By Jacques Ferare
If you read this blog often, you may already know that I have the opportunity to visit with Alain Meilland at his house in Cap d’Antibes on the French Riviera once in a while. It is always a pleasure to visit Alain and to learn from his deep knowledge of all aspects of the rose business: the good (new varieties, exciting breeding directions, launching Drift® Roses in Europe), the bad (Europe had very poor weather in all of 2013 affecting everyone’s sales), and the ugly (rose diseases, old and new). Because he has such an encyclopedic memory, (and some of today’s issues are nothing new to him), I particularly like to talk to him about the ugly — even though he does not enjoy it as much as the other topics. In most cases, he has the documents to prove the information he shares, some even date back to the 1950’s.
You can tell that Alain wants to make sure that the knowledge is carried on. That’s why more and more he brings Matthias, his oldest son, along in our conversations. Matthias is a fine young man, now in his early 30’s, who after training in photography and filmmaking has joined the company. He came on board full time about a year ago to take over the all important photo library, and now he oversees all the P.R. and marketing efforts. We are in fact working with him rather closely on a lot of projects, including the most recent one where we are helping Meilland launch the Drift® Roses in Europe. Matthias is also a budding rose breeder, and he and his wife carry the tradition of breeding roses on the old family grounds where it all started. He even has his almost 5-year-old son help with the crosses.
It is exciting for me to work with Matthias (pictured above with his father) as he brings a lot of enthusiasm, a deep knowledge of the business as well as a fresh perspective that I am sure will bear a lot of fruits in the years to come. He is also a good listener, not bored by the old rose stories that I tell him every time we meet, and kind enough not to mention that he’s heard these stories more than once. He also doesn’t hold a grudge about the fact that, in the States, we chose not to introduce the rose bearing his name (Matthias Meilland is a very nice red floribunda) while we introduced both his siblings (Anthony Meilland, a yellow floribunda, and Sonia, the florist rose who was the ultimate best seller in her days).
It is always a pleasure to go back to my hometown in winter when it is at its most picturesque — after all winter is the time of the year when the European nobility “discovered” the French Riviera in the mid 1800’s to escape the weather in Northern Europe. They were the first snowbirds. Maybe a topic for another blog post?