Breeder ready for new show season

By Sandra Simpson

It's been good season for Te Puke dahlia breeder Peter Burrell _ of the 150 seedlings he starts each year he normally saves three or four but this year has retained eight.

``I've been involved with dahlias for about 25 years,'' Peter says. ``My wife Val was the keen one, I just drove her to the shows.''

However, it wasn't long before the former MAF employee decided to use his horticultural knowledge and began his quest to breed new varieties.

``I saw a champions table where 90 per cent of the blooms were white or yellow,'' Peter says. ``I swore I would never see that happen again and ever since I have been aiming at new colours.''

He imports breeding stock from England, which costs him something like $200 for six tubers after biosecurity inspections and certification.

Every dahlia breeder in the world adopts a breed prefix and Peter has chosen Kotare (kingfisher). Plants that make it through his selection process are grown for three years and constantly reassessed. The best tubers are released for sale in year four.

``I used to lease part of the section next door and had 360 tubers all up but that land isn't available now.'' He plans to extend his home garden next year.

Peter, a past president of the national Dahlia Society, co-manages the North Island dahlia trial grounds in Rotorua, while Val is the current national treasurer. Son Mark is now the show driver and also helps in the garden which just now is blooming umbrellas to protect flowers from sun and rain in preparation for the show season.

The Waihi Dahlia Show on Wednesday is the first on the calendar with the North Island national show in early February.

Among the blooms are some sure to stir interest, including Hillcrest Candy from England which will be making its New Zealand debut.

Peter is a member of the Hamilton, Rotorua and Te Awamutu dahlia groups after the Bay of Plenty went into recess. ``We're hoping some young ones might come through and it will pick up again,'' he says. ``It's all there waiting.''

- Bay of Plenty Times

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