of rose, I will eagerly support them." When looking at the garden roses, for example, she met a Dutch garden rose grower who asked her to bud some of her pot roses in the field. The commercial pot roses she already had were not suitable for garden rose production, but with this request Rosa started to cooperate with the grower and start breeding garden rose. She put the line Sweet Home Roses (suitable for forcing in pot) and Plant'n'Relax (suitable for forcing in containers) on the market. Also in these lines, she scooped several awards and gold medals.
On the left: Golden Medal at Plantarium for Our Last Summer Plant 'n' Relax, a fragrant variety. On the right: Harley in the test field of the Plant’n’Relax garden roses
For the cut flowers, she also intensified breeding on request of a grower. "When I breed the pot roses, I always take some apart for which I see a good cut flowers. I mostly did this for myself, till a Dutch grower asked me to test them in the Netherlands. The grower seemed to be interested in these cut roses and we therefore continued breeding them and even established a new company: Viking Roses.
Three pot roses growers, from left to right: van Marrewijk of BM Roses in the Netherlands, Harley Eskelund from Denmark and Peng from AiBiDa in China.
Long and close worldwide relationships
Harley and Rosa attach much value to the relationships with their growers and partners all over the world. With many of them, they have a longstanding and close relationship. Below, a quick round around the world.
- YG Park in Malaysia and China
The owners of YG Park, who own a nursery in China and Malaysia met Rosa and Harley in November 2011. Since then, they are growing the Roses Forever roses in Malaysia and later also in China, when they established a nursery over there. How is the demand for the Roses Forever roses in these countries? Mrs. Lee Chiat, production manager at YG Park: "Roses Forever potted roses are popular because they are unique and distinguished. They are quite portable in pot size 10.5cm and they are also suitable as door gifts and souvenirs. On top of that, from consumer feedback, we hear that they are longer lasting." The majority of their varieties are grown in Malaysia, where they are, according to Chiat, very sought after by both local and export markets (Brunei, Singapore and Thailand). In China, the market is huge and they still have much potential to grow. "The population is high in China. So far our demand still surpasses the supply and we are still endeavoring to cope with the inadequate supply. Due to the strategic location of our nursery in YanCheng China, we could supply to many customers stay in the neighboring provinces which are far away from Kunming, where most of the farms are located."
Denmark is not next door for YG Park, but despite the long distance they still keep close contact, digitally as well as physically. "We met (and still) each other many times not only in Denmark (at least 4 times) but The Netherlands (8 times), Germany (2 times), China (numerous times) and Malaysia (at least 3 times).
Picture: Harley and Rosa with the team of YG Park, in 2011.
Harley at BM Roses.
- BM Roses in the Netherlands
Dutch potted rose grower Ad van Marrewijk has even a longer history with Rosa and Roses Forever. They already met in 2006, however cooperation did not started then. "At that time, we were looking for pot roses to expand our assortment, we liked the roses of Rosa, but at that time, she had an exclusive agreement with another Dutch grower. In 2011, however, when we expanded our company, we again contacted her - just in time, because the contract she had with the other grower was expired. We used to grow only 10.5 cm only, but when expanding the greenhouse, we also wanted 12 cm pots. As the pot is just a little bit bigger, we wanted a pot rose that clearly shows this difference. The large bud size, combined with the shelf life of this series made us decide for the Roses Forever pot roses.
Over the years van Marrewijk and Rosa and Harley built up a good relationship. They often see each other at exhibitions and once a year, van Marrewijk goes to Denmark, and Rosa and Harely visit BM roses in the Netherlands regularly too. "Every year, she sends 30 to 40 codes to trial them in our greenhouse."
When growing the Roses Forever pot roses, van Marrewijk quickly noticed a good demand for smaller pot roses with large head sizes. So, when Roses Forever introduced the Infinity roses in 2012, he immediately decided to start trialing these varieties in his greenhouse and added this new 10.5 cm line next to their existing line. Over the years, they expanded the assortment and he is pleased that they currently have the complete color palette of Infinity roses. "Buyers always want a trolley with a mix of colors." BM Roses sells the Roses Forever 12 cm line under the name Beau Monde and the 10.5 cm Infinity line under Artistique. They sell it to the buyers at the auction from where the products are being exported worldwide.
Blomsterringen visiting Roses Forever Flower Trials 2018
- Blomsterringen in Norway
Unlike the other companies, Blomsterringen is not a grower, but one of Norway's largest pot plants wholesalers. They mainly supply locally grown products, but also import from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. However, import taxes are high, so they are always eager to buy them from Norwegian producers. For several years, they've sold several types of roses from different breeders, but for the last two years they more and more got back to the Roses Forever assortment. But how did it started? More than 10 years ago, CEO Gudmund Baustad met Rosa and Harley and in cooperation with Norwegian growers, they were one of the first that put the Sweet Home Roses on the market. Then, the infinity, also grown by Norwegian growers, followed. For both series, the demand increases year after year, but why? Baustad: “To start with, the Norwegian growers, which are really professional, with professional equipment are always on the look for the best genetics. When starting growing the Roses Forever varieties, they really like the quality and habits. Then, our customers – garden centers, flower shops, and super markets – they really like the shelf life of the products. Also, some varieties in the Infinity series have a fragrance. This combined with the good and complete color range, our customers like the Infinity very much.” When looking at the Sweet Home Roses, Baustad says: “This series is a combination of the Infinity, the quality of this series, and the garden roses, the fact that they can be put outside.”
Rosa with the first grower who potted Sweet Home Roses in Norway.
Future in breeding
Rosa and her licensed growers have put on the market many different types of roses over the years. However, there is still much in the pipeline and dreams to achieve. Every country has its own taste and therefore its own preferences regarding roses. According to Chiat, their customers are looking for new varieties and expect more and more scented roses. As a grower, they hope that the new line of roses could be more heat tolerance and even longer lasting especially in our hot tropical climate. Also when asking van Marrewijk regarding his wishes regarding new varieties, he stresses the long shelf life. "The Infinity already has a long shelf life, but in the trials we've run for Rosa, we've seen some long lasting varieties with high potential - because a longer shelf life is always in demand." Baustad stresses the importance of pesticide and PGR free production, when looking to the future. “Across the board, we see more and more customers asking for pesticide and PGR free grown products. I think this is becoming more and more important in the future.”