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A Nose Full of Dust

Eight days and fourteen hands. That’s what it took to get us through the Daffodils this year. The ones that we sort by hand, that is. There were more than a thousand varieties, seedlings included, that had to be sorted manually. We separated large bulbs from baby ones and took out the ones with the perfect size to send to our customers.

Here, you see three large bulbs with their combined baby bulbs separated from them. These baby bulbs will grow into nice, large bulbs next year. Another year later, those same bulbs will be creating this number of baby bulbs themselves.

This year was extra dusty as we were unable to get the bulbs off the land on a dry day. The rain made them moist, and therefore, lots of sand clung to the bulbs when we put them in their crates to be transported to the warehouse. The bulbs are easy to dry in the warehouse, but the dry sand still sticks to them, and to get that off, you have to shake the crate, bulbs and all, which creates a gigantic cloud of dust. All that sand ends up in the noses of the seven Daffodil specialists working at the table. When you blow your nose at night, you can still see the sand in your tissue.

Karel shakes out a crate of Daffodils

The Daffodils are done, so we can start the next task: packing the bulbs we have sold. All the Daffodils I have in my own garden are sold in the Candy Store for European customers and through Qdaffs in the United States. Other Daffodils Fluwel sells are grown by Jan Hein, those varieties are larger and are processed and packaged through machinery in the warehouse. The Candy Store and Qdaff have the rare, smaller varieties available in much smaller numbers. I do have to inform you that you cannot order these varieties any more this year: the store closes the moment we start manually processing the small varieties. We have to take out the number of bulbs we have sold at that moment: going back costs way too much time and is impossible to do. The Candy Store and Qdaff will open again next season: make sure to set a reminder if you’ve missed them this year! Naturally, the regular Fluwel Daffodils are still available to order, and that assortment does not fall short this year: there are almost one hundred different varieties for you to choose from.

A large and a small Daffodil

Going through the Candy Store and Qdaff Daffodils has to be done completely by hand. There are over 5000 bags in all shapes and sizes that have to be filled up with bulbs that you have ordered. We sticker them by hand, put the bulbs in the bags, sort them alphabetically, and then put together the orders. It’s a fun job: we see some names return year after year, and that makes you happy. Some people we know personally as well, from Daffodil conventions and other social, flower-related gatherings, but some people are also still strangers with a name that returns to our warehouse every year.

Floor Manager Pracht

The reason of our very fast processing is thanks to our loyal and enthusiastic staff. I will introduce them briefly for you here. The best of the best worker is our ‘Floor Manager’ Pracht. She talks the whole day and notices every little thing that happens. She writes name cards, picks new flower bulbs from the crates, moves away full stacks of crates, and asks a ton of (not necessarily) flower bulb related questions. Luckily, the speed of her hands still exceeds the speed of her talking.

Bregt can talk and work at the same time; Pracht listens.

Then we have Bregt, also one of our most valuable workers. If we didn’t have Bregt, we would still be breathing in dusty sand from unprocessed Daffodil bulbs. She is the fastest one when it comes to moving the Daffodils through her hands.

Karel and Arthur spend over 10 hours per day sorting Daffodils

New this year was my son Karel. He was here day and night and helped with everything: digging bulbs, getting them off the land, moving them into the warehouse, and making sure everyone knows what to do with them. I can easily leave this year to write a newsletter or talk to a fellow grower who has come to visit: I can still be sure that everything will get done. If you’ll believe it, Karel wants to go into flower bulbs as well. He likes what we’re doing and he can see himself continuing to do it. But first, he’s going to go off to Groningen for a few years to learn something. He’s going to study something among the lines of Business and Finance, but I think he knows the most important stuff already: if you work hard and earn more money than you spend, your business works. But we’re happy he is going: if he likes his studies it will be easier to do them well, and that leaves all the more time to enjoy the social life of a university student.

The list of bulbs that have been sold. We write down the number of bulbs that will be planted again next to the number of bulbs that have been sold.

Now that I’m talking about my colleagues like this, I’m realizing that I have not yet written a newsletter about my brothers yet. Fluwel would not be here if I were an only child, so it might be fun to tell you more about them in the following weeks. I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you all about them.

Tutti Tulpi Romantico in the Fluwel garden at Keukenhof

I’m going to wrap up this newsletter. It’s time to go back to the warehouse and see if everything is still going smoothly, which is unnecessary, as Karel is there today, but still. If you are in the neighbourhood, you can also buy flowers in the shop at Land van Fluwel (www.landvanfluwel.nl) or in the flower bulb store across the road from Fluwel, at my brother Sigge’s house. The assortments we have in those stores is not as large as the one we have online, but looking through the actual, physical bulbs is fun, too. The best offer this summer is a large bag of big Daffodils for just 5 euros. It contains a large variety of Daffodils and will surprise you the whole spring.

Floor Manager Pracht leading the way with Bregt following close behind.

Pracht and Bregt are picking bulbs by hand to make sure there are 50 different varieties of Tulips in the mixtures of Tutti Tulpi and Tutti Tulpi Romantico. These mixtures will bring so much life to your garden it would be a shame to miss out on them!

Thanks for reading,

Kind regards,

Carlos van der Veek

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