Everyone grows roses in South Australia. There are even roses instead of weeds in the roundabouts. So it stands to reason that South Australia has produced some fine rose breeders. One of them is George Thomson, who has been breeding roses since the 1960s. Thomson has worked closely with Willunga-based Ross Roses, which for the past two decades has specialised in Australian-bred roses. Thomson’s ‘Hans Heysen’, thought to be the only rose with ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ in its parentage, is a beauty, as is ‘Crown Princess Mary’. Yet his most influential rose is one that is only available to gardeners as a beauty product, not a plant.
It’s ‘The Jurlique Rose’, bought by the South Australian-based beauty company in 2015 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Thomson’s then unnamed rose, bred over 10 years from complex parentage, appealed to Jurlique for its pale pink, highly perfumed flowers and worker-friendly, almost thornless stems. The clincher, though, was its prodigious number of petals.
For a beauty company, petals are everything. The Jurlique farm in the Adelaide Hills produces 700-800 kilograms of petals per season. The petals are hand-harvested weekly from November, and twice weekly during the summer peak, from fully open blooms. Only the petals are taken – the harvesting team goes through later to dead-head the stems – which are then dried on racks in a big drying shed. They are then steamed to distil the oil, then percolated to draw out the nutrients. The residue is re-dried and burned to extract minerals and salt from the ash. No skerrick is wasted: oil, nutrients and ash all go into the products.