SELECTIVE rose breeding has been going on for hundreds of years but the pace of change has increased with improved understanding and technology.

Some new varieties are found by chance in a garden, usually as a "sport" (a branch that is not the same as the rest of the plant); but the vast majority are products of intensive breeding programmes all over the world.

For garden roses, most breeders are working on compactness, fragrance and, most of all, disease resistance.

Items like fragrance or colour are subject to fashion, and the breeder that produces the first true blue rose will make a fortune.

Roses for cut flower production are bred for stem life (how long the cut flower will last), and there have been some breeding programmes for roses for ease of growing/production as it is still one of the most labour-intensive plants to produce.

The basic breeding process is still that one parent's (male) pollen is collected from the stamens of one parent's flowers, and then brushed on to the flowers of the other parent.

There are other methods available, such as radiation bombardment of seedlings to produce mutations, gene manipulation and other genetic engineering techniques.

Random methods tend to be the preserve of amateur breeders however, as they can afford the time to take a chance.

Plant breeders do not earn their money by growing the new plant anymore; most new varieties have what is called a Plant Patent, which requires anyone wanting to grow this plant to have a licence from the breeder, which will specify how many plants they are allowed to grow.

In theory this includes amateur gardeners, but it is large-scale production that is more of a concern.

In Holland they use helicopters to monitor the crops grown in the main nursery areas, such is the amount of money involved.

Licences are also granted for specific countries, and Mattocks Roses (owned by Notcutts) is the UK licensee for Kordes, a major German nursery, for instance.

These relationships are very important, as innovations in other countries can be quickly incorporated into plants for the British climate.

On average there are 5,000 new varieties of plants each year, of which 40 or 50 are likely to "stay the course"; a bit like the pop music business!

Megan Rose is pictured with new rose Buxom Beauty.