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Flower power

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN

It's been a right royal week for a new Waikato horticultural export company which picked up a silver medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show - and had a visit from the Queen.
Tamata Holdings general manager David Parkes said the business began exporting mature Japanese maple trees to the United Kingdom just last year, but this week it was turning heads with an award winning debut exhibit at the iconic Garden Show.

''From a business point of view the experience has been really positive,'' he said. ''It's been a platform for us to meet the right people within the industry over here,'' Mr Parkes said.

The exhibit entitled Te maara nui o maples (the garden of great maples) was designed by Auckland landscape gardener Xanthe White, who was thrilled with the silver medal and to meet the Queen who chose just a handful of sites to visit out of more than 600 exhibits.

''It was such an honour to present our little garden to the Queen,'' Ms White said. ''She paused after meeting us to admire the Japanese maple trees in the garden, and her minders tried to hurry her along. Before she left she commented on the colours, and said it was 'lovely'. It made my day.''

Ms White said the Japanese maples were wonderful to work with. ''They are tough but beautiful,'' she said. ''Like All Blacks in tutus.''

Tamata Holdings export business began in 2010 as a long-term investment supplying UK markets with mature Japanese maples, otherwise known as Acer palmatum.

Mr Parkes said the decision to supply mature trees was a break in traditional exports where younger trees are generally exported for international markets.

''Normally trees are airfreighted when they are only a couple of years old but we are investing in mature age trees as we feel they are more hardy.''

The Japanese maples are grown on four Waikato blocks of land on Bruntwood, Marychurch, Pickering and Newell Roads.

Mr Parkes said the trees were ''renowned for their hardiness'' and grew twice as fast as Italian maples.

''And because we export as older trees we can sea-freight them to the UK when they are dormant in the early winter and then they arrive at their base north of Heathrow in the mid to late English summer,'' he said.

The trees are then replanted in air-pot containers and are given a further 12 to 24 months to acclimatise before being sold.

''So that's why the investment is a long term proposition but we do have big targets in mind down the track.''

The chairman and major shareholder of Tamata Holdings is Wellington businessman Rob Morrison, a former Asian investment banker and one of the 30 founders of the Copenhagen Climate Council.

The Waikato operation employs between 12 and 20 staff depending on the time of year and contracts Boyds Packhouse at Haupatu for preparing trees for export with the next consignment due for departure next month.

But for now Mr Parkes is enjoying his chance to showcase the Waikato grown trees at Chelsea.

''The trees from the site will be sold at a charity auction on Saturday with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeals for Japan and Christchurch so it's nice to think that New Zealand will benefit in some small way from our success,'' he said.

- Waikato Times


 

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