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
hoffman-new-greenhouse-feature

September 30, 2016

How Hoffman Nursery Invests In Technology In Response T…

The North Carolina-based ornamental and native grasses producer recently invested in greenhouse structures and advanced automation to help increase efficiency.

Read More
cannabis-planted-in-a-greenhouse

September 29, 2016

The 10 Most Common Misconceptions About Greenhouse Cann…

In an emerging market such as cannabis, there can be a lot of bad information out there. One greenhouse supplier points out some common myths.

Read More

September 28, 2016

Pennsylvania Greenhouse Grower Applying For Cannabis Li…

Allen Wagner of Wagner’s Greenhouse in Grandview, PA, hopes to become one of 25 applicants — among as many as 150 — chosen for a grower-processor license.

Read More
finneran bee on snakeroot

September 28, 2016

Which Annuals And Perennials Are Good For Pollinators?

If you are a grower looking for information on producing plants that are safe for pollinators, or which plant types can be marketed as good food sources for bees, the new publication “Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes” provides a good resource.

Read More
The-Capitol

September 28, 2016

How The November Election Might Affect The Legalization…

National polls indicate Americans are largely divided on the topic, while this year’s presidential candidates generally feel it’s a state issue.

Read More
tomato spotted wilt virus angular-necrosis-of-leaves-and-plant-stunting

September 28, 2016

Tips For Managing Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus In Mums

According to a report from Michigan State University, symptoms of tomato spotted wilt virus on chrysanthemum include yellow blotching and rings, necrotic lesions, and stem collapse.

Read More
cannabis-crop-protection

September 27, 2016

Washington State Outlines Pesticide Criteria For Cannab…

The state has also compiled a searchable list of pesticides that fit the criteria for use on marijuana.

Read More
Vogel Alcove NGB Therapeutic Grant Winner

September 27, 2016

National Garden Bureau Announces Horticulture Therapy G…

The NGB’s annual grant program, Growing for Futures, recently selected three therapeutic gardens that will receive grants totaling $5,000.

Read More
phlox-fashionably-early-flamingo-walters-gardens

September 27, 2016

Walters Gardens Partnering With Darwin Colombia On Unro…

Beginning in spring 2017, Darwin Colombia will offer unrooted cuttings of more than 40 varieties of Walters Gardens’ new genetics, including many popular genera such as Agastache, Monarda, Nepeta, and Phlox.

Read More
totalgrow-night-and-day-management-boom-lighting-venntis-feature

September 27, 2016

Check Out The Latest In Lighting Technology For Greenho…

Manufacturers are developing several innovative lighting systems that can help growers save on energy efficiency, while improving plant quality. Here’s a look at some of their newest offerings.

Read More
cuttings-facility

September 27, 2016

How Global Suppliers Of Unrooted Cuttings Are Working T…

The world’s top vegetative producers discuss how they continue to evolve to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities to help growers and the varieties supply chain.

Read More
Streptocarpus Ladyslippers Grape Ice (Green Fuse Botanicals)

September 27, 2016

9 New Blooming Potted Plants To Jazz Up The Home And Ga…

Blooming potted plants are the ideal gift for anyone, from a homesick college student to a spouse in need of some cheering up. Check out nine these new introductions hitting the retail market in 2017.

Read More

September 27, 2016

Kitchen Counter Gardening Leads Garden Media Group̵…

This year's list includes several items around healthy living and eating, from gardening indoors year-round, to "forest bathing."

Read More
bruce-butterfield-and-ngs-image

September 27, 2016

Bruce Butterfield, National Garden Survey Researcher, D…

The man who headed up the National Gardening Survey for the past 35 years, Bruce Butterfield, has died. He was 67 years old. Butterfield’s work with the National Gardening Survey gave the green industry a reliable tool to understand consumer gardening practices and spending. Bruce Butterfield started his career as the Market Research Director at the National Gardening Association in 1978 and continued that same work until his death on September 5 as the Research Director at GardenResearch.com. “These many years of experience doing market research about gardeners and gardening trends gives him a unique understanding of who gardeners are, what they need and want, why they buy the products they do, where they shop, how gardening trends have changed in the past, and where they are headed in the future,” his bio on GardenResearch.com reads.       Butterfield was also behind What Gardeners’ Think and the Environmental Lawn […]

Read More

September 26, 2016

How Even An Overworked Plant Retailer Can Predict Consu…

Years ago, I read an article about Pottery Barn and the women who were making it a success. It was eye-opening to realize that a glossy, national chain like Pottery Barn used to buy products in a similar way garden retailers do. There was one section of that article that really caught my imagination. It was the profile of Celia Tejada, the woman who moved Pottery Barn from buying products from outside vendors to designing their own products. When Tejada joined Pottery Barn, she instructed her entire staff to begin keeping an eye out for things they liked, no matter how minor. So if they were at a restaurant with friends, or walking along a street and something caught their eye, they were to either buy it or photograph it and place it in a room set aside for these kinds of inspiration. When it came time to select themes for the […]

Read More
urban-outfitters-logo-feature

September 26, 2016

Terrain’s Parent Company Breaks Impass For Waterl…

There’s been a development in the stalled plans for a new Terrain garden store from Urban Outfitters on the former Waterloo Gardens location. In a letter to Easton Township, PA, officials, Urban Outfitters’ Chief Development Officer J. David Ziel says the company is removing a key element that had met strong resistance from the community around Devon Yards, its term for the development plan on the former Waterloo Gardens site. Devon Yards will no longer include a four-story apartment building in its “lifestyle center” project, Ziel wrote. But it will still include its third Terrain store, a large format Anthropologie, and several eateries. The planned apartment building had created friction with local residents, Mainline Media News reported back in April. While residents welcomed the retail aspects of the plan, they felt a large apartment building would change the character of the community. The developer who will work on the project, […]

Read More
Orius_June 2015

September 25, 2016

Peace Tree Farm Hosting Biocontrols Event In October

“Advanced Greenhouse Biocontrols for Ornamental and Vegetable Producers” will feature advice from biocontrol authorities Lloyd Traven and Suzanne Wainwright-Evans.

Read More
sbi-software-triumph

September 25, 2016

Greenhouse Software Suppliers Offering A Range Of New S…

Want to know what some of the leading software suppliers are doing to address the ever-evolving needs of their greenhouse customers? Here’s a brief update.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]