The following is our “Q and A” interview with her in previewing these sessions.
Q/ How long have you been involved in the horticulture sector?
A/ Since 1996. I started working at Dümmen after completing my biology and laboratory education.
Q/ What have been your roles with the Dümmen company?
A/My first role was in the breeding area. In the 1990s, we were focusing on breeding our first Red Fox poinsettia program. After several years experience, I got a fantastic grower education from my mother-in-law, Marga Dümmen (the most important grower in the company) and earned responsibility for the elite department, for which I remain accountable.
Ten years ago, marketing gained importance in the market. Not only creating catalogues twice a year, but also developing concepts for plants and breeding lines that attract retail and consumers became more and more important. This is my main job today.
|Sonja and Tobias Dümmen.|
A/ It makes them happy. Flowers are not necessary, but they are important for one’s soul. Especially in the garden, it is nice for people to see something growing. If they tend it well, it is successful, and that makes people happy.
Q/ What traits and characteristics are consumers looking for in a new plant on the market?
A/ Ease of use! Plants have to be easy: nice, successful growing, without spending a lot of time. And visual appeal! People buy plants that look beautiful in the store.
Q/ Are young people in Europe as committed to plants as their parents and grandparents? How do we encourage this generation to buy more plants?
A/ No, especially in cities they are not learning gardening from their parents. We have to train them and make it easy. They still like plants, but we need to give more information at retail next to the plants, or offer easy solutions like Confetti Garden combinations.
Q/ What are some of the current European trends we should be watching for here in North America?
A/ Plants that are “easy care” (less water and cleaning).
Ready solutions /combinations – but I think Europe is behind the U.S. and Canada where it is already fairly normal to buy ready combinations.
Combinations of flowering plants, herbs and vegetables/edibles.
Solutions for small balconies (in cities).
| A three-generation family portrait!
A/ In addition to our direct customers (growers), we also focus on the end-consumer. We have more and more people working out ideas for retail, and researching consumer desires, and including those desires in our breeding programs and offering those to retail buyers.
Varieties that work well in production, during shipping and in the garden are usually the winners, meaning we focus on all three levels. Further, co-operative branding agreements with HGTV in North America and Mein Schöner Garten in Germany are helping our products connect with consumers.
Q/ With your busy work and family schedule, do you have time to do all the gardening you’d like to be doing?
A/ Working in the garden is really relaxing for me. Of course, cutting the grass is work for my teenage kids!
I don’t do all the work in our old farmhouse garden myself, but I do plant and trial new varieties, judge them during the summer and act as a consumer. This helps me decide on new items for future introductions, while still providing the same gardening pleasure we try to provide the end consumer gardener.