2010: Van der Boog & Van den Bosch 100 years
A brief history of a literally flowerful company By Peter van den Bosch (who is presently managing the company with his brother in law Henk van der Boog).
A few years ago we’ve discovered that we would have a 100 years jubilee in 2010. We’ve checked that at the Chamber of Commerce, which also gave us the chance to ask for additional information.
And indeed, 1910 it was.
Our modern facilities in Valkenburg.
As a boy of fifteen my grandfather Piet van den Bosch founded the company in 1910. Most likely with the help of his father Cees. Back then he started as a grower of vegetables, potatoes and onions in the open air and for that he rented land around the village of Rijnsburg. This was usual in the area in those days. *Based on its history that town has grown out to a famous place in the Dutch and international flower industry.
Grandfather and grandmother in front of the first greenhouse (for tulips) in the thirties, before WW 2.
During WW 1 he was commander of a platoon of the Dutch army that had to guard the Belgian border in the south. Holland was neutral in that war and they had to keep the fighting parties out, help refugees and arrest foreign soldiers that had deserted. They were based in a barracks near Flushing in Zeeland and went daily by ferry across the sea to go on patrol along the border. And that for four years. During that period his father kept an eye on his company and that means that Henk and me are the fourth generation in the company now.
At the age of 23 grandfather Piet came back when the war ended and started up again. In 1920 or 1921 he married and found a house on the edge of the village with in the back a piece of good land he could rent (or lease) for a long period of years. Grandfather was a tough and hard working guy and a real optimist with a lot of humor. Even in severe frost he stayed at work, harvesting typical Dutch “farmers cabbage”.
Grand dad at the age 84 in 1979.
When he was retired he simply stayed at work until his death at the age of 86, e.g. making tulip bunches. Helping the guys who worked in the company, he was always welcome and appreciated for bringing fun and joy during work. Complaining was something he never did.
There is’nt much known of the period between the two world wars. During the crisis in the thirties he switched to growing flowers, to find a new source of income. What flowers is unknown, but from the history we do know that he had summer flowers (like cornflowers and daisies) and tulips. With that he managed to pilot the company through the crisis. With the tulip bulbs he had, a cow was fed in WW2 that was borrowed to the family by a farmer inland who couldn’t take care of his animals, due to shortage of food.
The second world war
In may 1940 German paratroops landed in the area around The Hague in an attempt to capture the Dutch government and Queen. My father (also called Piet) was a boy of fifteen then and was directly faced with the horrors of war. Besides the house the Dutch army installed artillery to shoot at the airfield of Valkenburg nearby where the Germans had landed. After 3 days the German paratroops were defeated and the Germans had lost over 450 plains in their airborne operation over Holland, which made it impossible for them to invade England. But the German army had bombed Rotterdam and Holland had to surrender to avoid more cities being bombed and destroyed.
My father and grandfather have supplied the gun with large amounts of ammo during those days. Under camouflage from a barn in the village, while German planes were controlling the sky. WW 2 was a traumatic experience for my father. For instance he had to hide when the Germans held razzes for the “Arbeitseinsatz “ to force Dutch men to work in their weapon industry. In the beginning of the war they even had to house a soldier of the Hitlerjugend for more than a year. Surviving the war and the hunger was a tough job, but they had the luck of having a cow as a guest from a farmer who didn’t have fodder, plus some other animals and that grandfather could grow vegetables himself. In my youth I’ve heard so many stories from my parents about the war, too many in fact.
Licence to grow vegetables during the second world war.
After the war
After the Canadians liberated Holland the family went on growing vegetables and flowers. And in the winter my father worked in a flower shop when there wasn’t work on the land. In 1952 two sons joined the company, my father Piet and his younger brother Henk. And the firm was established called Van den Bosch & sons. So grandfather – then 57 – started working with his sons Piet – then 27 – and Henk – then 22 – and for that they had to go to the notary. Very soon the first greenhouses were built to grow tulips in the winter. And in 1953 a large greenhouse followed that was heated with a stove on coal. In that greenhouse they grew Freesia and summer flowers, like snapdragons and Asters.
Airial picture of Rijnsburg – west in 1951 with in front the first built ( unheated ) greenhouse behind the house of the neighbours.
Later on they expanded the amount of greenhouses rapidly and they installed “hot air stoves” that were heated with oil. Those stoves were dangerous, if you didn’t clean them frequently they could explode or throw out flames. Not really handy in a wooden greenhouse! And it became even more dangerous when the plastic tubes were introduced to connect to the stove with the intention to bring the warm air to all parts of the greenhouse.
In 1952 a boy of 12 came from horicultural school to learn and work. His name was Koos Verhoeven and he stayed with the company for nearly 60 years. Retirement was something he didn’t accept, because working with flowers and plants was his life. And another employee worked for more than 40 years with us, after coming from military service in 1970. He was retired in 2011. During the years many others came and left again, including students ( also foreign ) to learn the profession of growing flowers. When Koos Verhoeven worked 50 years with us, we’ve held a surprise party where we invited as much of his old colleagues as we could find. Many of them appeared to have afterwards started a company in floriculture themselves.
Joining a flower parade in the fifties.
The horror winter of 1963
Dunes of snow about 3 meters high, long lasting severe frost, water pipes frozen in the ground and no flower trading. That keeps hanging on in our memory of that period. I was a boy of seven and helped my father cleaning the heating stoves. They had 13 of those in the mean time. Piet and Henk van den Bosch worked together with a friend who also owned greenhouses nearby, so some were on duty during the night to guard the heating in the greenhouses, while the others could sleep. Nevertheless, there were still frozen crops in the extreme corners of the greenhouse. That winter was the reason to start building better greenhouses which needed less energy to warm, with a better heating system. My grandfather was 68 in the mean time and didn’t want to join anymore in that investment adventure. Hence he left the firm to his sons and they changed the name a bit to P. van den Bosch & sons. That extra “P” was to honor their father, who raised the company and brought it through the crisis and the following war. With this name the company has existed until 1988.
The years of building up after the war
The fifties and sixties were the decades of building up and expanding the company. They bought additional land, have built greenhouses on that, including a moveable one (with wheels like a train, on rails) that could move from crop to crop. And they’ve started up growing their own Tulip bulbs. Cultivation of the bulbs was done under contract by farmers in other areas of Holland to reduce costs and the large bulbs were used to make top quality tulips in the winter. They were the first ever to produce (red) tulips before Christmas in 1965, which were very popular for export to Germany. That was real innovation and they earned a lot of money with these flowers in the first winter, but soon it was copied by others, patent was impossible and the cultivation method grew out to mass production. The cooperation with a farmer in the north was legendary and lasted for many, many years. When that ended they remained friends for a long time. In 1973 they’ve built a huge barn with bulbs handling and cooling facilities on two floors. The top floor had a storage that could house 30 tons of young bulbs in optimal climate conditions.
Removing the “old” greenhouses in Rijnsburg in 1982, to build new.
In the fifties production was limited in licenses, a remainder of the war. The whole flower industry protested, growth was hardly possible. That system lead to corruption look-a-like circumstances where government employees played a misty role. When the EEG (now EU) was founded, that license system ended and “ the bear was loose ” (Dutch idiom).
Production license from 1946
The flower production exploded and that lead to excesses, because not all export limitations were abandoned directly. Hence it could happen that the German border was suddenly closed for some products, because the maximum amount of e.g. tulips was reached for that winter half year. That caused panic, in those years 80 % of all flowers went to Germany.
But the “Jews of flower trading” in Rijnsburg were clever and brought the tulips with the bulbs and roots across the border. Then these were “plants” instead of “cutflowers” and that was free to import into Germany. The tulips were rolled in bunches of 50 in a newspaper and transported standing up, to be made ready for sale behind the border. Many years later something similar happened when at a sudden moment president Jeltsin closed the Russian border for Dutch flowers, plants and vegetables. Those were then send through Belgium, by just making new custom papers that made it look like products from Belgium or bought by Belgian traders for export to Russia. Pure fake of course, but it worked.
Another activity was production and trading of carnation cuttings and young plants in the fifties. Those were popular flowers in that period. For promotion they e.g. joined the Rijnsburger flower parade several years with their own car or truck. Later on they had to stop that cuttings production again when carnation plants fell victim to the Fusarium disease.
The seventies started with the first energy crisis in 1973. In that period the company had Anthurium flowers in production, a sub-tropical crop that needs a warm and humid climate. That was difficult to continue in the greenhouses of 1963, so they switched to crops that could be grown in cooler circumstances, like Freesia and Matthiola. And tulips in the wintertime remained in the schedule, to stay at work in that part of the year.
The next generation
In 1975, after finishing Horticultural highschool in Aalsmeer, I went to work in the company. Shortly after that my uncle was faced with heart problems. This seemed temporarily, but appeared to be a remaining medical problem. In the same period my brother in law Henk van der Boog came to work with the company. He’s the son of an open air vegetable grower, so knew what to expect in horticultural production. And finally a nephew joined us, but steps for a follow up by the next generation were postponed, due to an uncertain future perspective. The reason was that the village council had decided to start building houses directly next to the greenhouses and had plans to expand that suburb later, on the land we had in use.
And then suddenly my father died in 1987 , being no more than 61 years old. That caused a situation with a widow ( my mother ) and an uncle with health problems who wasn’t capable to manage the company alone. That forced us to take decisions and lead to my uncle with my nephew leaving the company to us ( Henk and me ), with background support of my mother. We’ve then decided to change the company name to avoid confusion with the new company that my uncle and nephew were setting up. As of 1 Jan. 1988 we went on as “Firm van der Boog & van den Bosch” ( B/B in short ) and we’ve drastically changed our strategy and policy to more efficient production and specialization.
The last greenhouse in Rijnsburg, built in 1982 and left in 1997.
We’ve continued that for many years and finally only the crops Matricaria and Celosia were left. And then we’ve also ended cut flower production of Celosia (“cockscomb”), because that was difficult to combine with breeding in that crop. With that we’ve eliminated the risk of cross pollination and insects moving from production to the selection areas of the greenhouse (or otherwise). Controlling insects is becoming increasingly difficult, since we’ve changed to more environment neutral treatments with natural enemies and such, so this was needed.
In the mean time we’ve also moved from Rijnsburg to the next village Valkenburg, where we’ve built a larger greenhouse with special breeding areas. Hence we’ve ended open air production of flowers, that has become too risky with the constantly changing weather in our country. The result of all this is that we’re now completely specialized in cut flower production of Matricaria and as second activity we’re active in breeding and selection of Celosia with our daughter company Celex. Useful side effect is that we’re now able to isolate the experimental Celosias from each other for selection and seeds production.
Interior or our greenhouses in Valkenburg, built in 1996 and 2003.
And as end result ( for now ) the company is standing on two legs, the cut flower production by Firm van der Boog & van den Bosch and high tech breeding within Celex b.v. There’s more to read about that company in the article about innovations, on another page of this site. Link to Innovations.
And YES ! Generation five has arrived in 2002 from Horticultural highschool, being Leon van der Boog, the oldest son of Henk. While working with us he has done the course for plantbreeding at Wageningen university.
We have contributed to the founding of MPS and were one of the first producers worldwide to join Fair Flowers & Plants (F.F.P.). So we’re proud owners of three certificates, MPS – A, MPS – SQ and (with both) F.F.P. and that for both companies. We fight for a durable environment and world !
Besides that we’re active member of Web Of Trust, to fight for a durable and safe(r) internet as well. And use our internet skills to keep our company websites safe, up to date and interesting.
* I even have an extended website of my own about internet safety / privacy protection / safe web design and web threat definitions : >> > website.
Forward to the next 100 years !
Added February 2011: The second of generation five has arrived in the 101st year. Being my son Pieter van den Bosch, named after his grandfather and grand-grandfather and also fond of working with flowers and plants. The two young guys Leon and Pieter match great with each other, so now it’s a real family business.
Added March 2013: Unfortunately Leon van der Boog has left us after 11 years. A huge company in plant breeding of vegetables had offered him an exciting job. And after having some doubts what to do, he changed to full time plant breeding with them.
But that’s no reason to lean back, we go on!