Mogens Nyegaard Olesen, Poulsen Roser A/S, breeder of roses and clematis

How breeders respond to the many developments in rose and clematis demand

From ‘instant gardening’ to heavily perfumed roses, there have been many developments happening in the demand for roses and clematis, according to Mogens Nyegaard Olesen, Chief Plant Breeder & Managing Director at Poulsen Roser A/S, a Danish breeder of roses and clematis. In this article, Olesen shares some important new trends and how they, as breeders, have changed their flowers to respond to these developments. In addition, he explains that the circumstances around disease risks is one of their biggest challenges, what effect this will have on the future of shipping plants, and how they managed to maintain their usual expansion rate during a pandemic.

Mogens N. Olesen in the greenhouse 

‘Instant gardening’
According to Olesen, there has been a big development over the years, a new interest for what he calls ‘instant gardening’. “Not only do consumers want nice flowering plants that have an abundance of flowers, they also do not want to wait two years for those plants to finally flower. Therefore, ‘instant gardening’ is becoming an important trend; people want something that instantly flowers beautifully  and can be put in the garden like that right away. As a response to this trend, we have developed clematis that are instantly free flowering, which is a big development, as you normally had to wait until the next season to see them flower.”

Roses with more perfume and quality
According to Olesen it has become increasingly popular for roses to have perfume, which is another aspect of their roses that Poulsen Roser has improved. “In the past, having a strong perfume affected the quality of the garden roses. Yet to have both a well perfumed rose with good quality increases the interest from consumers. As a result, our Renaissance Roses are growing in popularity, we have seen a 20% increase in demand per year. Therefore, this is something that we focused on these last years and our goal is to have a full assortment of roses with heavy perfume.” Unlike some other breeding companies, Poulsen Roser does not compete with their growers, which gives them the benefit of wanting to improve aspects for their growers as well. “Over the last ten years, we have been able to shorten the production time for our roses by two weeks. This means that you can already sell them in mid-May instead of June. When you are a little earlier in the season, the prices are better which is beneficial for the growers.”

Mum in a Million Renaissance Ghita 

Genetically compact flowers, without chemicals
Another important trend is that consumers want compact plants without the use of any chemicals. “In our trials we do not use any chemicals, growth retardants, or herbicides. Our roses and clematis production is done 100% organically. We worked hard to get plants that are genetically compact as well as free flowering, without the use of any chemicals.” In addition, a longer shelf life is another aspect that is becoming increasingly important for the consumer. “Whereas some flowers would only last for about five days in the past, our flowers can now last for almost three weeks while being constant with their flowering. This is an important development, as the end consumer has to be content with the quality of the product they are spending their money on.”

Disease risks: “more worldwide propagators needed”
Olesen explains that one of Poulsen Roser’s biggest challenges is that it is getting more and more complicated to ship plants to other countries. “For us it is important to have a good spread of propagators in each part of the world. Many countries are afraid to get diseases when they get flowers from other countries, and some are even closing their borders as a result. As a result, it is not possible to just send young plants around the world. If it remains this risky to get diseases shipped across the world, I don’t think it will be possible in the future to produce young plants in Africa and send them to Europe in the way that we do now. The solution will be to have more propagators worldwide, which is something our company is continuing to work on.”

Same expansion as normal
Despite COVID-19 impacting the world these last two years, Olesen shares that they were able to conduct most business as usual. “The only thing that was a real challenge, were the travel restrictions. But they were still manageable, as we have been able to travel around Europe by car.” The pandemic also affected the interest in flowers, but Olesen does see the disadvantage for the industry as well. “It is great that there has been more interest for our industry, but the extra interest also moved away our surplus of plants. You cannot grow such a large amount of plants on such short notice; breeding and growing plants of good quality takes time.” As the future is uncertain, Poulsen Roser is being cautious with decisions. “Overall, the demand for our products remained pretty much the same during the pandemic, as some clients took more plants than usual and some took none at all. We are grateful to be growing at a speed of 5-10% this year, which is the same expansion as usual.”

For more information:
Poulsen Roser
Mogens Nyegaard Olesen 

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