With 1,700 varieties of young plants in the assortment, New Hampshire grower Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers gets a good idea of what is hot and happening in the market. Which varieties are trendy? what has been the major challenge over the last year? and how what are the expectations for 2021? In this article, he tells us all.
Doug Cole in the greenhouse
One of the largest Rex Begonia propagators in the US
But before we start with discussing the trends, first a bit more information on DS Cole. Their young plant department developed around 1990. Currently, over 70 percent of his sales consists of young plants. "The remaining consists of finished plants which fill the space during seasons with low demand for young plants." D.S. Cole is specialized in the young plant production of Rex Begonias, and has become one of the largest propagators of this series in the US. Their strategy is to develop year round demand for young plants. "And by offering succulents, cactus and houseplants, they are moving to a year-round program," Cole adds.
Labor, one of the major challenges in 2020
So, what was the major challenge in 2020? According to Cole, for the last few years labor has been the difficult issue and particularly this year. For spring of 2020, it was an even bigger problem, he explains. "We would lose someone who didn’t want to be around other people due to potential virus spread. We would then hire more people, but it was not easy and training was difficult since we were in the middle of the busy season."
Since May, demand higher then ever
According to Cole until the month of May, growers were uncertain if they would be able to sell product due to Covid-19. However, it quickly turned around as soon as the government allowed garden centers to be open. "The demand was higher than any year we know of."
Second wave - main concern: lack of flights to bring plants into the country
Fortunately, the demand is still high and D.S. Cole is in good shape. However, their main concern at the moment is the lack of flights to bring plants into the country. In the US, we are currently having a large Covid outbreak. Every day is a new surprise with new rules in different states, and the concern that an employee may need to quarantine."
Popular items: Begonia, cyclamen and thunbergia
When looking at the varieties and the increase in demand and popularity of the varieties, Cole notices that the begonias, cyclamen and thunbergias are the ones that are on the rise. "We specialize in Rex Begonias and the demand continues to increase on all varieties. The most popular is still the older variety Escargot (known as Princess of Hanover in Europe)." Nice to know, next year they will offer ‘Red Escargot’, a variety that has a similar swirl leaf shape as the traditional Escargot. "I'm very excited and have high expectations for that variety."
For color products, he has seen an increase in demand for Cyclamen this season. "Varieties such as Morel’s Indiaka series and Schoneveld’s Djix series are getting a lot of attention due to their interesting flower patterns." In the spring, the different colors of Thunbergia continue to be extremely popular, and especially yellow, he adds.
When looking at the petunias, despite the volume in sales tending to remain steady, there is a shift in demand within this category. "Danziger’s Queen of Hearts has become a bestseller for the last few years, followed closely by Selecta’s Night Sky."
High hopes for 2020
At this time, the demand is still high and Cole has high hopes for 2021. "From our garden center customers we see an increase in demand for all house plants. And for coming spring, we are all hoping for high sales. We expect another year with a high demand for plants since many consumers are spending more time at home planting gardens and large display pots. As of now, our bookings for young plants is well above our past averages. What will be interesting is whether or not this is due to our customers ordering earlier, or if it also means a total increase for the season."