‘When we started everyone said we were mad’

Els Verlee is responsible for the distribution of the 2,000,000 hedera plants grown by her husband in Lochristi (Belgium). England is an important market for De Mol-Verlee, but Brexit isn’t keeping the entrepreneurs awake at night. Christmas is an important sales period for them. By mid-December, most of the plants have left the premises. Time for the couple to get their bikes out.

Hedera in Lochristi. Isn’t this place better known for its azaleas?”

When we started here in 1991, everyone said we were mad. Lochristi is indeed the stronghold of begonia and azalea nurseries. Ivy was considered a weed. But we’ve grown rapidly from the very start. We began with 3,000 square metres and every two years, we’d expand by 2,000 metres, until we reached the current 11,000 square metres. We have plenty of land, so we could expand even further in the future.”

Why did you choose ivy?

”I followed my husband. During his studies, Frank did an internship with a German ivy grower in Florida, USA. He eventually copied the company in Lochristi.”Do you have a horticultural background?”Our parents weren’t horticulturists, but Frank studied horticulture. I never thought I’d be working in the floriculture sector myself. The fact that there wasn’t a family business to take over, was one of the reasons why we had to start small.” (..)

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