“As we all know, growers love to talk about the weather and that has again not been in our favor this year. This is making us thoughtful about climate change, as the weather extremes have become more of a challenge for all outdoor growers,” says Josef Heuger, owner of Heuger-Gartenbaubetriebe. In Glandorf, Germany, he grows young plants, pre-finished and finished hellebore, as well as pre-finished and finished hydrangea in a 5.5 hectare greenhouse. Yet, because of the increasing demand, the company will soon be expanding with new greenhouses.
Family Heuger at the IPM Essen 2020 (Josef Heuger on the right)
While it has been a very good year for Heuger so far, the weather has definitely not been in their favor, explains Heuger. “In the last years we had to learn how to grow plants in (for our climate) extreme heat, but this year was completely different. We had enormous amounts of rain, which is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but the kind of torrential rainfalls we had is another extreme which makes us think about whether growing plants on outside fields is still the way to go for us. Especially when these extremes will happen more often in the future due to ongoing climate change.”
Christmas Rose Wintergold
Deciding where to allocate resources
While dealing with the weather challenges, Heuger notes that the demand for their Hydrangeas and Hellebores has been excellent. “We still see increasing popularity for both products in the market and as we cannot, and also do not want to, increase our production capacity that fast, it is a difficult decision which product you allocate your resources to. This year and next year this decision goes in favor of Hellebores, especially our newer Hellebore genetic the Ice N´ Roses® series. This is a series of which we still cannot keep up with demand. What the Ice N´ Roses and another soon-to-be-introduced series have in common is a fantastic consumer experience as well as the different look of these Hellebores. We believe that this is what will grow the demand even further.”
For more information about Heuger's Hellebores, go to www.helleborus.de/en/
Snow Rose Maestro
A top seller, but improvements needed
Over the years, Hellebores have become one of Heuger’s top sellers at this time of the year. “In fact, Helleborus niger, especially seed raised, has become a commodity product, being found in all market channels today. There is still a lot to improve with this type of Hellebore by means of better genetics and also better growing protocols. But there will probably be more improvements that will benefit efficiency of production and fewer improvements that will benefit consumer experience. Still, both are necessary improvements and we therefore feel that, as a breeder, it is our job to not lose consumer experience out of sight as an important criteria. As long as market growth is driven by positive consumer experience, you do not have to worry too much about where you are in the life cycle of a product. When market growth is more driven by price, it may be a sign that you are getting near the uncomfortable zone of a product’s life cycle, even if more efficient production does allow lower pricing.”
Heuger’s new Dancing Pixies
Expanding young plant facility
“We are confident that, especially with the Ice N´ Roses series and what is in the pipeline, we can offer plants that deliver this kind of positive consumer experience that is needed.” Therefore, Heuger is currently expanding their young plant facility by another 1,5 hectares. “The project is running smoothly. For that we have to give credit to the companies working on it: among others, there are Ammerlaan (greenhouse construction, shade, and energy curtains), CogasTech (electrical works, heating, and climate control), Otte and Logiqs (mobile bench system and automation), TGB and Gierhake (fertilizing and irrigation equipment).” The new greenhouses are expected to be fully functional by February 2022.
Heuger also has a new Saxifraga series, called Dancing Pixies®. “The Dancing Pixies have just been born, and they will be a great addition for the indoor and outdoor market segment in September and October. They can be grown completely without heating and have exceptional colors and flower forms. Cheeky and appealing POS-material is being offered too.”