American rose brand abandons structure due to difficult market

All America Rose Selections (AARS) - the US rose brand - has become the latest victim of the recession as challenging market conditions have led its backers to abandon its current form.

The recent bankruptcy of horticultural giant Jackson & Perkins (J&P) was just the latest blow to the AARS, as it saw the number of members introducing roses for trial dwindle to just two.

AARS immediate past president and Weeks Roses research director Tom Carruth said the six remaining members were in the process of devising a new model that would see the venture focus only on trialling.

He explained: "We made the decision to refocus the organisation because it was proving to be a mechanism that wasn't doing what we needed any more. It was very regrettable to lose another introducing firm (J&P), but that was just the straw on the pile. We are at a point where roses are in disfavour - plants come and go from fashion. We have been pleased with the positive response to our plans to refocus things, but we have got a lot of work ahead."

The AARS was founded in 1938 and boasts a network of 21 trial sites around the country. One of the problems the brand faced was in the variation of the continent's climate, making a National Trust mark problematic.

Former members and interested parties were invited to a meeting last month to discuss potential changes at the organisation and Carruth said the new model would be similar to the ADS in Germany but no decision had been reached over whether the new model would be given a new brand name.

He added: "We are hoping to retain the existing garden network and work towards forming a new organisation that is just for introducing firms and international breeders to take advantage of this nationwide trust.

"Roses would be tested without spray and any that achieved a certain point score could use the brand. We have to get it up and running in three months because the first plants will go out in January."

C&K Jones owner and Weeks UK agent Keith Jones lamented their demise, saying the brand was still recognised in the UK.

He said: "Growers do take notice if an AARS has been released here in the UK but just because it's AARS doesn't mean it will cope in UK weather. Sometimes they are just not good enough - mainly due to us having a lot more rain. But certainly if they come through we do use it for marketing."

Blooms of Bressingham president Gary Doerr said: "The market over here is in a period of tremendous upheaval right now. I don't recall anything like this in my nearly 40 years in the trade. Grafted roses may lose their production base as the fumigants essential to the field production are soon expiring and a suitable replacement has yet to be identified.

"What this means is the money is being sucked out of the system. Growers and the AARS are feeling the effects most directly."

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