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Happy anniversary to Breck’s Holland directeur Ben!

Contributed by:
Ben van der Veldt

Bringing a new tulip or daffodil to market, from hybridization to large-scale production, can take up to 20 years. Luckily, Ben van der Veldt, the directeur, or president, of our Holland office, holds a great deal of enthusiasm for unique varieties, and watches carefully over the years for characteristics and reliability. When we introduce a new variety, you can be assured Ben has blessed it over the course of many seasons for garden worthiness and success. Ben has worked for Breck’s for 40 years this week! Starting as a Breck’s bulb packer, today he runs many of our buying operations and helps to bring our customers the very best selection of Dutch bulbs. We asked him about his experiences at Breck’s:

Q: Tell us a bit about where you’re located.

A: The Breck’s Holland office is located in Hillegom, a small town of about 22,000 people, which is in the centre of the Dutch bulb growing fields. In spring you will see acres and acres of colours from the flowering tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. We are only 10 minutes away from the famous Keukenhof Gardens; this is a world famous display garden where exporters and growers show their flower bulbs. More than 70 million tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are planted each year. It is open for 8 weeks in March, April, and May and this year one million people from all over the world visited it. I was born and raised in the same town as our office is located and I am still living in this town.

Q: How did you get started with the company, and what was your first job?

A: I am the third generation of my family working in the flower bulb industry. My grandfather was a hyacinth grower and hybridizer. He has introduced a number of new hyacinths. In those days, hyacinths were more popular than tulips! My father was salesman travelling back and forth to the USA to sell flower bulbs. As a student, I worked for Breck’s during the summer months, packing flower bulbs. At that time they asked me to come and work for them permanently when I had finished Horticultural College. After my national service in the army and several years of living in England, I did come back to a job in operations. In that job, I spent April and May visiting growers in search of new and unique varieties. I’m fortunate to have started with a great company at the beginning of my career – my responsibilities grew from there!

Q: You’ve worked at the Breck’s Canadian headquarters, as well as the U.S. and Holland locations. Tell us about your time in Canada.

Until 1994, I spent a couple of months each year in Canada. I worked with Breck’s Canadian manager to plan spring shipments and fall sales. Each fall, I would visit Canadian garden centres all over Canada to see what they were offering, and  I learned a lot about demand for the various flower bulbs. Then I’d go back to Holland for Christmas, and come back to Canada in January and February. Working in Canada not only provided me with information about bulbs – I also learned a lot about Canada and its people.

I no longer have the time to spend months in Canada every year, and I can tell you that I really miss those trips. Fortunately, I still visit Canada every other year – I can combine pleasure and work at the same, as four of my relatives immigrated to Canada. I send them and their children flower bulbs and perennials, with the request to grow them in their gardens and to let me know how well they perform.  They are happy with the plants, and I am happy, as I get a lot of information about how varieties perform in Canadian climates!

Q: What do you do on a typical day as the president, or directeur, of Breck’s Holland?

A: I do many things on a typical day. It depends, of course, on the time of the year. In January I am busy with shipping spring orders and, at the same time, work on the catalogues and mailings for fall. In April and May I spend a lot of time outside the office, visiting growers, looking for new and unique varieties  this is one of the most enjoyable parts of my work. In June and July I work on the spring catalogue. During that same time I visit perennial test gardens and perennial growers. In July, August and September, we are busy shipping fall orders. In November and December, we work on finalizing the spring catalogue and starting on fall! In between we manage the office, buy the product and arrange ocean freight.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working with Breck’s?

A: Not a day is the same. After all these years, there are still challenges. The market is changing quicker than 20 years ago. Shelf life of concepts is short, so you have to come up all the time with new concepts and products. When I started it was just print and now we have another power too  the web to sell our product.

Q: What are your favorite flowers, and what do you love about gardening?

A: My favorite flower is the tulip! When you garden you can create so much colour and fragrance, from very early spring to late fall, in your garden. Gardening is so healthy  you are outside, and you are doing physical work. In addition, it clears your mind! During a nice day, you can sit in the garden and enjoy all the colours. It’s so rewarding, after a long day in the office, to can enjoy the beauty of your garden.

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Lauren has written 15 post in this blog.

July 23, 2014
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