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...

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Bailey Nurseries, and More

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bailey Nurseries, and More

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More

April 18, 2018

Dr. A Weighs in on His CAST Favorites From American Tak…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Dummen-Christmas-Decorating

April 17, 2018

Dümmen Orange’s New Gamechanger, Plants for All S…

Greenhouse Grower's California Spring Trials Team headed north on Day 3, with stops at Dümmen Orange in picturesque San Luis Obispo and Floricultura in fertile Salinas.

Read More
Verwer-Dahlias

April 17, 2018

Syngenta Flowers Acquires Netherlands-Based Dahlia Bree…

Syngenta Flowers has reached an agreement with Verwer Dahlia BV to acquire the company’s dahlia assortment and breeding program. Both companies expect to finalize the acquisition in the coming weeks.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says breeders' persistence in making small and large breeding improvements is a testament to their passion and dedication to excellence.

Read More

April 17, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: Stand-Out New Plants fro…

Check out these new plant introductions from the California Spring Trials 2018 trail featuring breeding from Dümmen Orange , Westhoff, Beekenkamp, and Plug Connection.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Noteworthy 2018 Plant Intros fro…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Artemisia-Plant-Display-at-Terra-Nova

April 16, 2018

CAST 2018 Provides Fresh Inspiration for Infusing Marke…

The  second day of California Spring Trials took the Greenhouse Grower Team to GroLink in Oxnard, CA, and then up the coast to Windmill Nursery in Buellton. Here are some of the marketing, display, trend, and people highlights we saw at those locations, as well as some beautiful scenery from our evening in Pismo Beach.

Read More
Lavender-Madrid-Lavish-Green-Fuse-Botanicals

April 16, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Spring Trials Favorites From Green Fus…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Echinacea-Kismet-White-Terra-Nova-Nurseries

April 16, 2018

Terra Nova Nurseries Debuting New Heuchera, Echinacea V…

Terra Nova Nurseries has created profile pages for these new varieties on its website to help growers learn about growing habits, plant characteristics, and other insights provided by the breeding team.

Read More
Danny-Takao-Allan-Armitage-Andrew-Scheldorf

April 16, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Conversation…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, is realizing the power of networking and building relationships in the floriculture industry.

Read More

April 15, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plants From Green Fu…

Breeders at Green Fuse Botanicals, Floranova, Vegetalis, and Ball Horticulture featured new plant varieties at the 2018 California Spring Trials with vibrant color and unique patterns that are easy for growers to produce and ship, as well as small-space friendly vegetables for patio and container growing.

Read More

April 15, 2018

CAST 2018: Reach Young Consumers With Tattoos, Foliage,…

Here are some new and novel marketing and marketing ideas for reaching consumers and improving sales, from California Spring Trials 2018 at Ball Horticultural Co., Green Fuse Botanicals, and Floranova.

Read More