Putting passion in our gardens

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If there’s something gardeners do get excited about it’s growing a plant as close to black as it’s possible to get.

Which is why there is enormous interest in the Asian lily contained in the 70th anniversary edition of Bakker’s plant catalogue.

Adrian Nind and Annie Rowell trialling some of the products.

Adrian Nind and Annie Rowell trialling some of the products.

There is something else that is totally new in the catalogue: it is now called Bakker Spalding Garden Company.

The name change reflects the fact that the company does so much more than it did originally.

Its roots go back to the end of the Second World War when Piet Bakker began sending out bulbs from Holland.

It’s still a family firm, run by Piet’s son Jacques, but has developed from serving mostly the home market to being in 21 countries in Europe.

Managing director Adrian Nind said: “We are the biggest horticultural company supplying directly to customers at home.

“We have a database of over 15 million and at our peak we can pack over 40,000 parcels a day. It’s a big operation, with over 600 staff at head office in Lisse in Holland.”

The UK part of that operation is based in Enterprise Way in Pinchbeck, where marketing is looked after. There’s also a call centre with 40 people offering help to up to 1,000 customers a day, anything from taking orders to answering gardening queries.

Staff are expected to be passionate about gardening as much as they are about customer care.

Loyalty appears to be something that has developed naturally, with many members of staff working there for years – and customers who have been with them from the beginning.

Adrian said: “Our customers are very traditional and want to buy the things they have always bought, like bulbs and so forth. They will get excited over particular products, such as the lily in the current catalogue.”

Customers aren’t the only ones getting excited about that. Adrian and special projects manager Annie Rowell, who like to trial some of the company’s plants during Wednesday afternoon gardening sessions, will be growing the lily too.

It’s one of 6,000 products on the company’s website, covering everything from daffodils and tulips right through to the garden shed.