Exotic stems from Heemskerk

Holland has so much more to offer than tulips – take the town of Heemskerk for example, the small town situated in the North of the Netherlands is the hometown of the Nerine flower. 70 percent of the Nerines sold in the Netherlands come from here. Most of them are nurtured at Bas van Keulen’s, one of our breeders specialising in this particular bulb – something quite different from the tulip. How big is the farm? Right now, there are 15,000 bulbs growing in the ground.

Family business

To get to Heemskerk, take a side road off the Rijksstraatweg and you’ll find yourself driving between greenhouses and fields. This is the horticultural area called Heemskerkerduin, where you can find around 40 other growers. Bas van Keulen was born and raised here. His grandfather grew strawberries here, his father planted Nerines. The passion for growing was passed down to Bas, who used to help out after school. “I have also grown carnations, lilies and lysimachia, but ultimately I wanted to specialize. I simply like Narines the most – they are separate, elegant, and not a mass product.” It’s a real family business – his father, now 81, still works here. “And my 7 year old daughter has green fingers, I regularly see her pulling out weeds.”

Challenges

Behind the house on the Cieweg where he lives with his wife and three children, lays 7,000m2 ofgreenhouses and 2 hectares of land. In total, here he grows around a million of Nerines. You can also
see piles of bulbs left to dry.
“The biggest challenge is to deliver flowers all year round”, he says. This requires a lot of  planning: it takes 5 to 6 months before the bulbs are in bloom, then they still need two months to ripen in the ground, after which they are harvested and dried before the next cycle. “But if I plant them now, I do not know exactly when they’re good,” Bass says. “When the bud comes off the bulb, I know that it will take 4 weeks to flourish. I try to push nature’s limits to get the bulbs in a fixed cycle. Tulips bloom much better and it’s easier to plan, but then it starts resembling a factory line. I don’t
like that. ” 

Working with us

“I find your approach refreshing” Bas says. “Even the founders come here to meet us and check out the
flowers, it’s a pleasure to see that they are so involved in the process. I’m even Facebook friends with
**Anton (bloomon’s stylist), so I keep myself updated with the ins and outs of the company.”
The main advantage he sees is the short route from field to consumer, compared to the longer lead times that occur when flowers go to an auction house. Bas is an innovative grower –  he loves trying out new things. In fact, when we visited him to do the interview, he kept showing us various experiments he and his dad were doing! It’s just three of them working in the farm, and even with a huge mountain of bulbs and another 15,000 in the ground, they still find time to get creative! The last thing he tells us, is that in September he’ll be growing them in forests near by… Exciting!

Tips & Tricks:

– Bas already gave the Nerines in your bouquet an energy drink – so they are well hydrated when they turn up at your doorstep; if you place them into a clean vase with clean water, then they will stay beautifully fresh for a minimum of 2 weeks.

– Grow your own – Nerines also do well in the garden: from February until May, the bulbs can be purchased at garden centers. Plant them in April or May and they will bloom in September or October.

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