Chad Unger, operations manager for Willowbend Nurseries in Perry, Ohio, was at the Farwest trade show several years ago and happened upon liners produced by Van Belle Nursery in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada. A light went off in his mind.
“I saw weigela Tuxedo and weigela Maroon Swoon in their booth. They were impressive. I knew they would be a hot-selling shrub for the nursery industry,” Unger says.
Unger quickly put in an order for 10,000 RocketLiners from Van Belle. Three years later that order has jumped to 25,000 units.
“The reason we initially chose to purchase liners from Van Belle was the new varieties of weigela, and we have been more than satisfied with all the liners we have received. They send high-quality liners at a great price,” he says.
Van Belle Nursery’s RocketLiners help Unger save on time and manpower.
“They remove the plastic cup from the liner when they ship. This is a very labor-intensive job with the amount of liners we purchase. Basically, when we receive them, all we have to do is take them straight to the planter,” he adds.
And because the liners are large, Unger says, it enables his team plant them and sell them in the same year.
“We never have to worry about the quality of liner we are receiving from them.”
Willowbend Nurseries is a 750-acre, 113-year-old nursery that sells ornamentals and flowering shrubs to re-wholesalers, garden centers, and landscapers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
The liners from Van Belle Nursery have been particularly popular.
“Since we have been purchasing liners from Van Belle, we have sold out every year,” Unger said. “We have been expanding our Bloomin’ Easy varieties each year as they are released. It’s the same with the new Bloomin’ Easy shrubs — they sell and are winners. I have had to triple my production to meet the demand.”
Van Belle Nursery’s Bloomin’ Easy line was recently enhanced by the release of two new varieties, the Date Night Series of weigelas; Electric Love and Stunner, each with improved characteristics over older varieties. Electric Love offers deep red flowers that cover dark foliage, while Stunner is more compact and floriferous, a product of the latest generation of breeding for dark-leaved, pink-flowered weigela.
Unger also appreciates Van Belle’s attention to detail in regard to providing production and planting tips, which Willowbend Nurseries then passes along to clients upon purchase.
“All information regarding the Bloomin Easy shrubs can be easily found on Van Belle and Willowbend Nurseries websites, as well as in the catalogs. Picture tags for each shrub are also available,” he says.
As for Van Belle Nursery’s support team, Unger has been pleased.
“The whole team at Van Belle has been fantastic. Our sales rep, Bill Heinrichs, goes above and beyond expectations. We receive pictures prior to them shipping our liners. They are always very responsive to any questions or concerns,” he says.