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
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

August 25, 2016

7 Ways Albert Grimm Strives To Be An Effective Leader

Grimm, Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, tries to live by the "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” from author Stephen R. Covey.

Read More
Tidal Creek Growers

August 25, 2016

Maryland-Based SunMed Growers Nabs Cannabis License

The company was one of 15 licensees selected by the commission out of a pool of 145 grower applicants to receive one of the license pre-approvals.

Read More
GrowSpan Light Deprivation Greenhouse

August 25, 2016

New Light Deprivation Greenhouses Help With Light Manag…

The GrowSpan light deprivation greenhouse from Growers Supply is outfitted with a blackout system that provides growers with control over the light cycle.

Read More
Albert Grimm GOY feature

August 25, 2016

Up Close And Personal With Head Grower Of The Year Albe…

According to Grimm, Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Head Grower Of The Year, the key to being a successful grower is educating and inspiring yourself, your staff, your customers, and the next generation of growers.

Read More
To offer consumers an attractive crop, Local Appetite uses high tunnels to grow cherry tomatoes

August 24, 2016

New Food Safety Compliance Resource Available For Green…

The FSMA Wizard from Registrar Corp makes it easy for food producers, including greenhouse vegetable growers, to determine their possible requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

August 23, 2016

5 Factors To Consider In Your Cannabis Structure

Along with the size and specs of your greenhouse, it's also important to focus on ventilation, light deprivation, benching, irrigation, and odor control.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More
Bees And Pesticides

August 23, 2016

Studies Offer Conflicting Views On Neonic Effect On Bee…

How much exposure to neonicotinoids do bees need before their health becomes affected? That’s the question two research teams look to answer.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Chrysanthemum Aphid

August 22, 2016

How To ID And Manage Black Aphids In Chrysanthemums

Growers in Michigan have recently been reporting a higher presence of this pest. Here are some tips on how to control it.

Read More
LuxFlora - feature

August 22, 2016

Check Out Luxflora’s International Adventures In Europe

A new, women-led professional organization provides its members the opportunity to gain insight, develop ideas, and build connections on its annual international trip.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

August 22, 2016

Cannabis Group Stays Focused On Consistent Standards Fo…

The Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization, is in the process of developing cannabis-specific standards for everything from cultivation and extraction to packaging and retail.

Read More

August 22, 2016

Syngenta

Growers have new broad-spectrum fungicide options with new Segovis and Mural, as well as a new systemic insecticide with Mainspring GNL.

Read More

August 22, 2016

PL Light Systems

With the introduction of PL Light System’s new HortiLED light systems, growers no longer have to choose between quality and energy savings. Three different systems, designed for both standard and multilayer application, deliver exceptional uniformity and efficiency.

Read More

August 22, 2016

Emerald Coast Growers

Emerald Coast Growers has answers to the top trends in gardening with Chick Charms Sempervivums, two beautiful and sterile Miscanthus varieties, and the pollinator-friendly Bee You Monarda series.

Read More

August 22, 2016

PanAmerican Seed

The gorgeous large flowers of Megawatt begonias offer high-voltage color in the landscape, pots or baskets. Easily grown from seed, Megawatts come in four colors and are accompanied by eye-catching free retail kits including posters and bench cards.

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