In Western Bay of Plenty, at Highland Roses, rose growers Alistair Grant and his wife Anne Mackersey tend to 12,000 plants secured under 1600 square metres of cover.
The couple work hard managing their highly concentrated rose population, employing an integrated pest control system where natural predators, insects that Alistair and Anne introduce, deal effectively with pests like whitefly and two spotted mite before these diseases take hold and spread quickly.
Alistair acknowledges that they do use soft sprays when it’s absolutely necessary, but they’re also committed to sustainable practices that enhance the quality of their roses, as well as protecting their health and the wellbeing of those around them.
So far there appears to be nothing extra special about their operation. A commitment to quality product, niche marketing and sustainable practices is not entirely unusual among New Zealand flower growers, but Alistair and Anne have some special friends living and working among the roses that Alistair believes makes Highland Roses unique.
‘We’ve definitely seen and identified six frogs living among our roses, although we suspect there are eight of them. They are timid and move so quickly that it’s hard for us to be certain about how many we have. Our big one, the one who has no fear and makes himself totally at home, has been here at least three years now,’ says Alistair. “I’m pretty certain they are Green Bell Frogs and they’re an additional, intuitive weapon in our pest control arsenal.’
Green Bell Frogs originate from eastern parts of Australia’s New South Wales and Victoria where they are under threat of extinction, unlike their cousins in the North Island of New Zealand, from Bay of Plenty to Far North. Bell Frogs tend to stay where they choose to make their home and they like habitats that are complex. They also appear to eat anything that moves.
‘I think our frogs eat whatever takes their fancy,’ says Alistair. ‘We also believe they stay with us because our habitat works for them. Our methods of pest control mean we introduce nothing toxic into their environment. That makes us feel good too; it means we’re definitely doing something right.’