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...
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

January 18, 2017

2016 C. Raker & Sons Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI.

Read More
Joe Cimino, Sakata Seed America

January 17, 2017

Sakata Seed Names New Senior Sales Manager for Ornamentals

Joe Cimino comes to Sakata with past experience at Sun Gro and Florexpo.

Read More
JinPin Flower Seedling Company partners

January 17, 2017

Ernst Benary Partners With Chinese Young Plant Grower on New Venture

The partnership creates a new company called Jinpin Flower Seedling Company, which will focus on providing young plants to the rapidly growing Chinese bedding plant market.

Read More
Latest Stories
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

January 18, 2017

2016 C. Raker & Sons Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI.

Read More
Joe Cimino, Sakata Seed America

January 17, 2017

Sakata Seed Names New Senior Sales Manager for Ornament…

Joe Cimino comes to Sakata with past experience at Sun Gro and Florexpo.

Read More
JinPin Flower Seedling Company partners

January 17, 2017

Ernst Benary Partners With Chinese Young Plant Grower o…

The partnership creates a new company called Jinpin Flower Seedling Company, which will focus on providing young plants to the rapidly growing Chinese bedding plant market.

Read More
Dipladenia Sundenia

January 11, 2017

New Tropical and Foliage Plants That Offer Hidden Benef…

Tropical and foliage plants can offer extra paybacks to your customers in terms of health-promoting benefits such as filtering the air, reducing stress, and absorbing noise. Consider these new varieties, hitting the retail market in 2017, for your product mix.

Read More
craspedia-golf-beauty-danziger-feature

January 9, 2017

Growing Tips for Craspedia ‘Golf Beauty’

Laura Robles of Mast Young Plants offers advice on ‘Golf Beauty,’ a novelty plant with can’t-miss yellow flower heads and silver foliage that blooms throughout the summer.

Read More
Bride with wedding orchids.

January 7, 2017

How to Stand Out in the Orchid Market

With the popularity of the Phalaenopsis orchid growing and its saturation in the market, orchid growers are hunting for new ways to stand out from their competitors.

Read More
California Coast

January 3, 2017

Expect Big Changes for California Spring Trials 2017

California Spring Trials 2017 will be here before you know it. Find out what you can look forward to and get a head start on planning and registering for your trip.

Read More
westerlay-orchids-feature

January 1, 2017

How Westerlay Orchids Solved Its Bacteria Problem

Water-borne bacteria was causing havoc with Westerlay Orchids’ production, so the company took preventative action to ensure the health of its plants.

Read More
nepeta-purple-wave-with-roses

December 30, 2016

Allan Armitage: Plants That Can Bring Success in the Ne…

Are you wondering which plants to grow? Here are some perennials, annuals, and herbs that are gaining popularity.

Read More
Honeybelle combo

December 27, 2016

19 New Combos for Containers Big and Small

Check out 19 combos and mixes new for the retail marketplace in 2017 that offer something for every container type.

Read More
sun-parasol-original-crimson-web

December 20, 2016

Suntory Launches Unrooted Cuttings Program for Sun Para…

While the domestically produced rooting program for the Sun Parasol will continue, growers who would like to purchase unrooted cuttings will have the opportunity for the Sun Parasol Original varieties and Garden Crimson.

Read More
santos flare

December 20, 2016

Ball Horticultural Expands Potted Plant Offerings With …

Ex-Plant, which specializes in potted plants, will become a part of Ball’s PanAmerican Seed division.

Read More

December 16, 2016

Please Take Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Poinsettia S…

Are plant sales up or down compared to last year? How did Black Friday set the tone for this season? What varieties and sizes were your best sellers? Did you try anything new this year to appeal to younger consumer demographics? We tackle all of these questions and more to help you understand the trends in Greenhouse Grower's 2016 Poinsettia Survey.

Read More

December 13, 2016

Dümmen Orange Shares Trends And Season-Extending Tips A…

As a purveyor of a wide collection of poinsettia and potted plant genetics, Dümmen Orange offered attendees a look at current trends – and a glimpse into the future – at its annual event in Columbus, OH.

Read More
Lollipop Flaming Hot Melon combo

December 13, 2016

21 New Combos For Spring To Fall Color In 2017

With the flood of new varieties and flower colors coming on the market, there is no end to the combinations and mixes available for hanging baskets and containers.

Read More
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More