Our Visit to the IGC Show

Star® Roses & Plants/Conard-Pyle exhibited at the recent Independent Garden Center (IGC) Show in Chicago. IGC is the world’s largest trade show and conference for independent garden center owners, managers and buyers. The show also offers a comprehensive educational program with dozens of seminars, workshops, tours and presentations.

Our booth featured roses, perennials and shrubs, but also offered a preview of 2013 new introductions. Show attendees got a sneak peak of Eyeconic™ Pomegranate Lemonade, Eyeconic™ Melon Lemonade, and Popcorn Drift® Roses – all of which will be available to consumers in 2013.   See if you can spot them in these photos!

Popcorn Drift® makes its debut.

Roses from our Eyeconic™ series were also on display.

So many pretty flowers in our booth!

Another view of our popcorn and lemonade-themed booth.

Eyeconic™ Melon Lemonade, Eyeconic™ Pomegranate Lemonade, and Popcorn Drift® will be available to the public in Spring 2013.

Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co. Wins 2012 Greenhouse Grower’s Excellence in Marketing Award for The Knock Out® Family of Roses

What do the ipod and The Knock Out® Family of Roses have in common? Both used innovative marketing campaigns to change the face of their respective industries.

In recognition of Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co.’s successful marketing efforts for The Knock Out® Family of Roses, Greenhouse Grower has awarded the company its prestigious Excellence in Marketing award. The award was given in acknowledgement of Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co.’s ability to communicate the unique characteristics of The Knock Out® Family of Roses to a market that had previously seen nothing like them.

When the Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co. introduced the original Knock Out® Rose in 2000, it forever changed the rose industry. It was created during a time when gardeners tended to avoid growing roses due to their high maintenance and hard to grow nature. However, Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co. knew early on that The Knock Out® Rose was different. It was low maintenance, supremely disease resistant, easy to grow, and extremely floriferous.

“We saw right away we had something special,” said Jacques Ferare, vice president of license and new product development at Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co. “We knew it was unique — it was growing so well compared to others. And the flower power too — all the things that are still true today.”

Breeder Bill Radler and Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co.had cracked the genetic code to what seemed to be a perfect rose for the average gardener. Now it needed to be marketed properly.  In attempt to dispel assumptions that this was just another difficult rose, the marketing department at Star Roses and Plants/The Conard-Pyle Co. thoughtfully structured a marketing strategy designed to appeal to an audience that had less time and patience for growing roses and caring for plants.  It also highlighted that this was to be the first truly disease-resistant, low-maintenance rose with unparalleled flower power.

Marketing materials labeled the Knock Out® Rose as an easy-to-grow shrub, setting it apart from the traditional high maintenance floribunda roses and grouping it in with other flower shrubs. The company also initially targeted its marketing efforts to growers, with the hope that they would help create a buzz among consumers that this was a must-have rose. The strategy paid off. Introducing the Knock Out® Rose differently than other roses during a time when rose sales were in serious decline attracted gardeners who were intimidated and frustrated by failed attempts to grow roses. Once gardeners realized how well The Knock Out® Rose bloomed again and again throughout the season, they were convinced of its low-maintenance claims which quickly triggered the company to expand their marketing efforts.

“In 2008, we began to build a yearly strategy which included consumer print and digital advertising, as well as partnerships and public relations efforts,” said Kyle McKean, director of marketing. “We continued to push Knock Out® as truly easy, low-maintenance flowering shrub so consumers new to gardening or scared of gardening would know they could incorporate this plant into their gardens with little work and no spraying.”

Years later, The Knock Out® Family of Roses has changed the way people view roses. They are now less intimidating, more rewarding and more welcoming to gardeners of various experience levels.

The Times They are a-Changin’

… The First Time We Didn’t Spray the Rose Fields

By Jacques Ferare

It is interesting how things and perceptions change over time. I remember very clearly the first time we tried to grow our rose novelties without spraying for diseases.  It was around 1992, right after I came back from the annual June meeting that Meilland International holds for their agent distributors. At that particular meeting, we heard a presentation from their German agent telling everyone in the room that they were quitting spraying roses that year in the test gardens.

At that time (which is still true today) municipalities and Lander (the equivalent of States), under the influence of the Grune (the green part in Germany) had decided they would not allow any more spraying in public gardens. This decision had a big influence on home gardeners who decided to do the same. As a result, all German rose growers had no choice but to introduce roses that did not need tender loving care (a.k.a. spraying every other week). So the whole presentation was about how they had to change their research protocols to make sure that they would select new roses for this new environment.

I thought this was the best idea I ever heard, so when I returned to West Grove, PA (Conard-Pyle headquarters), I shared this wonderful new approach to selection. The detail that I forgot (and, in all fairness, did not know at the time) is that whatever disease pressure there is in Germany is NOTHING compared to what we experience in the hot, muggy, disease-central climate of Southeastern Pennsylvania. This is why when I hear all these claims about German roses being so superior, I can’t help but take it with a grain of salt. But once again I digress. Rust, Mildews, Cercospora, Anthracnose, and of course black spot, without naming Xanthomonas and a few other exotic diseases, we get them all in West Grove. In retrospect, it is almost unbelievable that until the late 1960s we were growing roses commercially here. But I digress again.

The test fields at Conard-Pyle Co. in West Grove, PA.

So, first thing I did when I came back from that meeting was to tell Dick Hutton that we should quit spraying our fields. Right now. Right then. Dick, being Dick, did not say anything and so I took it as, well, he is OK with it. So I went to the crew that took care of the field at that time and instructed them not to spray anymore. At that time we were on a 3-week spray schedule. At the time, we were monitoring mostly Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, and that cycle was long enough to differentiate the decent ones from the bad ones.

Of course, back then, selecting for disease resistance was in its infancy, and the result did not take long. By Aug. 1, there was almost nothing to look at. Everything was defoliated, except for a couple of Rugosas, and a couple of new ground cover roses from Meilland. Knock Out® and Drift® Roses were still either on the drawing board or in the very early phases of their existence. Needless to say, the other folks at Conard-Pyle were not too happy with me, so we resumed spraying. But, the damage was done. That year, instead of the 20-25 potential new seedlings we usually selected to move forward, we barely had 5 – all of which were shrub roses. The main one to come out was a red ground cover that became Fire Meidiland. We also introduced a couple of the Rugosas. But in terms of the “traditional garden roses” — you can forgetaboutit!  Nothing. Nada. The genetics of those plants could not stand up to the disease pressure. This was a great eye opener for me at the beginning of my career. Thankfully, we were ahead of our time. Dick knew it, but bless his heart, let me make the mistake. Because we both knew it was the right thing to do, and eventually we would be proven right.

If they can survive “Rose Hell,” they may someday make it into a garden near you.

The following year, we started to segregate shrub roses in a true no-spray area, and kept the “regular” field sprayed, although at a much reduced level. And finally, in 2000, we switched to completely no-spray conditions. Eight to ten years later, thanks to the vision of Meilland and Bill Radler, breeder of The Knock Out® Rose, we evaluate all roses under no spray, the way they told us so, but more importantly, we can now bring to the consumer all kinds of roses — including Hybrid Teas — that will finally withstand the “Rose Hell” concept that our German friends developed way back when my hair still had color.

Rose Experts Visit Conard-Pyle Test Fields

It’s not often that you get three great rose minds together in the same place, but that’s exactly what happened recently at Conard-Pyle Co. headquarters.

Steve Hutton, president, Conard-Pyle, Jacques Ferare, vice president of licensing and product development, Conard-Pyle, and Alain Meilland, president, Meilland International, spent some time examining the roses in the test fields in West Grove, PA. The test fields are home to hundreds of roses that are left to fend for themselves – no irrigation, no spraying, no TLC. The best performing varieties may someday make it to market, but only if they can survive what Steve Hutton calls “rose hell.”

Doug Hall of Organic Gardening and Ginny Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer also visited and interviewed these three experts on what makes a standout rose. Here are some photos of the day, plus, click here to read Ginny’s report.

The media have a field day (literally) in Conard-Pyle’s test field.

Alain Meilland (left) and Steve Hutton talk roses in an appropriate setting!

Jaques Ferare and Kristen Nemeth examine a rose currently undergoing testing.

Jaques and Alain share their thoughts on roses.

Alain and Steve spent quite some time in the test field – but with scenery like this, who can blame them?

Steve, Alain and Jacques discuss the performance of a new rose variety.

Getting Your New Roses – Online or In Person?

Everyone loves heading to the local garden center on that first nice day of spring and picking out a beautiful new rose from among the rows and rows of choices. But what if the store doesn’t have the exact variety you want? Do you order it? Make a second choice? Try another retailer?

Maybe the answer is: shop online. A simple Google search will turn up several websites that will allow you to order the roses you want, and have them delivered right to your door at precisely the time when they should be planted. Many of these will be bare root roses, which bear little resemblance to the beauties they will become but are an affordable alternative and allow you to get a jump start on the planting season. Ordering online may be a better option if you are trying to track down or want to discover a new or hard-to-find variety.

Of course, shopping in person offers advantages as well. While early in the growing season, you may see bare root roses in the stores, as it gets later, you will see more container roses. These have already leafed out and most will be in boom, so you can see how the finished product looks. You may decide, for example, that even though you had your heart set on a red rose, you can’t stop staring at the pink one. You can also inspect the plant for general health, size and other important characteristics, to make sure you are buying a rose that will perform.

As for me, I purchase most of my new additions in person, but I supplement that by ordering a few special or hard-to-find items online.

So, how do you get most of your new roses – online or in person?

If you answered “in person,” start here to find out where to buy Knock Out®, Drift®, and Star® Roses near you.

Welcome to our blog!

By Steve Hutton

It was an easy winter here in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Probably where you are, too.  A few days ago, on an atypically warm day (typical for this year, though), my wife and I went for a walk on our usual circuit.  It’s a couple of miles down a country blacktop where we often don’t see a car the entire time.

Early spring unfolds slowly, and a very early spring even more so.  And very early spring was much in evidence.  The skunk cabbage in a low, boggy area that had been trying to come up for over a month was in flower, roadside daylilies were starting to poke through the soil, and a Cornus officinalis near an old barn was just beginning to show color.  But the true treat of the walk was hearing the first spring peepers of the year in the saturated muddy floodplain of a small stream at the bottom of a cow pasture.  Seeing spring evolve is a wonder, but hearing it evolve is glorious, and the sounds of redwing blackbirds and spring peepers are the best ways to hear early spring, even before it’s officially spring by the calendar.

With all this came an obvious thought:  It’s a perfect time to start a blog.

Our blog will periodically feature postings from four colleagues at The Conard-Pyle Company.  Jacques Ferare and myself (two guys, old, grizzled) will be joined by Kristen Nemeth and Kyle McKean (two women, young, vibrant) and will post from our own unique perspectives and passions.  We will cover a range of topics, from practical gardening tips to musings on whatever moves us horticulturally.

We hope you enjoy it! We’re looking forward to sharing and interacting with you.