A Modern Approach to Growing Aquatic Plants

aerial view of greenhouse

An aerial view of our greenhouse facility and warehouse in Southern New Jersey shows plenty of room for expansion.

Our company has imported bulbs from the Netherlands since 1980. Over the years, we have expanded our product line to include patio pots and urns, bare roots, plug perennials, domestic fruits and vegetables — and now water plants.

You may be wondering what a flower-bulb company is doing in the water-plant business, but this is exactly what we have been up to since 2017.

We originally used third-party vendors to resell water plants to our vast base of independent garden centers across the country. We recognized the growth potential and seized the opportunity to bring this in house to have greater control over the selection, quality and shipment of water plants, while providing higher-quality customer service.

How We Do It

Our company owners still travel throughout the country visiting many greenhouse operations where Easter flowers are grown. Throughout the years, we have seen it done many ways, and were able to gather many of the best practices to implement in this new venture. We decided to invest heavily in technology to streamline the propagating, planting, growing and shipping operation. The result is a state-of-the-art, 86,400-square-foot greenhouse divided into four equal zones, along with a planting and packing warehouse that make up an additional 26,000 square feet.

A key ingredient in making this venture a success is having experienced growers with years of experience specific to growing aquatic plants. Ed Smolko and I — both former employees of Black Bear Nursery — have made the move to Southern New Jersey to lead this operation. I serve as quality control and advisor, focusing primarily on advising customers how they can be successful with water plants. Smolko runs the day-to-day operations at the nursery and is responsible for all production and shipping-related activities.

For starter materials, we source from various aquatic plant producers and labs. We also draw on our experience in the flower-bulb business by using trusted sources in the Netherlands, along with domestic plug perennial sources.

Our Planting Operation

waterlilies

We grow 8-inch waterlilies directly in hanging baskets and then pre-tag them. This helps speed up the packing process and keeps waterlilies in our heated tanks for as long as possible.

It starts with a Visser soil-mixing system that we can use to make a variety of different potting mixes. The soil feeds directly into our two flat pot-filling machines and is finished with a watering tunnel before taking plants into the greenhouse. This planting line setup allows us to plant any type of plant with ease. It only takes five minutes to switch from one type of soil or container to another.

Our greenhouse is managed with an Argus system. Everything from irrigation to heating, and from shading to ventilation can be monitored and adjusted on any device and from any location where internet is available. With everything fully integrated into the system, it is much easier to harden off the plants so they are able to perform well outside and in other less-than-perfect conditions. This also allows the plants to handle the shipping process better. We have streamlined our order-pulling and packing processes to ensure the best possible quality of plants leaves our facility.

carnivorous plant

This tropical tabletop aquatic planter with carnivorous plants is a great example of how anybody can enjoy aquatic plants in small spaces or urban settings.

Waterlilies and floaters are out of the water for only a few minutes before they are processed and packed, ensuring they don’t dry out. They are typically shipped the same day, as packed. They are grown in concrete tanks with floor heat, which can be utilized to keep the water warm and the air cool, preventing the floaters from getting too tall.
Like growing flower bulbs, we feel that this segment of the water-gardening market has great growth potential, but one of the barriers is education.

We seek to dispel the mystery surrounding aquatic plants in a series of web videos by sorting them into categories based on the roles they play in any healthy pond or water garden. The videos correlate and align with our store signage, branding and tags. Everything is color-coded to make it much easier for the consumer to have confidence to start and maintain a water garden.

Visit our website for more information: 
www.netherlandbulb.com.

 

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