German grower Jürgen Verbeek recently switched to cut hydrangea. Their fragmented company wasn’t suitable for automation. “That’s why we decided to make a start with cut hydrangea. I never regretted it”, says German grower Verbeek.
Busy times at the company?
“It’s pretty quiet at the moment. The early cultivars of the cut hydrangeas, our main crop, have already been harvested. The later cultivars are now slowly getting ready. But we only harvest what’s absolutely needed. Prices are bad because of the summer weather. When temperatures soared last week, we didn’t mind not having to work such long days. We’d start at 6 a.m. and made sure we were out of the greenhouse by 1 p.m.”
Until a few years ago, your focus was on pot and bedding plants. Why did you switch to cut hydrangeas?
“It had everything to do with the structure of the company. We’ve got greenhouses in three different locations. From 2010, many pot and bedding plant companies started automating. But for our fragmented company, that was not an option. As a result, I needed more manpower than my colleagues, and we started to fall behind. The cultivation of cut hydrangea doesn’t have that problem, because it isn’t yet automated to the same extent. That’s why we decided to switch. I never regretted it.”
Did you ever consider starting all over?
“No, never. For a start, it wasn’t allowed to build anything new here for a long time. Furthermore, I’m very attached to the place where I live, I don’t want to move. And I’m not the kind of person to run a large-scale company. Our current company is the perfect size for me.”
What about your sales?
“Although the current price of cut hydrangeas is low, we can’t complain. The early varieties, which we distributed through the clocks of Royal FloraHolland and Veiling Rhein-Maas, made a fair bit of money this year. Prices for perennials were also good. The potted hydrangeas were the only category that didn’t do so well.”
What is the biggest challenge?
“The reduced availability of pesticides. That’s why we made a start with biological pest control last year. It’s going better than I expected, but it is something you’ve got to learn. It takes some time to really get to grips with it.”
Any holiday plans?
“We’ll probably go to the Nuremberg region for the autumn break. We usually stay within a 500-km radius. What I want most from my holidays, is spending time with my children. We like going on long walks together.”
AGE 44 years
COMPANY Gartenbau Verbeek
CROP cut and pot hydrangea, perennials and Dianthus barbatus
LOCATION Straelen (Germany)
ACREAGE 1.3 ha greenhouse, 1.5 ha container field, 0.2 ha polytunnel and 0.5 open field