Colorfully Cajun

Remember walking into a Baskin Robbins ice-cream parlor when you were a kid? So many flavors to choose from – 31 to be exact. It was enough to make your little league baseball cap spin on top of your head.

Visiting Dupont Nursery (and its website) is a lot like that, especially for hibiscus lovers. From blooms of dark blues to golden greens, it’s clear this nursery hangs its hat on the unfamiliar. “We enjoy finding the new plants,” says Robbie Dupont, owner of Dupont Nursery. “It’s the biggest challenge, but we have a lot of fun with it. You have to.”

Father Knows Best

Located in Plaquemine, La., Dupont Nursery is a bedding plant nursery, wholesale distributor and exotic hibiscus hybridizer. Ninety percent of its business is selling finished annuals, perennials and specialty items to independent retail garden centers.

“[Hibiscus] is a big part of our business and it’s getting bigger all the time,” Robbie says. “We ship them all over the world. We have propagators in Spain, Italy and Portugal. We got a call from French Polynesia the other day.”

But long before the inquiring call from a tiny South Pacific island and all the hibiscus hybridizing, Dupont Nursery started off as a garden center and floral shop in 1956, under Bobby Dupont, Robbie’s father. Robbie took over the business in 1975, and 10 years later built a second location for growing, just a few miles away in Plaquemine.

The retail side of things ended several years ago. “We just couldn’t do it all,” Robbie says. “With retail, you’re limited by the number of people you have to sell to in a small town. On the wholesale end, you really don’t have those constraints. You can grow as big as you want to grow.”

His father, Bobby, retired from the floral industry in 1995. While retired, Bobby began breeding hibiscuses as a hobby, breeding more for collector-type blooms. He took these blooms into hibiscus shows, which generated a good deal of interest. In 2005, Bobby placed first at the National Hibiscus Competition with ‘Black Dragon.’ That same year, he also took second with ‘Etouffee.’

After some fatherly convincing, Robbie took these hibiscuses into production all the while making it a priority to develop a plant with more than just breathtaking blooms, but also nice growth habits.

Since then, much of Bobby’s “retirement” has been spent breeding hibiscuses, more than 200 varieties. His breeding process is extensive and aided by Father Robert Gerlich. Father Gerlich is a professor at Loyola University and also the president of the New Orleans Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society.

“Every year we plant seedlings,” Bobby says. “A couple of years ago we planted about 1,500, and out of those 1,500, we got about 100 varieties. Out of those 100, we had 20 or 30 that we went into production with.”

His son Robbie says hibiscuses take anywhere from six months to two years. When we see one that blooms well, that we like the bloom on, we’ll put it in the trial and see how it goes.”

Sport Fanatic

With a reputation built on exciting, new varieties, Dupont Nursery puts plenty of effort into developing sports, and not just with hibiscuses.
“A sport is simply recognizing that something’s very different about one plant in a large group of plants,” Robbie says.

“For instance, we have a new rudbeckia goldstrum called ‘Early Bird Gold’ that’s patented. This rudbeckia was in a group of maybe 1,500 seedlings in quart pots. They were all nice and even and green, about 3 inches tall, filling the pot. And then we had one plant that was 12 to 14 inches tall with 35 flowers on it. It was obvious there was something different about it.”

The Duponts discovered this plant didn’t require vernalization and it was day-length neutral, which means it will bloom much earlier compared to other varieties.

Other popular Dupont Nursery sports include a scaevola called ‘Cajun Blue’ and a coreopsis called ‘Sundancer,’ both of which are patented. ‘Sundancer’ actually came out of a group of the ‘Sunray’ variety Dupont Nursery was growing. “It’s the only coreopsis that will reliably bloom in Florida,” Robbie says. “It’s self-sterile, so it doesn’t have the big seed heads on it.”

Southern Style

“Home of Cajun Color,” is a little tagline the Duponts came up with years ago to differentiate their business, says Robert, who also heads up the branding for Dupont Nursery. The driving force behind this slogan is the popular Cajun hibiscus line. “It’s on our tags and our pots. It definitely gave us our own identity.” Through MasterTag, the nursery came up with a picture tag in 2008. “It’s a very classy-looking tag and it seems to have helped,” he adds. “We sell it on the finished one gallon.”

Another recent update to the Cajun hibiscus line is 10-inch hanging baskets. This is the first year Dupont Nursery has offered the hibiscus hanging baskets and they’ve been very well received. “We’ve created a monster and now everyone in the country wants them,” Robert says. There are four varieties that do particularly well in hanging baskets: ‘Hanging Garden,’ ‘Wild At Heart,’ ‘Louisiana Flash,’ and ‘Evangeline.’

In addition to their own branding effort, Dupont Nursery is licensed to grow the Suntory and Athens Select lines, along with a few varieties from Itsaul Plants.
And while Father Gerlich has helped Bobby Dupont in the hibiscus breeding line, son Robbie also needed some help, but on the production side of things.
“Two years ago, we licensed Sun-Fire Nurseries to help beef up the production of hibiscus,” Robbie says. Sun-Fire is based just outside of Sarasota, Fla., and seemed like a logical partner, according to Robbie. “They do bougainvilleas and Suntory mandevillas. We realized we needed to have someone in Florida where the growing climate is even better for hibiscus. At Sun-Fire, the hibiscuses are grown with a lot less effort and a lot less heat.”

In house, Dupont Nursery’s production line consists of a tray filler, a pot dropper, a manual transplant line and a watering tunnel. During peak season, Robbie employs approximately 70 workers. “We use monorail carts to distribute the plants throughout the nursery,” Robbie says. If everything goes well for the Duponts, they would like to have a new automatic transplanter up and running by summer.

“Business is up from last year and there’s not enough hours in the day,” Robbie says. “At times it’s been so busy, we’ve had to pull the planting crew to help us pull orders. That’s why I think the transplanter is the answer.”

 

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Colorfully Cajun

  1. Hellow, I wanted to buy several different hibiscus from my nursery in Slidell [Garden Spot]But they didn’t have the ones I was looking for.Could I place an order through them and get them from you?

  2. Hellow, I wanted to buy several different hibiscus from my nursery in Slidell [Garden Spot]But they didn’t have the ones I was looking for.Could I place an order through them and get them from you?

Latest Stories
Gage Willey

August 17, 2017

Shinoda Scholar of the Year is Aiming for a Long Career…

Gage Willey, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is working toward a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Greenhouse/Nursery Production. His goal is to own a production and retail nursery.

Read More
AFE Scholarship Video

August 16, 2017

Looking to Host an Intern This Year? Consider AFE’s Sch…

The American Floral Endowment is accepting applications for its Vic and Margaret Ball Intern Scholarship Program and Mosmiller Intern Scholarship Program until Oct 1. Interested companies can apply anytime to become a host employer.

Read More
Delta T Devices WET Sensor in Space

August 15, 2017

Greenhouse Environmental Sensor is Truly “Out of This W…

Delta-T’s multi-parameter WET Sensor has been used by Chinese astronauts aboard the Tiangong-2 Space Lab to cultivate lettuce plants within the weightless atmosphere.

Read More
griffin-expo

August 15, 2017

Griffin Becomes Newest Distributor for Master Nursery G…

The agreement allows Griffin to join Master Nursery’s network of more than 150 supplier partners, while giving Master Nursery access to new product and service options for member businesses in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest regions.

Read More
Tal Coley, AmericanHort Director of Government Affairs

August 15, 2017

AmericanHort Has a New Director of Government Affairs

Tal Coley, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has an extensive background in issues advocacy, will play an active role in AmericanHort’s upcoming Impact Washington event in September.

Read More
Recyclable Horticulture Plastic Containers

August 15, 2017

How to Know Which Plastic Containers You Can Recycle

Michigan State University’s Garrett Owen offers tips to help you properly dispose of plastic containers, flats, and trays.

Read More
Francis Kwong, PanAmerican Seed

August 15, 2017

Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65

Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

August 15, 2017

Why Consumers May Be More Interested in Plants Than You…

A visit to a local lavender event is a reminder that when you tap into something consumers are excited about and want to experience, the reward can be long-lasting,

Read More
Three Sections of Vineland Research Centre

August 14, 2017

Canadian Greenhouse Conference Features Focus on Techno…

This year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference kicks off on October 4, and there is no shortage of presentations devoted to how growers can implement new technology in their greenhouses.

Read More
Youngs Greenhouse Space Growing Feature

August 14, 2017

How Young’s Plant Farm Invests in New Structures and Eq…

The Auburn, AL-based Top 100 Grower operation is improving its production infrastructure so it can continue to efficiently produce quality plants and keep up with demand.

Read More
HOVE International Rolling benches on concrete

August 11, 2017

Greenhouse Bench Systems Designed to Handle Any Space

HOVE bench systems from HOVE International can accommodate multiple levels while allowing for run-off water collection.

Read More
DTH 800 (Link4 Corporation)-feature

August 10, 2017

New Sensors Can Help You Manage Your Greenhouse Crop 24…

The wrong environmental conditions in your greenhouse can potentially lead to significant crop loss. Here’s how sensor technology manufacturers are helping you safeguard your greenhouse.

Read More
LED toplighting, Runkle - feature

August 9, 2017

Lighting Technology Under the Microscope at Production …

Here’s a sneak preview of three lighting trends that will be discussed by Erik Runkle at the Production Technology Conference.

Read More

August 9, 2017

Vestaron

Vestaron’s Spear insecticides carry labels for control of thrips, white flies and spider mites on both greenhouse ornamentals and greenhouse vegetables.

Read More

August 9, 2017

Bayer

Bayer’s Altus insecticide can be used before, during and after bloom to control whiteflies, aphids and other sucking pests on a wide range of ornamental pests.

Read More

August 9, 2017

Jiffy

Jiffy’s orchid plug propagation system has been shown to deliver production time savings from 25% to 40% as the uniform substrate stimulates fibrous root growth throughout the plug.

Read More

August 9, 2017

Stockosorb

Stockosorb’s 660 is the company’s most advanced hydrogel product. It is easy to apply and it provides consistent soil moisture to minimize growers’ watering requirements and reduce shrink.

Read More

August 9, 2017

Scotts

Scotts’ Root Factory brand features a range of professional growing media products that offer high-performance mixes with perfectly balanced ingredients to offer cost savings and reduced production cycles.

Read More