Friday, November 4, 2011

European Trip Day 1

I am now (in the air) returning home from seven days in Holland, then Belgium, plus a day at both ends for travel. I was accompanied by Phil Turrell, my most diligent and intelligent employee of many years. Our job is horticulture, and work we did.

We left our pruners and shovels at home, instead concentrating on progressive European growing methods, new ways of marketing, and of course, new plants. We have cultivated relationships with some of the greatest plantsmen on earth, which can be a very humbling experience. Nevertheless, our cameras were in focus and our wits were sharp, and we devoured all that we could.

The first stop was at the nursery of Nelis Kools of Duerne, The Netherlands. Nelis, his wife and a few employees produce a million coniferous rooted-cuttings per year. The demand for his plants is much larger, as his product is exceptionally healthy and uniform, but he prefers to remain at his current profitable, manageable size. The success of his cutting business allows him to "play" with new plants, which occur from his discoveries, or from like-minded plantsmen (such as me). Nelis also holds the Dutch national collection of Sequoia, Sequoiadendron and Metasequoia. Reluctantly, he posed in front of his new Metasequoia selection, 'Golden Guusje', which will be marketed in America as 'Kools Gold'.

Nelis and Metasequoia glyptostroboides 'Kools Gold'
This cultivar is more deeply yellow than the common selection, 'Gold Rush', and is less likely to suffer foliage burn. 'Kools Gold' must be grown in full sun for best color.

Nelis has introduced another very worthy Metasequoia cultivar into Europe, 'Schirrmann's Nordlicht', a dwarf with sparkling white foliage. We have introduced this same conifer into America as 'North Light', with the European name attached to avoid confusion (the same with 'Kools Gold').

The best part of a trip to Kools Boomkwekerij in Duerne is to visit with Nelis's lovely wife, Marjolein, and their beautiful children Jop and Guusje (yes: 'Golden Guusje'). At six years of age, Guusje is between the age of my two daughters, Saya and Harumi, and after just one day I began to miss my kids very much. Perhaps we stayed too long, as the "Golden Girl" was falling asleep in her mother's arms, so we retired for the night.
The Kools Family
Guusje Kools

European Trip Day 2

An early start to visit Vergeldt Nursery in Lottum, The Netherlands. Many will know of this nursery because of their plant introductions, all of which begin with "Peve," the abbreviation for "Piet Vergeldt." He and his sons Job and Tijn, and their employees have discovered many wonderful plants. Perhaps most famous is Taxodium distichum 'Peve Minaret', a compact (but not so dwarf) "Bald Cypress." Maple introductions include Acer palmatums 'Peve Multicolor' and 'Peve Starfish'.
Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'
Acer palmatum 'Peve Starfish'

Vergeldt also holds the Dutch national collection of Cornus, and he showed off an impressive array of dwarf, variegated and abnormal leaf-shaped cultivars. Conifers hold an important place at Vergeldt Nursery as well; one introduction which comes to mind is the dwarf, golden Picea omorika 'Peve Tijn'. We're anxious to compare it with our own recent introduction, Picea omorika 'Golden Midget'. Which cultivar will display the best golden color without burning?

Tijn Vergeldt wouldn't get off the tractor and kept working, but Piet and son Job took us to the propagation area, holding back no secrets. We observed their propagation methods and commented on, and answered questions about, our own. It was a lively "catch-ball" session, where keeping up on our notes was challenging. Sometimes the rush of insightful information can practically paralyze the jet-lagged (and simple-minded anyway) nurseryman.

One thing is certain: the horticultural practices of Vergeldt are reduced to simplicity, and everything seems common-sense in hindsight. How many of us encumber ourselves with tunnel-vision tradition and "how-you're-supposed-to-do-it" nonsense? Well, everybody's nursery is different, and exists in a different climate, but one has the feeling that the Vergeldts would figure it out no matter where they farmed.

And what a likable family! Piet turned a little shy when I asked him to pose with a pot of Ginkgo biloba 'Marieken', as if I were the only cameraman on earth to ever have requested his portrait.

Job Vergeldt
Piet Vergeldt
Some conifers that entertained us include Abies koreana 'Bonsai Blue', Abies procera 'Procumbens', Pinus mugo 'Benjamin', Pinus mugo 'Golden Glow', Juniperus procumbens' Peve Spikkel', and Picea abies 'Lucky Strike'.

Abies koreana 'Bonsai Blue'
Abies procera 'Procumbens'
Pinus mugo 'Benjamin'

Pinus mugo 'Golden Glow'
Juniperus procumbens 'Peve Spikkel'
Picea abies 'Lucky Strike'

Deciduous plants were impressive as well, with fall color evident, especially on the Cornus. Cornus kousa 'Melanie' and 'Eva' are both small variegated trees, with 'Eva' more pink and 'Melanie' more white in fall.

Cornus kousa 'Eva'
Cornus kousa 'Melanie'

Cornus kousa 'Peve Patrick' is a Vergeldt seedling with great promise, an upright with tri-colored leaves.
Cornus kousa 'Peve Patrick'
With our brains overloaded with new plant selections, and jet-lag creeping back in, fortunately we were invited in to lunch. Afterwards we would drive to Antwerp, Belgium for a five-day International Maple Symposium, held at the nearby Wespelaar Arboretum. We said goodbye to the Vergeldts, and I suspect the family worked late into the evening to make up for the time lost with the Americans.


  1. Very nice presentation of your trip.

  2. Very much enjoyed the pictures and details of your trip. Thanks for the update on new tree

  3. Very nice blog, with so many nice photos.
    Just a comment about Picea pungens "Luky Strike", it's not a poicea pungens, (look the cones)but a Picea abies "Lombarts"
    Clément ANTHOINE

  4. hello, I was looking for pictures of PEVE-multicolor and came across your blog! I did not know Acer palmatum 'PEVE Starfish! you have it on sale? you found me on facebook I possess a hundred acer palmatum variety of the garden! 800 photos
    Vincent friendly