"Is the plant different enough? Are there compelling sales advantages? Will it work for the entire US market or only in specific markets? And so on. All these questions and more need to be answered before we can take a new variety to market", explains Brian Kirkland, Sales Support & Business Developer over at Concept Plants, the North American arm of Dutch-based Plantipp. "Our goal is to bring the most unique new varieties to the market, and in turn, it is our job to drive volume for the breeders we represent. We find the best fit for those varieties and dedicate time to marketing them to the US market." At Cultivate'22, which will be held in Columbus (OH) from July 16-19, many of their selected varieties for the US market will be on display.
Brian on the left handing off the first Better Boxwood in the US
Brian's role is networking with growers (young plant and finished), retailers, brokers, and branding companies. According to him, growers who seek out Concept Plants generally do so because of the unique varieties the company brings to the market. And with the changes in growers' tastes over time as well as the constantly evolving market demand, seeking out variety is not uncommon and something the company aims to provide.
"As a company, we do our best to stay ahead of the changes in the market. Varieties that offer something different in the market are the key to what we try to do. It isn't easy to play in a market with me too varieties. While we do have some varieties that we represent that could be considered me too. We look for items that will create value for the growers and end consumers and tend to use the term Market Changer internally quite a bit. A Market Changer is a variety that is either truly different than existing varieties or is completely new to the market, for example, our Senecio Angel Wings. When we first launched this variety, there was nothing like it on the market."
Everyone over at Concept Plants is what Brian calls a 'plant geek.' They find even the smallest variations in plants exciting but remain objective when it comes to new varieties. Is the plant different enough? Are there compelling sales advantages? Will it work for the entire US market or only in specific markets? And so on, and so on. All these questions and more need to be answered before the company can take a new variety to market.
"We have a new Hydrangea paniculata called Early Evolution that is being tested at several locations right now. It is by far one of the earliest blooming hydrangea paniculatas on the market. Early Evolution is compact, maxing out at 20 inches tall, and is zone 4 hardy. Trial results have been coming in the past few weeks, and people love the variety."
Hydrangea Early Evolution
With a company that prides themselves in their assortment variety, one question always seems to remain prevalent; What comes next?
"We have a very extensive network of breeders, and the sky seems to be the limit in what they are able to do. We do have occasional outside-of-the-box requests. My standard request, especially from woody ornamental breeders, is a red forsythia. I don't think it is really possible, but I normally put it out there."
No matter the outcome of Brian's unique request, Concept Plants seems to have a lot planned for the future. One such thing being the exciting new series of boxwood that will be coming to the market sometime next year called Better Boxwood.
"The breeding has come out of Belgium and has dedicated all his resources to breeding boxwood blight-resistant plants. We have a partnership with PDSI and Everde growers, who will be handling the growing and licensing of this hot new series. I have very high expectations for Better Boxwood. It's going to be a Market Changer!"