NZ honour for magnolia breeder

Getting something good into gardens

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2014
Vance Hooper
CLEOPATRA RULES: Waitara plant breeder Vance Hooper with Magnolia Cleopatra, one of two magnolias that won him a national award.

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Magnolias Genie and Cleopatra have earned Waitara plant breeder Vance Hooper a prestigious award.

The Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture has awarded Hooper its plant raisers award for 2014.

It recognises breeders who are making a contribution to horticulture through their plant breeding.

Other Taranaki growers, such as Mark Jury and Jim Rumbal, have won the award in the past.

"The long-term goal is to get something good into people's gardens and to get an award like this is a bonus really," Hooper said.

He likes magnolias because when he sees the flowers start to come out and the light reflecting off them he gets all enthusiastic about planting and growing.

"They are popular because people value their early flowering and different colours and shapes and sizes."

He first started breeding magnolias in 1987 by accident.

"I found seedling that showed potential as a plant, that wanted to flower and wasn't going to be too big a grower. If you're breeding plants these days you have to produce them for a smaller garden. Everything in our breeding line comes from that, which is called Sweet Simplicity."

Hooper owns Magnolia Grove, which has .8ha of garden and 1.2ha of nursery for his mail order business.

You have to crunch the numbers to get a good variety, he said.

When he moved to his property in 2005 he started the garden from scratch.

"We planted 400 seedlings in 500sqm area and only propagated four or five. You have to get the genetics right. A new magnolia has to be different and relatively easy to grow."

When Hooper left school he moved from Otorohanga to New Plymouth and did an apprenticeship with Duncan and Davies.

He has bred 18 cultivars and has eight magnolias on trial in the Netherlands.

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