Interview with Tree Nursery Ron van Opstal

Leucothoe axillaris “Curly Red” is one of the stars at Ron van Opstal’s tree nursery. During autumn, the leaves of this shrub curl up and turn purple-red. It is very popular at autumn and Christmas fairs at garden centres. ‘I try to distinguish myself in the market with varieties like this. I always go for quality, and that includes using the best growing media,’ the entrepreneur tells us.

In this interview with tree nursery owner Ron van Opstal we learn more about his flourishing company. Ron also explains how he benefits from having BVB Substrates at his side.

Tree nursery Ron van Opstal

Ron van Opstal: owner tree nursery van Opstal

The tree nursery in Zundert is a real family business. Ron and Annemarie took over the nursery from his parents in 1997, and over the years it has expanded to two hectares of greenhouses and 11 hectares of outdoor cultivation. Propagation takes place under glass, and cultivation outside is done in pots of 0.5 to 15 litres. The company specialises in leafy garden shrubs, such as gaultheria, aubelia, nandina, acer and leucothoe. ‘We once won the FloraHolland Award for Curly Red, a variety for which we hold the plant breeders’ rights. The award drummed up a lot of publicity and trade. Such a hit is a once in a lifetime experience,’ says van Opstal.

Colourful garden

It ensured that the tree nursery acquired a reputation among garden centres as the main supplier of hardy shrubs that provide autumn colour. These garden plants are now for sale throughout the Netherlands and in Germany, Belgium, France and England via the trading company About Plants, which Van Opstal set up in 2008 together with his sister and brother-in-law. ‘Because customers like stunning, visual products, these tend to result in impulse buying. I expect image to become even more important in the future. Customers want a garden, terrace or balcony that offers autumn and winter interest and colour as well. The period of autumn and Christmas fairs at garden centres, is our busiest time of the year.’

Van Opstal’s strategy is to constantly renew his assortment. He wants to continue to surprise his customers with novelties. ‘Through mutations we try to bring distinctive varieties to the market. We now carry around ten of our own species. We are currently setting up a breeding branch, but that is a long-term project. My eldest son, who is still at school, has shown an interest in it.’

Potting soil is the foundation

The continuous pursuit of quality also ties in with this strategy. His 15-strong team focuses on delivering the perfect plants. ‘The right potting soil is the foundation. With a strong plant in the right mixture you are already halfway. The mixture should not seal too quickly and should retain
moisture, but it should also be able to drain it easily. What matters is the right balance.’

That is why Van Opstal has been procuring his potting soil from BVB Substrates for 15 years, to his full satisfaction. ‘I have an excellent relationship with Bram van Bommel (sales advisor BVB Substrates). I consult him regularly about the type of mixture our varieties need. Acid-loving crops require their own mixture. Potted plants get a mixture of a finer fraction. It is always custom made. In addition, BVB Substrates communicate clearly and deliver promptly. This is vital to us as it contributes to our goal: delivering high-quality, distinctive garden plants.’

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