A quest for the right orange rose

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“For more than 8 years, we have been searching for the right orange rose, and eventually we found the Comanche,” says Patrick Mbugua of Wildfire Flowers, a Kenyan family flower farm that grows roses and hypericums. In this article, Mbugua tells more about this search and his experiences with the Comanche variety.

Patrick Mbugua in the Wildfire Flowers greenhouse in Naivasha, Kenya

44 hectares of flowers
Close to Lake Naivasha, Kenya, at an altitude of 1890m, we find the Wildfire Flowers flower farm. It covers an area of 44 hectares, of which 19 hectares are used for growing roses, and 25 hectares for hypericums. Whereas the roses are grown in greenhouses, the hypericums are grown in the open-field. The fact that Wildfire Flower currently has over 680 employees makes it hard to believe that it has started from humble beginnings in 2000. Today, the company is an exporter of 55m stems. Mbugua says: “In principle we sell the flowers directly to our customers who are mainly based in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, the Middle East, and Japan. However, about 10% of our hypericum supply is currently sold via the auction. Initially, we sold all our hypericums to the auction, and overtime increasingly directly to our customers. Nevertheless, we felt that it’s important to maintain our brand at the auction. We treat the auction as a customer, that’s why still 10% of the hypernicums is sold there.”

The greenhouses at Wildfire Flowers are located at an altitude of 1,800m above sea level.

Finding the right orange
In 2006, Wildfire Flowers started to cultivate roses, from that moment onwards they began to grow rose varieties from De Ruiter, a Dutch rose breeding company with trial and selection areas in Europe, Africa, South America, India, and China. Mbuagua comments on this decision, saying: “By then, and still today, De Ruiter has the most diverse and successful range of retail varieties.” Since 2018, Mbuagua is growing De Ruiter’s Comanche variety, he elaborates: “For more than 8 years, we have been searching for the right orange rose, and eventually we found the Comanche. For 8-10 years we searched for an alternative orange to add to the existing options available. We are involved in the retail sector, which requires a full color mix all year. Orange must be part of this mix, it’s an important and popular color that is demanded by the market all year round, we use it ion our bouquets and mixed bunches. For this reason, a consistent production of orange roses is key. After running trials for a year, we felt the Comanche fit our range of products in terms of vase life, color, head size, length profile and yield.”

The Comanche rose

Positive results
“We are very pleased with the results; the Comanche has a good color and a good production. This variety is a very heavy producer. It produces 300 stems per square meter each year. Indeed, the Comanche tends to shoot massively, however this can reduce the overall quality of the rose. To increase the overall length and quality of this variety, it’s best to have no more than 240 stems per square meter each year. For this reason, we decided to plant 1,4 hectares of the Comanche rose. Moreover, this variety does well in terms of its sensitivity to pest and diseases. It has a medium sensitivity to powdery mildew and mites, and even a low sensitivity to Downey mildew and botrytis. Also, the market reaction to the variety is positive, especially due to its color,” Mbuagua concludes.

The Comanche rose in the Wildfire Flowers greenhouse

For more information:
Wildfire Flowers
Patrick Mbugua
[email protected]

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