Direct contact with the customer is very valuable. Their feedback is the best yardstick.

Tim Wyckstandt is a happy man. His Agapanthus nursery recently won two major Florall awards. The ‘Poppin Purple’ was both awarded silver and won the first public prize. “This plant appeals to a wide audience, brings colour to the garden and flowers for a long period of time” is how the jury summarised its most important features. The crowning accolade for six years of hard work.

In love with the Agapanthus

The roots of this story go back even further. The Agapanthus nursery is actually the life’s work of Maurice Vergote. Tim Wyckstandt looks back. “I’ve always been fascinated by gardens and horticulture. It’s actually in my genes, because my father is a horticulturist and my mother is a florist. But I’ve always tried to find my own path. When I met Maurice at one of his open garden days, it was love at first sight. Not with Maurice (he laughs), but with the Agapanthus. A few weeks later, I found out that Maurice was retiring. When there’s an opportunity, I always think you should seize it.”

Growth thanks to Floréac

The rest is history. The first two years, Tim focused primarily on sales to private individuals. But Tim doesn’t just have green genes,

he also has entrepreneurship in his blood. “I owe a great deal to Maurice. His name was well known in the region and faithful customers continued to visit the nursery. But things only really took off when I came into contact with Floréac at a trade fair. They encouraged me to invest in an additional greenhouse so that I could branch out into wholesale. An extra hurdle I took with their support. It’s thanks to Floréac that I am where I am today. They brainstorm with me and help my business expand, and their communication is open and honest.”

“It’s thanks to Floréac that I am where I am today. They brainstorm with me and help my business expand, and their communication is open and honest.”  Tim Wyckstandt

Unique varieties

That expansion came quickly, from a thousand to almost fifty thousand plants. Its wide range is what makes Tim’s nursery so successful. He offers no less than 80 different varieties. On a single trolley, he can display 30 to 40 different types. “A great asset for garden centres,” explains Tim. “Because it allows them to turn into a specialist business as well, in a way. Thanks to our range, they can offer varieties their customers can’t find anywhere else.”

Long flowering period

The search for different varieties and, above all, a high-quality range is an important driver. “We ourselves have been breeding for a few years now. We mainly select varieties by the length of the flowering period. But it’ll take a while before we can put them on the market. We’re currently cooperating closely with growers from South Africa, which is where this plant originally comes from.”

Holidays in your own garden

What makes this plant, with its roots in a distant continent, so special for Tim? “For me personally? Because it creates that instant holiday feeling. Something my customers tell me, too. The deep-blue colour of an Agapanthus evokes images of an azure blue ocean. The Agapanthus is anything but discreet in your garden, in fact it’s a real eye catcher. It also flowers for a very long period, sometimes even several times.”

Bees love the Agapanthus

Innovation and ecology go hand in hand

Tim invested in a new greenhouse in 2019 to meet his audience’s growing demand. “If you want to grow, you have to innovate. Our new greenhouse is covered with a double layer of film that has an insulating effect. The ventilation and irrigation take place automatically. But high-tech or not, growing still involves a lot of manual labour.”

An insulated greenhouse means lower energy consumption in winter. A bonus in terms of sustainability. So which further efforts is Tim making to reduce his ecological footprint? “As a young entrepreneur, this is very important to me. This year, for example, we switched to pots made of recyclable material. Every part of them can be sorted and reused. We spray and fertilise as little as possible and when we do, we fully comply with the IPM rules. We focus on organic pest control methods instead of chemical pesticides.”

Public favourite

The two Florall awards were a well-earned pat on the back. The Agapanthus nursery certainly won the audience award with good reason, because it has a large following: Tim never stopped selling directly to individuals. And his nursery is also active on social media, which explains the large number of votes it got. “Those direct sales and that contact with the customer are very valuable. It’s labour-intensive, sure, but people’s feedback is the best yardstick. It helps me assess what is or isn’t working. As a result, I grow less of varieties that are less well received and don’t offer as many of those to wholesalers.”

“Direct sales and contact with the customer are very valuable. People’s feedback is the best yardstick.”  Tim Wyckstandt 

Strong woman behind the man

Growing, selling, arranging PR and lots more besides… 24 hours a day isn’t enough to fit it all in. And Tim also teaches part-time on the Bachelor’s programme in Greenery Management. Fortunately, he’s been able to count on the support of his girlfriend for the past five years. Lauren is an architect, so she has a completely different background. But that’s exactly what makes her contribution so refreshing. We form a small and close-knit team and go for the same goal. That gives me strength every day. Lauren mainly handles the PR, but during busy periods she also helps with sales. And so do my father, mother and brothers, by the way.”

The future is blue

The future looks bright. Coronavirus isn’t affecting the business much either. In fact, sales have increased, because many people are (re-)discovering their garden. “This trend will continue, by the way. Tightly staged planting is giving way to natural and colourful gardens – which is exactly what you get with the Agapanthus.”

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