Karl Batschke on meeting the unexpected demand

20 million new US gardeners leads Darwin Perennials to increase supply by 30%

As a result of about 20 million new US gardeners in 2020, Darwin Perennials, which supplies growers worldwide with a comprehensive range of bareroot perennials from Colombia, was able to increase their supply by 30%. Karl Batschke, General Manager at Darwin Perennials, reports on the surprising sales, how they were able to meet the unexpected demand and their future plans, including the 2.5 ha expansion of their production farm in Colombia.

Karl Batschke of Darwin Perennials at CAST 2019

Surprising sales in 2020
According to Batschke 2020 exceeded all sales expectations: “It’s definitely been a very unusual fourteen months. Around a year ago, we were quite pessimistic about the influence that COVID-19 would have on our industry, not just in the US but worldwide. We were anticipating an overall decline in sales for 2020. However, we found quite the opposite. As soon as people had the opportunity to go back to the garden centers, etc., they did. It turns out 2020 was one of the best years on record for Darwin Perennials.”

20 million new gardeners
The increase in sales is mainly because of the many new gardeners during the pandemic. Batschke explains: “It was estimated that we saw about 20 million new gardeners in the US in 2020, which is fantastic, as it means sustainable growth in our industry. We were able to show that many new people the importance of gardening and certainly the value that plants bring to our quality of life. What we have been seeing so far in 2021 is that we are on pace for another strong sales year. Of course, we fully understand that, as more people get vaccinated and the threat of COVID declines, some of the gardening activity may slow down a little bit. Yet we have to try to support those new gardeners and keep the message clear that gardening is a healthy activity.”

30% supply increase
As a result of the increasing demand, Darwin Colombia, their unrooted cutting farm in Colombia, was able to increase volume by 30% in one year. As Batschke explains, “Their volume this past year has increased by 30% and it was already at record levels from last year. The team at Darwin Colombia has not only succeeded in delivering 30% additional product but has also done this without diminishing the quality.” Batschke says that two main things contributed to this increase. “Firstly, we have added some very capable growers to the farm who have continued to improve productivity to the stock. Also, the high demand has created a longer selling window. For instance, if a grower wanted cuttings in week 8 but there was no availability, then they took them in week 10 instead. Therefore, because of the high demand we were able to spread out the season a bit longer.”

Future plans and new varieties
Batschke also shares some future expansion plans and their upcoming launch of new varieties: “We are in the process right now of building space for another 280.000 mother plants in Colombia. That’s about 2.5 ha of additional production space in Colombia. After that, we have to see what the demand level looks like beyond 2022. In terms of new varieties, we have a very exciting launch for the 2022 season. One of the products we expect a lot of interest in are the two new varieties of Artemisia. It’s a relatively new species to the market, that we are calling the SunFern. They have a fern-like texture to their foliage. However, what makes these special is the fact that they enjoy being exposed to the sun, whereas the typical garden fern needs to be in a shady location and can be quite temperamental when it comes to dry conditions. This new variety gives the consumer the ability to have a product in full-sun locations that resembles the garden fern.”

The new varieties. Top: Artemisia SunFern Olympia and Artemisia SunFern Arcadia. Bottom: Lysimachia Firefly and Lysimachia Night Light

Additionally, a couple of years ago they recognized the need for more perennials that work in shady locations. Therefore, they are launching two new varieties of Lysimachia, Firefly and Night Light. “At the moment, the amount of products for shady locations is very limited and mostly consists of foliage plants. Therefore, we are working aggressively to come up with more plants that flower in the shade.”

For more information:
Darwin Perennials
Karl Batschke


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