“Breed from a grower point of view” is Hartwig Bull’s slogan. In 2009, he took over his father’s business with his wife Ultrike, and in 2015, they introduced varieties that are known already for a long time but now in a new style. Initially, they only bred for their own production, but started to license other growers soon as they realized that he could not meet the demand with their own production of these varieties, namely Echinacea ‘SunMagic,’ Rudbeckia ‘Sunbeckia,’ and Helianthus’ SunCatcher.’ Today products of Bull Plant Genetics are offered in major markets worldwide. In this article, their story is explained.
Ulrike and Hartwig Bull at the IPM Essen 2023 in Essen, Germany.
“Take over and continue”, or “Take over and change”
Hartwig Bull, a trained grower, got his master’s in growing, took extra seminars in horticultural economics, and worked in Denmark, the Netherlands, and in the US (Nashville, Tennesse). After his experience in foreign countries, he went back home to Gönnebek, a small village in the north of Germany, in the little federal state Schleswig-Holstein, known for the black and white cows (the holsteyns) and famous Holstein horse breeding. At the age of 40, he and his wife Ulrike took over the family business of his parents. Taking over the business threw up questions like” take over and continue” or “take over and change”?
Ulrike, trained in banking and investment was helpful in controlling and analysis. So step by step they put all crops and processes on the test bench and kept the successful products and stopped with the non-profitable products.
Ulrike Bull, trained in banking and investment, knows a lot about controlling and analysis. Step by step, they put all crops and processes on the test bench, kept the successful stuff, and stopped with the non-profitable products. “Keep the good stuff, get rid of the bad stuff, and improve the operation constantly.”
Today they are producing under 25.000 m² glass covered greenhouses and 60.000 m² outdoor area
- 500.000 spring crops like Viola, Primula, Bellis, etc
- 350.000 bedding plants in 5″ pots
- 10.000 hanging baskets
- 300.000 perennials in 3 and 4L Containers
- 350.000 Oxails “Iron heart” for New years day
All products are sold to wholesalers locally, in the Hamburg area, but also to big distribution organizations in Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, and France.
Breeding of different crops
Unlike other horticulture companies, Hartwig and his team started from the beginning with the breeding of different crops. The goal was to get away from mainstream products, finding a more profitable niche. “The challenge in production is not the first half year, it’s the July until December. The first 6 months of a year are covered with a lot of products you can make money on. Good quality provided, there is always a good market for spring items and bedding plants.”
So, what about the second half of the year? Hartwig selected different crops flowering from July till October, a period of the year where a lot of business is just done to cover the costs. Not happy with the products available and the characteristics of some products, Bull started breeding on Rudbeckia hirta, perennial Helianthus types, and Echinacea.
Breeding was already done by his father, so knowledge of breeding was already laid in the cradle. Hartwig’s general motto or slogan in breeding is: “Breed from a grower’s point of view.”
The product had to be good for his own production. So he tried to achieve: self branching varieties (easy growing, perfect quality), compact varieties (good for loading, good for shipping, keeps costs in transport low, looks nice in proportion), eye-catching flowers (inspire the retail, inspire the consumer, have long-lasting products with perfect garden performance), and shelf life (every breeder puts that on the list and perfect if you can make it happen).
They started in 2009 and in 2015, Hartwig and Ulrike Bull and their team introduced varieties that have been known already a long time but now in a new style:
Click here for more SunMagic varieties.
Echinacea’ SunMagic’ -“It is a new Echinacea line with extremely good branching. The first top product is the ‘Vintage Red’ that was added in 2021/22 in 5 new colors. All in all, it is a ‘Must have’ Echinacea on the patio and in the garden.”
Click here for more Sunbeckia varieties
Rudbeckia’ Sunbeckia’ – “This variety is the real strong and long-lasting annual Rudbeckia with a perfect shelf life and flowers with 5 to 6,5″ diameter. The flowers last up to 6 weeks. Great for decorating and a ‘Must have’ Rudbeckia on the patio.”
Helianthus’ SunCatcher’ – This variety is a zone 5 perennial that is perfect for mail order and has a super garden performance. On top of that, it is a perfect pollinator plant as it is loved by bees.”
All varieties are protected by patent, despite Hartwig used to breed only for his own use.
The first step was done for moving forward, and so the Bull Genetics have been given to licensees. First, Ulrike and Hartwig struggled with this, but finally, they realized that their own production was not big enough to cover all of Europe.
Interested young plant producers have been found in Poland and the Netherlands. “The big tag or label which goes along with every plant helped a lot to find the necessary attention in the market. Wholesale organizations, Big Box stores in Germany, and last but not least, retailers and consumers became aware of his product.”
Looking at the European market Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, France, the UK, Poland, and other Eastern countries are covered. First steps into Denmark have been made as well.
Going to the US
In 2019, a big step was made, namely going to the US. As previous trial shipments in 2017 and 2018 did not succeed, a trip through some eastern states of the US to visit some companies helped a lot. Today Hartwig knows: “Meet the right people at the right time with a good product and make friends.”
After trials in 2020, Zoom, and Team Video meetings, all products have been presented to the US market, and “with the help of specialists in the market, the Rudbeckia ‘Sunbeckia,’ the Echinacea ‘SunMagic’ and the Helianthus’ SunCatcher’ will find their lovers.”
Today products of Bull Plant Genetics are offered in major markets worldwide. “We are happy to work with good partners in Europe, on the US market, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.”
Eager to meet the team of Bull Genetics and see their varieties? They will be exhibiting at Cultivate’23 in Columbus, Ohio, from July 14-18, booth 3153.
For more information
Bull Plant Genetics