Interview with Carlos van der Veek
By Colette Harley
June 1, 2020
I know that your father Karel was a big daffodil hybridizer - so you've worked with daffodils pretty much your entire life, because of your father and being around them.
Yes, yes. I literally grew up in the daffodils. I've seen them all my life and my father, the hybridizing came later, he kind of started as a collector. He just had his collection to show the growers in the area what's all available in the world of daffodils. And that is the main purpose for him starting with the daffodils
So the collection that you have that he started and you added on to its a lot of stuff that's not commercially grown.
So why aren't they more widely grown?
Woah, that's a good question. I think for the general public they look a lot the same, and the general public just wants a good deal on a white or yellow, or a pink or a red daffodil. If the variety is called Shalom or Franklin Rose, it doesn't matter to them. They're both pinks. And so the commercial growers, the ones that grow the daffodils widley, just go for the easy ones that are easy to produce.They offer these to the industry and the industry offers them to the garden centers and the chain stores. So the people with real interest in daffodils think that's a real pity because they can't buy [the specialty ones], the delicacy in the daffodil world. The reason they're not commercially grown is really that there isn't a big market for them.
I'm in the position where I can easily grow them because I have equipment and machinery and everything, but I know the demand for them.
In England, I kind of started the job ten years ago, even a little bit longer, when my father passed away. I got close to people who could market and do the real daffodil end in just the English market. In the last eight years the president [of the Daffodil Society in England] spoke to me and said “We can't offer our newer members a nice variety of daffodils.” I said, “I can help you because I have them. I want to make them available for the public.”
The list, I would say, is 50/50 historic and modern varieties.
For historic varieties - ones that you've found or ones that you've received from other growers - where do they come from?
My father started it in the 1970s. And by then he also was talking to growers that were 80 years old and they still had in the vineyard these daffodils that they grew before the war, you know like in the 1930s. They knew the name and they brought it to my father for his collection. During the years, he had received dozens of these old varieties from kind of retired growers and they were already retired in the 1970s so those daffodils are really old.
Oh that's cool - you are the keeper of the daffodils.
And we think it's a shame to throw them away so we just keep on growing them.
Daffodil breeding is done as a hobby - not a big business as tulip breeding is.
No no. Daffodil breeding that's a small scale done in Holland. [Brian] Duncan is a daffodil breeder and he always tells me a joke.
He says “A daffodil breeder wins a million dollars in the lottery and someone else asks “what are you going to do with it?” and the breeder says “I'm going to breed daffodils until it's all gone.”
And that's daffodil breeding - there's no money in it so it's done on the small scale. I think I'm one of the biggest breeders in Holland and I hardly do anything.
10 years to breed a new one?
Yes, even longer.It's like if I make a cross today it takes five years to flower and another 10 years to offer another to offer a dozen bulbs or so on QDaffs or Fluwel. At least 15 years.
Favorite daffodil in the collection ?
I have a favorite one... “I Love You”. That's one that I bred myself and it won first prize at the show in England. then it was still only numbers. And all the old guys were talking about the daffodils and I thought I'd make fun out of them by calling it “I Love You” so now they have to say “I Love You” all the time. It's kind of a joke for all who are so antiseptic about daffodils. But it's really one of my favorites from the new ones.
I think it is because I consider daffodils more of a perennial than a bulb because you plant it and it comes back for years. It's so early in the spring and has such a happy and cheerful appearance. Daffodils bring smiles to people because they're the first flowers with focal impact that appear in the springtime, and even though there's also crocuses and glory of the snow and galanthus. The daffodil is a real boom because of the flower. There's something about it that brings joy to people.