Walter van den Berg was born a grower, literally almost; his cradle was placed between the geraniums, and as a child he helped out at the nursery every spare hour. Now it’s the turn of his young children to give him a helping hand. I spent an afternoon at the Bergcamp seasonal plant nursery where I had an engaging and animated chat with Walter. He spoke at length and in depth about his opinions on doing business, and the ideal future they are passionately working towards.
Would it be fair to say that Bergcamp nursery is an out-and-out family business?
Yes, definitely. My brother Robert and I grew up here, and now we run the nursery together. Tragically, our father died nine years ago, way before his time. Robert and I stepped into his shoes. Although I gave it my all, I noticed that it was exhausting me. I often woke up at night with all kinds of thoughts racing through my brain. My dad always said, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never have to work again.’ With his mantra in mind, I took a leadership course and then started doing business in a way that actually gives us energy instead of sapping it. By the way, my dad’s words are now printed in big letters on the wall in the canteen.
What makes your way of doing business different?
First of all, job satisfaction. Our people feel engaged. When I decided to abandon the traditional ‘management’ of staff and gave my colleagues the opportunity to improve processes and share their thoughts with us, it turned out to be a double-edged sword. Our employees get more satisfaction from their work, and as a bonus they know how to implement improvements that I’d never have thought of myself. For a team to be successful, it’s important that expectations are clear. Now that we all know exactly who’s responsible for which tasks and goals, things are running smoothly.
We grow Cyclamen, Campanula and Pelargonium. These are significant product groups, and cultivated in lots of nurseries in Europe. We’ve set ourselves the goal of being in the top three in terms of quality with every product. That requires a lot of effort in all kinds of areas. Our plants are given space to grow to a respectable size, and we don’t use heating. As a result, they grow more slowly, so cultivation takes longer, but these plants are resilient with a long shelf life. We get our plants extensively tested to continuously improve quality.
Breeders and plant suppliers now know our objectives, and do their bit to help us achieve them. Another aim is to get the mortality rate below 1%! That may sound impossible, but we’ve actually managed to get there.
We’ve also learned another valuable lesson, I’m glad to say. I see it as the final piece of the puzzle…
When we grow a beautiful Cyclamen or Perlargonium that delights the retailer because the plant maintains its appearance in the retail environment and is highly appreciated by the consumer because it blooms for a very long time, it would be a waste if such a plant disappeared in the anonymity of the complete supply of all growers. We used to forget to mention that making sure our products have a long shelf life is one of our priorities. So to make sure our pelargoniums stand out,
we’ve branded them ‘Long Life’. The logo is printed on the growing pot. Our pelargoniums can now also easily be found under ‘Pelargonium Long Life’ in the Javado webshop. Now that our Pelargonium is a real brand, we enjoy growing it even more.
“We want to make consumers fall in love with our product”
How do you see the future of your family business?
Our goal is net zero cultivation. We’ve already come a long way. We make a difference by cultivating without using heating, unless it’s really necessary in extreme cold. We use residual heat, and soon we’ll have access to geothermal heat. We have the footprint of our products measured, so that we can effectively drive improvements.
In addition to our sustainability goals, we also have to deal with the growth of our company. We noticed that our customers, including Javado who sell our products, were ordering more and more. That made us think; we want to advance with our customers, but we don’t want to compromise on quality. We’re not going to put plants closer together or grow them faster. In 2023,we decided that the best solution was to expand. We had a beautiful, modern greenhouse built, and the first plants are already flowering. Now that we have more space, we can extend the cyclamen cultivation season, and maintain supplies until Mother’s Day (in the UK). And we’re going to introduce a new product group, as we’re taking over the cultivation of scented geraniums. I’m really looking forward to that. The series includes the well-known “Mosquito Fighter” and the different varieties that smell like lemon, roses, melon, or even cola.
Growing is a great job, as it involves a bit of everything; working with people, making a natural product, and marketing your own plants. I’m the third generation in this great family company, and I’m eternally grateful to my Dad for being able to pass it on to me. Who knows, the fourth generation might want to take over in the future, time will tell.
Bergcamp takes the quality of its plants very seriously, so only the best varieties are selected for cultivation. Since the cuttings are planted directly by hand, they branch very well. The plants are given the time and space they need to grow. Bergcamp also gives each plant the right amount of nutrition. This makes problems such as a yellow leaf in the retail environment much less likely. Now you know what to expect if you order a Pelargonium Long Life.
single-flowered and double-flowered
This hanging geranium originates from South Africa. Its growth form is perfect for hanging pots and balcony boxes. This, added to the long flowering period and the beautiful colours, makes it one of the most beloved patio plants we know. Single-flowered and double-flowered varieties are available.
This upright pelargonium also hails from South Africa, and flowers from April until well into October. An astonishing range of flowers are available, both single-uniform and bi-coloured in hues that vary from vivid primaries to pastel.
- To enjoy Pelargonium’s flowers for many months, put the plant in direct sunlight or partial shade.
- Water regularly, but allow the top layer of potting soil to dry before watering again.
- If you remove the spent flowers, your Pelargonium will continue to produce new ones.
- For really abundant flowering, give a little plant food every two weeks.
Published on: 2 Fevereiro 2024