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...
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
phlox-fashionably-early-flamingo-walters-gardens

September 27, 2016

Walters Gardens Partnering With Darwin Colombia On Unrooted Cuttings

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
Streptocarpus Ladyslippers Grape Ice (Green Fuse Botanicals)

September 27, 2016

9 New Blooming Potted Plants To Jazz Up The Home And Garden

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
Latest Stories
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
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
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
clematis-taiga-feature

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neig…

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

September 13, 2016

Aris Horticulture Names Blair Hoey As Managing Director…

Hoey brings more than 20 years of greenhouse production and management experience to Green Leaf Plants, a young plant supplier of perennials serving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Read More
hibiscus-hollywood-hot-shot

September 12, 2016

New Variety Award Winners Announced At Farwest 2016

A panel of industry experts, as well as show attendees, selected a thornless blackberry and a hydrangea for the top honors.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More

September 5, 2016

7 New Shrubs And Foliage Plants For Spring Interest

Perennials and annuals aren’t the only plants that supply spring color to the garden. Shrubs and foliage plants also add color and interest and are a great way to round out your spring product mix.

Read More
Janikia Eckert

September 4, 2016

All-America Selections Presents Achievement Awards At I…

Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural received the AAS Medallion of Honor, while Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Selected Seeds took home the Breeders Cup.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
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

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 20 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

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
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

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