Herbie noticed in 1999 when growing a pink Chrysanthemum, Chempac Rose, a pink reflex, that one of the flowers on one of his
plants was a lot darker than the type. Instead of the expected pink, this flower was a very deep purple, a claret colour. The phenemenon is known as a genetic mutation, better known as a
Most gardeners dream of discovering a sport, but they very well know that the chances of such an occurence are very remote. Herbie could not believe his
The sport was there in front of him, but the challenge to his gardening skills was only beginning, how to consolidate the mutation.
Incredibly, the first step was to cut off the flower! The head was of course put on show and no doubt checked to make sure it was unique.
Next step was to apply a high nitrogen feed to the plant to force it to produce shoots. Such shoots are normally ‘rubbed off’ from flowering plants, but
in this case it was essential to obtain material for cuttings.
A six inch shoot was used to produce 4 stem cuttings and a tip cutting (read his book to find out the process) These were put to root in October and all 5 rooted successfully. These 5 young plants were used to produce more cutting material and the process was repeated until he obtained 25 plants in all. These were carefully marked and given special attention as they grew.
They were planted out in the garden in May and the growing tip was removed to make sure he got plenty of stock. The tips were also rooted, yielding another 25
little plants. Thereafter nature took its course. Herbie crossed his fingers!
In August the buds began to form and as they split Herbie waited anxiously for the colour. To his delight the five plants in his test bed all produced the
colour of the sport.
Next step in the process was a trip to England for display at the 2000 National Chrysanthemum Society Annual show in Stafford
There the Royal Horticultural Society pronounced the sport a new variety.
The flower reproduced its colour reliably, and Herbie was delighted to see Purple Chempak Rose featured on the front page of the National Chrysanthemum
Society booklet in 2000.
It takes another year for the final seal of approval, the title PCE (preliminary for cutting or exhibition) to be awarded in case the flower breaks down. This
will hopefully be achieved by the end of 2001.
The plant is now being propagated and distributed by the great man himself. Proceeds from sales go to The Northern Ireland Chrysanthemum Society, an organisation to which Herbie acknowledges his debt. To quote:-. ’Without them I
wouldn’t have been able to start growing Chrysanthemums in the first place.’.
Herbie is also a prominent member of his local Banbridge Horticultural Society.When he was off at Stafford his colleagues took care of his entry and ‘Purple
Chempak Rose’ took the title thus allowing Herbie to retain the Chrysanthemum Cup for the 15th year in a row.