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...
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know About Aquaponics

Are you curious about expanding into aquaponics? From pest control to equipment, Bob and Jesse Kilgore of Brogue Hydroponics offer 10 factors you need to consider.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

Aquaponics Is Making A Splash At Brogue Hydroponics

The owners of Brogue Hydroponics explain why they expanded into aquaponics, and how the shift has helped them uncover a new market opportunity.

Read More
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More

March 17, 2015

16 New Blooming Potted Plants You’ll See At The 2…

Blooming potted plants are perfect gift items, and they put the finishing touch on any style of home decor. So when new varieties come on the market, growers and retailers alike take note of plants they know are going to make consumers happy. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new blooming potted plants making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

March 11, 2015

Annual Salvias – Not Just Red Bedding Plants Anym…

Salvias are popular — and they need not all be the same. Here are a few you know well, and perhaps a few you do not. All are easy to grow and may be found through a broker or grower.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 11, 2015

Memoirs Of A Plantsman: Q & A With Allan Armitage

In light of the upcoming release of Dr. Allan Armitage's memoir, "It’s Not Just About the Hat — The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," Greenhouse Grower caught up with him for an in-depth Q & A about his newest work and what he’s planning next.

Read More
Lavandula-Superblue

March 10, 2015

How To Determine When To Buy Herbaceous Perennials In V…

Exposing herbaceous perennials to cold temperatures, also known as vernalization, can yield a range of effects, especially on flowering. Beth Engle of SHS Griffin covers whether vernalized liners or unvernalized plants make the best sense for your sales windows.

Read More

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More