Helix Australia has conducted its annual tour of its licensed waxflower growers in South Africa this week. Hosted by Adrian Parsons, Managing Director Helix Australia, this year's tour group consisted of growers from Israel, Portugal, and Italy and representatives from Kings Park & Botanical Garden. The tour included visits to waxflower growers Arnelia Farms, Flora United, and Philadelphia Farms. The tour concluded with visits to local bouquet maker The Flower Shed and Stellenbosch protea grower Morgenster Protea Boedery. Adrian Parsons outlined the details and objectives of the annual tour.
Tour group at Arnelia Farms
"Last year's inaugural Sth African Waxflower Tour was a great success and resulted in a much-increased uptake and awareness of our new varieties, especially with our growers in Israel," says Parsons.
"We deliberately schedule the tour to enable our guests to eyeball early and mid-season flowering varieties and also witness both the plant form, vigor, and bud set on our later season wax varieties….."
Parsons continued, "In addition, tour guests can also observe the trials of many new Waxflower hybrids being assessed for flower color, bloom size, plant vigor, and harvest period.
Digby Growns, Senior Plant Breeder Kings Park & Botanic Garden, said it was exciting to see the development in the trial hybrids that were first observed on the 2022 South African tour, particularly the growth and flowering of the larger flowering waxflower varieties.
Digby continued, "We are looking forward to seeing the elite hybrids from these trials being commercially available in the next few years with our production partners in South Africa, Israel, California, and Australia."
Bertu Nieuwoudt, Adrian Parsons, and Willem Verhoogt at with the newly released Waxflower Niek's Pride at Flora United Farms
As well as the assessment of new cut flower waxflower hybrids, the tour also was able to see the trial progress on Helix Australia's range of pot flower forms of Waxflower. Historically, many potted waxflower hybrids are the same hybrids used for cut flowers, and the tall forms are not always suitable for nursery/pot production.
"Helix Australia is now able to offer a range of up to 12 compact waxflower forms which all lend themselves to use in smaller garden/ balcony environments, and such compact waxflower forms also present and merchandise much better in a retail garden center environment."
Compact Waxflower Sorbetto
Sue McDougall, Director of Western Australian Botanic Garden, attended the waxflower tour for the first time and said spending time with both the Israeli and South African growers on the ground has provided her with a greater understanding of the challenges growers face, but also the opportunities for waxes. "This information will enable the Kings Park breeding program to respond to market demands and deliver strong varieties that fill the gaps in the supply chain."
"Some of the new Kings Park varieties we have seen on trial are outstanding, and I'm super proud of Digby and the plant breeding team, who have delivered compact potted varieties in addition to varieties suitable for cut flower production," said McDougall.
Helix Australia will continue to organize this tour each August to help further expose its expanding waxflower range to its network of global production partners.