Meet Jan Pennings
FLOWER bulbs have been grown in the Netherlands for over 500 years. The area, once flooded by the sea, boasts sandy soil that's ideal for growing bulbs. Following in his father's footsteps, Jan Pennings started his own bulb nursery in 1971, in a town about 50 miles from Amsterdam.
"My father starting growing bulbs at a young age. It became a family business, which means growing bulbs was and is our life. Coming home from school my father always had something for me to do," says Pennings.
Pennings is involved in the entire process at his nursery, including field production and variety selection. He travels around the world to keep up to date on what's happening in the world of bulbs.
Breeding bulbs to create new, unique varieties is a long process. Pennings often contacts amateur breeders worldwide, seeking varieties he can bring to market. "I'm always looking for something new and different, especially varieties that are resistant to diseases," he notes.
In 1987 he visited a friend and bulb breeder in Oregon. "He invited me to see his breeding bed and asked me which daffodil I liked best. I said, 'this one.' He sent me one bulb, and we now grow several acres of this variety, which we named My Story. This daffodil is also used to raise funds for multiple sclerosis," says Pennings. My Story is featured in the March bulb basket of our 6 Months of Blooms and 12 Months of Blooms bulb gardens.
Pennings also worked in cooperation with the Agricultural University in Holland in a hyacinth breeding program. "One of the best I found was a white one, which I named Aiolos — the name of the god of the wind in Greek mythology." Aiolos is featured in the December bulb basket of our "Months of Blooms" series, as well as in our Specialty Bulb Garden.
What does he enjoy most about growing bulbs? "Looking forward to spring. Seeing what is coming up and how they look makes me happy, especially after a long, cold, wet winter," says Pennings.