Conard-Pyle Downsizes, Focuses On Genetics

The Conard-Pyle Co. is leaving the wholesale nursery business and redirecting its efforts to focus on the creation, development, patenting, marketing and licensing of its proprietary genetics. The 113-year-old company based in West Grove, Pa., will continue to produce bare root roses and liners of roses and other proprietary material, as well as broker rose and perennial liners.

The division of the business that is closing, CP Wholesale, produced finished container nursery stock primarily for independent garden centers. While the Maryland facility will be sold, the Pennsylvania wholesale facility will be leased. CEO Steve Hutton, a third-generation nurseryman, says up to 85 employees will be affected over the next 12 months. Severance packages based on seniority have been offered to all qualifying employees. If a sale and lease can take place soon, it is probable some of the existing staff will be retained.

“It has been an emotional decision,” Hutton says. “We’ve been doing this an awful long time and have great relationships with our customers and have great employees we’re not going to have room for because our new direction is less personnel intensive. I know it’s the right thing for the company, but it’s bittersweet because it means hurting people who mean the world to me.”

Going forward, the company will still be known as The Conard-Pyle Company and will be headquartered at the present location.
Its divisions are:
• CP License, which develops new plant varieties, seeking patent and trademark protection, and growers and sublicenses them to third-party growers
• CP-Meilland Star Roses in California, which focuses mainly on proprietary rose genetics and distributes bare-root rose plants and brokers plugs and liners.


A Diverse Heritage

New product development and reinvention has always been part of Conard-Pyle’s heritage from its early origins in the 1800s distributing fruit trees and later becoming a mail order company for flowering plants and specializing in roses. The Star Roses brand Conard-Pyle still uses today was well established in 1925. In 1963, Conard-Pyle switched from field production to become one of the first container production nurseries in the Northern United States. In 1978, the company became strictly wholesale and closed its retail and mail order businesses.

This year marks the end of a 32-year run on the wholesale nursery side, a segment which has been especially challenged with the economic downturn, much more so than for greenhouse bedding plant operations. “Outdoor nursery has a two to three-year production cycle and can’t move as quickly,” Hutton says. “Production is entirely speculative four years out. One of our customers asked, ‘Is this a decision you made for yourselves or was it forced upon you?’ This absolutely was a decision we made for ourselves, not for lenders or stockholders. It’s a strategy we spent a lot of time discussing and agonizing over.”

On the wholesale side, Conard-Pyle is one of the founding partners of the Novalis group, which produces finished plants for independent garden centers under the Plants That Work brand. Founding partner Carolina Nurseries is on the brink of closing after losing its financing and has until June 21 to secure new financing. Despite this, Hutton says he believes the Novalis group is still on sound footing.

“Novalis is a vibrant program unto itself but it’s a finished plant program,” Hutton says. “We’re just finishing the last of our plants now. The conversations we want to have in the future is being involved with Novalis at another level.” The growers in the Novalis group did have exclusive access to some key Conard-Pyle genetics, including the Double Knock Out roses.

A Rosy Future

Introduced in 1999, the Knock Out roses have been a phenomenal success, revolutionizing shrub roses with disease resistance, growing ease and flower power. Developing these types of plants will be a big part of Conard-Pyle’s future.

“It’s great to have the wind of Knock Out to our backs,” Hutton says. “It has been successful, a very good product, but we’ve spent many decades developing new varieties. It has been the quiet center of our company. We’ve always emphasized introducing new plants. In my grandfather’s generation it was the ‘Peace’ rose. For my father, blue hollies. For me, it has been Knock Out.”

Many of Conard-Pyle’s offerings come from third-party breeders. Knock Out came from Bill Radler, a backyard breeder in Wisconsin with a laser focus on breeding disease reisistance. The Drift roses are from Meilland International in France. Conard-Pyle also works with outside breeders in perennials and shrubs.

“We can’t breed everything we could possibly introduce, but we want to make sure there’s always something in the pipeline,” Hutton says. “You could have a drought with third-party breeders. We make sure the pipeline is filled with our own breeding.”

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “Conard-Pyle Downsizes, Focuses On Genetics

  1. One can only hope for a “Rosy Future”. Conard-Pyle needs to learn the basic management skill of trusting the middle management you have put in place. Then listening to what they have to say, and lastly acting on the information put forth by those individuals. To some it up, communication is the evolution of business.

  2. It’s interesting how Conard Pyle has the wind of the Knock-out rose behind them and is basking in the profits from this success. But it’s very sad they do not recognize a fatal disease called Rose Rosette Disease that has the potential to kill all roses including the (alledged) disease free Knock-Out rose. The knock-out is not totally disease resistant it is succeptible to Rose Rosette. Rose Rosette Disease is at epidemic levels in some parts of the country. It is threatening and killing all species of roses including Knock-outs.
    My petitions and pleas to Conard Pyle (Steve Hutton)to invest money into research to help understand and control this disease have gone unheard. It is as if Conard Pyle’s recognition of the disease would have an adverse effect on future sales of the knock-out. It’s almost like a major motor manafacturer having full knowledge of a defect but failing to declare a recall to fix the issue. I believe they have adopted the idea that adverse publicity will negatively affect sales. Shame on a company that will continue to reap profits on a product but refuses to invest money into finding a solution to a disease that could someday kill millions of roses including knock-outs.

  3. One can only hope for a “Rosy Future”. Conard-Pyle needs to learn the basic management skill of trusting the middle management you have put in place. Then listening to what they have to say, and lastly acting on the information put forth by those individuals. To some it up, communication is the evolution of business.

  4. It’s interesting how Conard Pyle has the wind of the Knock-out rose behind them and is basking in the profits from this success. But it’s very sad they do not recognize a fatal disease called Rose Rosette Disease that has the potential to kill all roses including the (alledged) disease free Knock-Out rose. The knock-out is not totally disease resistant it is succeptible to Rose Rosette. Rose Rosette Disease is at epidemic levels in some parts of the country. It is threatening and killing all species of roses including Knock-outs.
    My petitions and pleas to Conard Pyle (Steve Hutton)to invest money into research to help understand and control this disease have gone unheard. It is as if Conard Pyle’s recognition of the disease would have an adverse effect on future sales of the knock-out. It’s almost like a major motor manafacturer having full knowledge of a defect but failing to declare a recall to fix the issue. I believe they have adopted the idea that adverse publicity will negatively affect sales. Shame on a company that will continue to reap profits on a product but refuses to invest money into finding a solution to a disease that could someday kill millions of roses including knock-outs.

Latest Stories
Top 100 2016 Lighting Feature Image

July 24, 2016

Horticultural Lighting Conference To Take Place In Chic…

The one-day event is designed to provide cutting-edge information on the latest technologies and techniques impacting the advancement of the horticultural lighting market.

Read More

July 23, 2016

AmericanHort Kicks Off Cultivate’16 By Announcing Major…

Even though Cultivate’16 just wrapped up, it’s not too early to find out about the many changes you can expect for 2017.

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
BeeSmart

July 21, 2016

How You Can Get Involved In Research

The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) supports scientific research and students for the advancement of the horticultural industry.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More
Floral Greenhouse at Vineland Research Centre

July 20, 2016

Research And Commercialization Unite At The New Vinelan…

The new, pre-scale commercial greenhouse facility at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland Station, ON, will help accelerate the commercialization of innovative technologies and products coming out of research.

Read More

July 20, 2016

How To Prevent Greenhouse Heating Leaks

Ethylene from malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop injury, while carbon monoxide can lead to worker illness. Know the symptoms and how to check greenhouse heaters to avoid these concerns.

Read More
Luxflora Flower Run

July 20, 2016

First-Ever Flower Run Was A Big Success, Luxflora Says

Kicking off Cultivate’16 on Sunday, July 10, Luxflora’s first annual 5K saw nearly 150 participants racing through the picturesque Scioto Audubon Park in Columbus under clear blue skies and perfect conditions. It was a great way to start the week, participants said. Congratulations to the winners of the first-ever Flower Run: First Place: Jacob Griffith Gardner Second Place: Mike Goyette Third Place: Jack Ford The top three winners — and all of the Flower Run participants — were showered with flower petals when they crossed the finish line, making for a colorful and fragrant finish to an invigorating experience. “Personally, I would consider it a grand success,” says Luxflora President Rebecca Lusk. “The overall mood was fantastic, from start to finish. There were many high fives and group hugs, numerous duo phone selfies and postings to social media, while participants enjoyed their bananas and bottled water donated by Experience Columbus. Most […]

Read More
Top 100 Breakfast Panel for 2016

July 19, 2016

Top 100 Growers Talk Labor, Automation, And Sustainabil…

More than 60 growers got up with the sun at Cultivate’16 to hear a four-person panel discuss hot topics such as labor, automation, and sustainability at Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers Breakfast, sponsored by BASF.

Read More

July 19, 2016

17 New Vegetable Intros For Greenhouse Production

New varieties of edibles introduced at 2016 California Spring Trials offer something for every type of gardener, from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the hardcore, heirloom-only type. Check out some of the new varieties we saw at Spring Trials this year that will be available for retail in 2017.

Read More

July 19, 2016

A Look Back At Greenhouse Grower’s Evening Of Excellenc…

Greenhouse Grower held its annual Evening of Excellence event on Monday, July 11, during Cultivate’16. Check out the slideshow to see some of the highlights of the festivities. You’re sure to recognize a few familiar faces!

Read More
Cultivate 2016 Town Hall Panel

July 19, 2016

Town Hall Panel At Cultivate Focuses On Selling To A Ne…

Why are we still trying to sell our products in the 21st century using a model straight out of the 1980s? This was the main question raised during the annual Town Hall panel discussion that took place at Cultivate’16.

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at [email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More

July 19, 2016

Are You Bar Coding Your Plants Like Other Garden Retail…

We asked garden retailers how they bar code several plant categories. Take a look at our results and learn how in sync are you with your peers.

Read More
Sid Raisch

July 19, 2016

What Sid Raisch’s New Role At Bower & Branch …

The garden industry consultant answers questions about his new role in an e-commerce oriented company.

Read More

July 19, 2016

First Five Plants To Win 2017 All-America Selections An…

All-America Selections (AAS) has announced its first five winning plants for 2017. Three of the five are national winners, and two are regional winners. And of the five, one is an ornamental plant, while the other four are edibles. A panel of independent judges selected these plants after reviewing trial performances. AAS says all these plants are available for immediate purchase. Here’s the list of winners: Celosia ‘Asian Garden’ (2017 Ornamental From Seed National Winner). This celosia winning in North America’s trial sites makes it the first ever AAS Winner from Japanese breeding company Murakami Seed. The judges gave this entry high marks in the greenhouse for the good branching, almost bushy growth habit, and early-to-bloom flower spikes. In the garden, ‘Asian Garden’ celosia continued to bloom on sturdy stems, keeping the bright pink color all summer long, holding up even through some of the first frosts of the season. The AAS judges commented on […]

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