Delphinium: hard to grow, but beautiful!
André Westendorp, Nico Wigchert, Marcel de Rooij and Jan Nederpel. Four growers with a shared passion: delphiniums. “When the spike is in full bloom from top to bottom, and the colour shines out at you… There are few flowers that have as much presence as delphiniums,” says Nico Wigchert.
“You really need to work hard for a delphinium. It’s technically challenging to grow a good flower. That’s what I love about it,” says Marcel de Rooij of Quality4Flowers in Oude Wetering “Nico Wigchert taught me the tricks of the trade.”
At Quality4Flowers the delphiniums grow both in the greenhouse and outdoors in the soil. “We harvest flowers from mid-May to mid-November. After harvesting we move the plants from the greenhouse to the cold store, where we create our own winter. It’s hard work, but it enables us to spread the harvest better. In January we remove the first plants from the cold store in order to take cuttings. From February onwards we regularly bring consignments of plants that are more than a year old to the greenhouse. The plant lasts three years; they’re replaced before the quality deteriorates.”
“We walk quite a distance in search of flowers with the same ripeness: up to 8 km a day” – Marcel de Rooij
“Propagating, cultivating, breeding – we do it all ourselves,” says Nico Wigchert of the N.G. Wigchert Delphinium nursery. “My father started breeding Delphinium elatum (double-flowered) as a cut flower. That led to our DEWI series. We’re always looking for new varieties. They need to be easy to grow (so not prone to disease, for example) and have presence,” says Nico. “I also need to love them. We don’t get rid of a beautiful delphinium that we cannot grow straightaway. We always check whether there is a different way of growing it that does work.”
“Always looking for new varieties” – Nico Wigchert
Stroll round the field
The plants are grown in the greenhouse and outdoors; partly in the Netherlands (Noordwijkerhout) and partly in Portugal (so that Nico can also supply good quality delphiniums during the winter months). On a pleasant summer evening Nico enjoys a stroll round the field. “I can take a good look then: is the crop looking good, does the support netting need to be raised? I also enjoy it in the morning when there are ten people harvesting delphiniums. Everything is in motion, and you can see flowers everywhere.”
Delphinium’s have been grown at the Delphi nursery for thirty years. “First as one of various summer flowers, but now we have moved entirely to delphiniums,” says Jan Nederpel. “We’re involved in all aspects of the cultivation: from growing to breeding. After all these years I still enjoy 100% job satisfaction.”
“I enjoy 100% job satisfaction” – Jan Nederpel
The first flower
“When we’re breeding we are always looking for more beautiful, more intense colours”, explains Jan Nederpel. “It’s always exciting when we’ve produced new crosses. The best moment is when the first flower opens. You see the colour for the first time. After that we also look at the size the flower, for instance, and particularly the disease resistance. If it’s good, we take it further. I can tell you now: there are more beautiful colours on their way!”
Richly varied colour palette
André and Dorien Westendorp’s Delphinium nursery is located in the Drenthe countryside. Anyone who visits the field during the harvest period – from June to around November – will see a richly varied colour palette, from the pink Delphinium Kissi ‘Lovely Pink’ to the intense blue ‘Jeans Blue’. “We allow the delphiniums to develop a fair amount of colour in the field. It makes the flowers more beautiful, and they open fully in the vase,” explains André.
André and Dorien do all the work at the nursery together: from weeding to bundling flowers. In the middle of summer Dorien is out in the field harvesting flowers – preferably at night! “That’s when the plants have taken up lots of water, so that the stems are nice and firm. There’s a special atmosphere in the field at night. Bats soar overhead and a stone marten will often come and see what’s going on: his eyes glow in the light from my head torch.” During the harvesting season André mainly focuses on sorting and bundling. “It still makes me happy every time I have a beautiful cart of delphiniums ready to go. I can look at it with real pride!”
“Delphinium Kissi ‘Lovely Pink’ has good colour and a nice branch structure; the flowers can be a fraction free from the stem” – André Westendorp