Knight's Roses is located in Gawler, the gateway to South Australia's famous Barossa Valley. As a second generation family business they are one of Australia's largest wholesale rose suppliers.
Knight’s Roses is the sole Australian agent for some the world’s most renowned rose breeders from Europe, including Guillot Roses of France, Rosen-Tantau of Germany, Harkness of England and James Cocker and Sons of Scotland.
Knight’s Roses produces over three hundred thousand roses a year, and is very proud to be the introducers for FireStar, the official rose of Country Fire Authority of Victoria, the Peter Brock Foundation Rose, in memory of Peter Brock and Black Caviar Rose, honouring the ‘World’s Greatest Sprinter’ with proceeds going to the National Jockeys Trust.
100 Years of Rose Breeding
For over 100 years, garden rose breeding has been the core business of Rosen Tantau. Twenty years ago, however, the company started intensively diversifying its breeding lines to different types of rose classes.
Rosen Tantau was established in the German town of Uetersen in 1906 by nursery gardener Mathias Tantau. With his two brothers, Tantau built up the business through the propagation of garden rosebushes, branching into rose breeding during the difficult years of the First World War. This proved to be a successful move, and in the following years Tantau introduced many famous varieties, including one of the first cut rose varieties to become successful worldwide – the productive and long- lasting red Garnette.
In the 1950s, Rosen Tantau passed into the hands of Tantau’s son, Mathias Tantau, Jr., who significantly changed the company’s breeding strategies. Tantau, Jr., anticipated the market’s need for larger flowered varieties with strong colours, which also had good resistance against fungal diseases. One of his biggest successes was in 1960, with the salmon-orange hybrid tea Super Star (Tropicana), which created a sensation with its bright, glossy colour combined with a strong fragrance.
Many other successful, strongly perfumed, large-flowered varieties with good winter resistance followed, and the company grew rapidly. By 1964, Rosen Tantau had 70 employees and propagated 3 million garden rose plants per year, with Tantau, Jr., winning many international medals and trophies for his outstanding rose varieties. In 1985, Tantau handed the company over to his trusted employee and family friend, Hans Jürgen Evers, and Rosen Tantau went on to become one of the world´s most important rose breeding companies by diversifying its breeding program.
Diversification of Breeding Programs
Garden rose varieties
Hans J. Evers introduced many rich-flowering and disease-resistant garden rose varieties in different categories, including the famous Santana (1985), Black Magic (1995), Candlelight (2001) and Pastella (2004).
Outdoor cut roses
Evers was one of the first rose breeders who selected and bred specialised cut rose varieties to be cultivated outdoors worldwide. One of the first varieties for this purpose was Diadem, with its different mutations. Later varieties included Monica, Majolika, Softy and today’s outstanding varieties,includingKessy, Mariatheresia and Nostalgie.
Professional cut rose varieties
With the introduction of the varieties Garnette in 1945 and Osiana in 1989, Rosen Tantau’s great success story started. The specialized cut rose Osiana was introduced in the Netherlands and then went to South America, and can be seen as Tantau’s ‘door opener’ to the very important cut rose market. Later, varieties like Black Magic, Akito and Vendela were launched with great success, boosted by the big increase in worldwide cut flower consumption.
During the last ten years, Rosen Tantau has become a global player in the field of roses, especially due to the diversification of its breeding programs. Today Rosen Tantau produces 2.5 million garden rose bushes of all kinds for cut rose production. The historic grounds of Rosen Tantau have been expanded and reconstructed, and are now the meeting place of rose experts from all over the world.
Rosen Tantau’s Success Story Continues
In 2000, Hans J. Evers’ son Christian Evers joined his father in introducing many promising cut rose varieties such as Cherry Brandy, Prestige and Sweet Haze, which have become famous worldwide. Since Hans Evers passed away in August 2007, Christian now runs the company. An accomplished rose breeder in his own right, he has released many brilliant varieties such as Chippendale®, Heidi Klum Rose®,Nostalgie® and the very interesting red rose Piano®.
In the future, we can assure you that you will see even more beautiful and successful rose varieties introduced by Rosen Tantau, whether they are cut roses, garden roses, roses for public green areas, pot roses or roses for other innovative purposes.
A Study in Dedication and the Pursuit of Excellence
Yorkshire, England, 1860: John and Robert Harkness, teenaged brothers who shared a love for the out-of-doors and horticulture, saved their pocket money and bought their first seeds. Horticulture was to be the life for them.
By the 1880s, they were successful exhibitors of gladioli and dahlias, winning championship awards. They expanded their interests to roses, staging 34 exhibits in 22 days at shows all over Britain and winning many awards. This involved over 8,000 miles of travel in the days before automobiles! Roses soon became their primary interest.
In 1895, they established their rose nursery in Hitchin. Eventually, Robert’s son Bill took over the business. Bill’s aim was to grow top quality plants of the best varieties. From 1939 to 1956, Bill won the Royal National Rose Society’s championship trophy every year it was staged, and held it 22 times in all, easily a record.
In 1961, the Harkness family made a momentous decision to breed new roses. Jack Harkness directed breeding work on a major scale, and within a few years Hitchin-raised varieties were being grown in every corner of the world. ‘Mountbatten’, ‘Alexander’, ‘Margaret Merril’, ‘Compassion’ and ‘Amber Queen’ proved most successful in the early years.
Peter Harkness says, ‘‘Through peace and war, and changing times, roses have been the anchor of the business; not always an easy way, but certainly a pleasurable way to earn one’s living.”
Improved Roses for the Future
To achieve steady improvement in the quality of roses, R. Harkness& Co. conducts a systematic and precise program for developing new varieties. The basis of the program is to focus on quality, not quantity, so that the rose experts at R. Harkness& Co. can closely monitor merit at every stage.
The process begins with parental planning, arranging a marriage between two roses that have the potential to yield a following generation with improved characteristics. At Harkness, many of the parents are from in-house ‘lines’ of breeding that have been carefully developed over previous years.
The chosen parents produce families of seeds; each seed from a pair of parents is similar, but not identical. At R. Harkness& Co., the annual average quantity of seeds is 40,000. By the end of the first year for the original 40,000 seeds, approximately 2% will be selected for further evaluation, while 98% will be discontinued and destroyed.
They then participate in field trials. The average period for field trials is 6 years. Each year, the characteristics and performance of the roses are monitored; the successful ones are re-grafted and the unsuccessful ones are discontinued and destroyed. At the end of the 6-year period, all that remains is a small group of survivors, usually from 6 to 10 roses, representing 0.0025% of the original 40,000.
These are the improved new roses that Robert and Philip Harkness will use to continue to guide and drive the company into the future.
Guillot (Rosa Generosa) Of France
Roses Guillot, Empreintes De Grande Tradition Et De Constante Innovation
A Legacy of Excellence
The Guillot family is proud to have fathered six generations of rose growers. The Guillot Roses story began in 1834, when Jean-Baptiste Guillot established his firm ‘La Terre des Roses’ (the Terrace of Roses) in Lyon, France, thus establishing the great Lyonnaise rose-growing tradition. Its first creation was a Bourbon Hybrid christened ‘Lamartine’, which was produced in 1842. In the following years, the firm accumulated an impressive 81 new varieties. Among these were many of the most beautiful old roses still marketed today, such as Mme.Bravy, Pavillon de Pregny, Triomphe de la Guillotière and Comtesse de Barbentane.
Over the next century, the Guillot family revolutionised rose growing, creating in 1849 the process which would ensure its recognition by rose-growers throughout the world: Shield-Graft Budding On Dog Rose Seedlings. Guillot’s son, Jean-Baptiste André Guillot, went on to create 69 varieties, including in 1867 a rose which would change the world of roses forever – the first hybrid tea, ‘La France’ (climber) – and in 1875, the first polyantha, ‘Ma Pâquerette’.
The firm was handed down from generation to generation, until in 1972, Jean-Pierre Guillot took in hand the destiny of the ‘RoseraiesGuillot’. It is he who manages the firm at the present time. After moving the nurseries from Saint-Priest to Chamagnieu, Jean-Pierre tackled the task of the firm’s modernisation to meet market requirements. These days, the firm produces and markets 250,000 rose plants a year. For several years now, two major aspects have guided the firm’s policy: The enhancement of old roses and the creation of new varieties.
Enhancement of the Old Roses
With an incomparable legacy of more than 500 varieties representing all the rose families, the Guillot family is without a shadow of doubt in the best position to talk about old roses. After years of research in the collections of rose gardens such as de l’Hay les Roses, Lyon or Bagatelle, Jean-Pierre has grouped together all the ‘House’ varieties still in existence, and has completed this collection by choosing the best varieties obtained since the seventeenth century, and in 1990 offering amateurs a list of 160 varieties. The following year saw the publication of the first illustrated catalogue entirely devoted to Old Roses.
Their current catalogue offers more than 500 varieties, including many that are not offered by any other rose grower. Research continues, and the next few years will no doubt see new treasures unearthed.
Creation of New Varieties
In this field as well, Jean-Pierre Guillot has continued the work of creation undertaken by the Guillot family since 1834. Jean-Pierre Guillot has created new roses that combine the charm and diversity of the Old Roses with the qualities of modern roses. They group these ‘New Old Roses’ under the name of ‘Rosa Générosa’. Sonia Rykiel® is a perfect example of this new type of rose. The RoseraiesGuillot are renowned for the delicate process of successful cross breeding and first year selections from the Marseillaise region, which benefit from optimal climatic conditions – long periods of warm weather favourable to the perfect ripening of the fruits.
The very carefully elaborated cross-breeding programs have the following objectives:
• To escape from the constraints of the present standards by looking for variance in shape, habits and foliage, which are the stamp of Old Roses.
• To reinforce and diversify the ‘Scented’ character, as the rose has the unusual particularity of developing numerous scents. With scents of violets, apple, banana, and lilies of the valley, roses create a whole world of aromas to be explored.
For 170 years, James Cocker and Sons have been producing and selling award-winning roses.The policy of the Cocker family through the years has been to grow and supply roses of real quality whilst delivering first class service, and this still continues today.
It was in 1840 that the late James Cocker – great-great-grandfather of the present senior partner, Alec J. Cocker – quarrelled with his employer about picking fruit on a Sunday. At that time, he was Head Gardener on the Castle Fraser estate and told his employer that he would gather fruit on Saturday night, no matter how late, but never on a Sunday. As a result of this, he left his employment and came to Aberdeen in the following year, 1841, and started a nursery business.
At the outset, the business catered mainly to forest trees and herbaceous plants, and as the business prospered it had to move several times to larger acreages until eventually, in 1960, the company purchased the farm of Whitemyres. The decision was then taken to specialise in rose growing. In 1964, with the introduction of the Plant Breeders Rights Act, the breeding of new varieties of roses was undertaken.
James Cocker and Sons have bred outstanding varieties such as ‘Silver Jubilee’, ‘Alec's Red’, ‘Glenfiddich’, ‘Remember Me’ and ‘Gordon's College’ (a.k.a. ‘Braveheart’), many of which have won numerous national and international awards over the years. New, outstanding varieties are still being bred and introduced, many of which have been commissioned by clients for personal, corporate and charity purposes.
In 1976, in recognition of the quality and high standards achieved, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granted the late Alexander M. Cocker the Royal Warrant as Suppliers of Roses. The following year, the rose now known as ‘Silver Jubilee’ was bred by Mr. Cocker. By kind permission from Her Majesty the Queen, he was allowed to use the name in celebration of her 25th year as monarch on the British Throne. ‘Silver Jubilee’ was to become the world's number one selling rose for many years and won several distinguished awards, but unfortunately he did not live to see the worldwide success of his rose as he passed away in November 1977. The Royal Warrant was then granted to Mrs. Anne G. Cocker, wife of the late Alec. In 2008, the royal warrant was passed on to Alec J. Cocker, the present senior partner. Being granted a Royal Warrant is a notable achievement of which the family is rightly proud.