Legendary New Zealand and international rose breeder Sam McGredy has died in Auckland.

He is best known as the moving force behind establishing the annual Pacific Rose Bowl Festival at Rogers Rose Garden in Hamilton Gardens.

The festival is unique in that public votes decide the winners of all categories by voting for their favourite roses.

Unlike most other rose competitions around the world which are judged by experts, the New Zealand Rose of the Year has been judged by the public since 2004.

Advertisement

New Zealand-bred McGredy roses include Dublin Bay, Gantry Bay, Sexy Rexy, Paddy Stephens, My Girl and Aotearoa.

The New Zealand Rose Society paid tribute to McGredy, calling him an icon of roses in New Zealand and around the world.

The Rose Society says he helped establish Plant Variety Rights in New Zealand, which gave plant breeders of a wide variety of species the ability to protect new cultivars and make a return on their investment in developing them.

It says he had also encouraged and supported other rose breeders in New Zealand, who are now producing many fine roses.

"May Sam rest in peace and let us treasure all those beautiful roses he created."

A rose called Paddy Stephens, one of the New Zealand-bred Sam McGredy roses. Photo / File
A rose called Paddy Stephens, one of the New Zealand-bred Sam McGredy roses. Photo / File

McGredy attended the NZ Rose of the Year awards at Hamilton Gardens in November where he presented the top award, the Sam McGredy Perpetual Challenge Award for Excellence in Roses – or The Pacific Rose Bowl – to rose breeder Rob Somerfield from Te Puna near Tauranga.

Somerfield who was winning the trophy for the fifth time,is acknowledged as probably New Zealand's leading rose breeder, after McGredy.

The festival also awards the Sam McGredy Perpetual Challenge Award for Excellence in Roses.

Advertisement

The festival takes place under the Pacific Accord of Friendship. McGredy initiated the friendship affiliation with the common objective of promoting roses worldwide.

The festival is named after the trophy awarded to the winner of the New Zealand Rose of the Year Trials.

The accord includes trial gardens in Adelaide, Australia; Rose Hills, California and Gifu, Japan.

Representatives from these gardens regularly attend each other's events and are committed to promoting roses around the world.

Born in Portadown, Northern Ireland, Sam was only 2 when his father died leaving him heir to the family rose nursery, established by his great-grandfather, the first Samuel McGredy, in 1880.

The nursery was requisitioned during World War II for the growing of vegetables and on his return from the United States at the end of the war, the schoolboy found "half-a-dozen scungy glasshouses filled with tomatoes and no one who knew anything about roses".

At its peak under his stewardship, the nursery grew one million plants on 120ha and had 160 staff.

From about 60,000 seedlings a year, two or three were chosen for release to the market.

After several friends and business associates, both Catholic and Protestant, were murdered during the troubles in Northern Ireland, Sam decided to move to another country, preferably one where he wouldn't be so reliant on greenhouses.

He and his family arrived in New Zealand in 1972.

He is survived by his wife, Jillian, his children and grandchildren.

McGredy was a big rugby fan and his funeral will be held at Eden Park on Monday. – with reporting by NZHerald