Five Elements In Raker’s Equation For Selecting Genetics

At the Trial Gardens at C. Raker & Sons, more than 2,000 varieties are measured, graded and recorded weekly.

Young plant grower C. Raker and Sons produces and ships plugs and liners through the entire U.S. and Canada with a diverse customer base. Its product list is focused on small- to mid-sized growers but like any business, having diversity in your customer base is very important, so the operation also does supply big box growers.

In a broad overview, Raker’s General Manager of Sales and Marketing Susie Raker-Zimmerman says big box growers need product that’s going to ship well, fits many units on a cart and can be benchrun. The smaller to mid-size growers, specifically grower/retailers, want diversity in plant selection and to differentiate themselves.

How does a young plant grower serve these needs while finding the best genetics for the consumer?

1. In-House R&D. It starts with Raker’s research and development team, which goes through a two- to three-year evaluation process for all varieties with genetics from all types of breeders. Production-based trialing is done to evaluate genetics but also to ensure the young plant grower can produce the plants.

From there, good genetics are compared to what’s already available to growers. Raker-Zimmerman says the R&D team evaluates thousands of products yearly but may only bring three or four of them to market.

Raker also relies on relationships with breeders.

“We work very closely with our breeders,” Raker-Zimmerman says. “We trust them and trust what they’re bringing to market. We have a lot of meetings back and forth talking about their new varieties: the good stuff and what’s a no-brainer.”

New varieties from series that have proven their value in the market have an edge.

“When it comes to something like begonias, the market is with a certain series,” Raker-Zimmerman says. “You know if a new variety comes to market in that series, you’re just going to add it to your product list, because it’s already got the brand recognition and people understand and know how to grow that variety.”

2. California Spring Trials. By the time Raker sees varieties at California Spring Trials, many have already been in its own genetic trials. The staff still visits every single stop because they amount to a series of confirming moments, helping the team make final decisions on what will and will not be added to the grower’s product mix.

3. Raker’s Bedding Trials. Raker’s own trial gardens are also a very important part of the decision-making process. Trials let staff see product in Raker’s environment from start to finish, seed and cutting performance, saleable container performance and landscape performance.

“There are some products out there that are looking really, really good and I’m thinking, ‘Why aren’t we offering these? We need to drop this and add this,'” Raker-Zimmerman says. “I just did that with the Sundiascia from Suntory. We had a late add in our program for 2014 because it has been stellar out here all season long. The trial garden is probably one of the biggest influencers we have because we have control from start to finish.”

4. Trends. When you’re in a two- to three-year R&D cycle, how can you respond to trends? Raker-Zimmerman says it all depends on the product. If a need is urgent, she says the operation has moved faster, bringing a product to market in as little as a year.

“More and more, it seems the reactionary time is shorter,” she says, pointing to the grafted tomato trend in in the commercial sector. Although this is true, she takes a long-term view on short-term trends through looking at the cyclical product lifecycle of the business.

Dianthus is another example. It’s is a hot item right now, but Raker-Zimmerman says she thinks this trend will fade in about four years and something new will be hot.

“In another 10 or 15 years, dianthus is going to come back around and pop up its head again,” she continues. “I think this grafted tomato thing has a five- to eight-year lifecycle and I think we’re in year four. You jump on the right wave and ride while you can and make sure you’re offering the best products you can in that time frame.”

5. Personal Opinion. The product lifecycle guides variety selection, but so can personal opinion. When the final decision is made on selecting genetics, a team of five people makes the call. It’s not just one person’s decision because Raker-Zimmerman says that with many plants, it can be difficult to be objective and keep the customer’s needs in mind.

“I truly feel that if one person is making all the calls on what you’re adding, you’re going to get a bit of a lopsided product listing,” she says. “In the wholesale channel, plants are still love it or hate it. It’s very opinion-based. People can’t agree whether they want a small-flowered petunia with lots of flowers on it or a large petunia with three flowers. We do it all by team to make sure opinions are being heard, so that you get a diverse range of ideas.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triumphs

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Europe To Introduce New Flowering Shrubs

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

Read More
BallSeed-WebTrackToGo-app Feature Image

January 5, 2016

Ball Seed Launches WebTrack To Go App For Mobile Phones…

The app is available for free in the Google Play and iTunes app stores, and serves as a companion to Ball’s full WebTrack business management system.

Read More
Terra Nova Garden Decorating Guide

December 31, 2015

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases New Garden Decorating Gui…

The guide’s wheel-shaped design groups new plants by color and was inspired by the Pantone Matching System color guide.

Read More
Northwest Horticulture offers four different mixes of sedum tiles for green roof projects. Photo courtesy North West Horticulture Feature

December 29, 2015

Growing Succulents Never Goes Out Of Style, Here’…

Succulents are more popular than ever, and with good reason. Learn why these tough, low-maintenance plants are a hit with consumers and deserve a place in your greenhouse, then check out the accompanying slideshow for the latest in succulent trends.

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