How Chrysanthemum Ilonka Got Her Name

A conversation with the passionate people of nursery Sensation.

By: THURSD. | 15-03-2021 | 5 min read

It is estimated that every year hundreds of novelties turn from an anonymous existence as a test number to being introduced with a real name. Just like with humans, sometimes the parents already have a name for the new breed, sometimes not. Well, here's the story of how Chrysanthemum Ilonka was given her name by breeder Dümmen Orange. Or was it by grower Sensation..?

A Common Address for Testing

It all begins at the breeder with a lot of potential novelties. These are given a number because they don't have a name yet. The ones that pass the selections and are to be grown commercially are rewarded with variety of names. Dümmen Orange not only performs tests of its own but also collaborates with growers to gain more knowledge about the growing specs. After all, it is the growers who are the next in the floral chain to decide if the commercial value of a flower is good enough to start planting.


Chrysanthemum Ilonka


Kwekerij Sensation

In the case of this new single-white-chrysanthemum-without-a-name, the first grower to test the Dümmen Orange candidates was nursery Sensation in Tuil, Netherlands. This is no coincidence because Sensation is a common address for testing Dümmen's novelties. Owners Aalbert and Jan Ekelmans are known for their critical views and curiosity on production and quality, spotless clean greenhouses, and reliability in objective information. Aalbert: "Growing chrysants is a top sport. It is not too difficult to get there, but staying there is ever so difficult. The most important aspect of staying at the top is to provide reliability to your customers. This way, they are happy with always a perfect product, and the price is not an issue anymore."


Chrysanthemum Ilonka


Successful with Single-white Spray Chrysants

Next to their filled Chrysanthemum Pina Colada, nursery Sensation has always been very successful with single-white spray chrysants. Who does not remember varieties like Majoor Bosshardt (introduced in 1992), or Bacardi (since 2005)? The trend of today is to go for whiter than white, and Bacardi did not meet that slowly changed requirement anymore. After 16 years of being a top white chrysant, it was time for something new. Therefore, Aalbert and his brother Jan are long-time collaborators with the breeder by making a small area of their greenhouses available for testing. Since there was a need for a new single white chrysanthemum to succeed the popular Chrysanthemum Bacardi, these growers tested almost twenty varieties over a period of three years.


"It was about one year ago that I knew we had found the right one. We had been testing this promising no-name variety for two years. We wanted to be absolutely sure that it would bring us in every season what we needed. And this one turned out to be the best of all the trials. For me as a grower, 'the best chrysant' means not just a perfect flower, but also a species with hardly any production drop-out - which is something that wholesale clock buyers often do not see. We calculate the cost and revenue per meter. So, in September we started growing this new chrysant on a large scale."


Chrysanthemum Ilonka
Aalbert (left), Ilonka, and her father Jan Ekelmans

And the name is...

Ilonka Ekelmans:

"My name is Ilonka, I am the daughter of Jan Ekelmans. The breed is indeed named after me. A few Dümmen Orange representatives were here with us to brainstorm about the name of this novelty. We had already suggested a number of things, and some names came up that were already in use. I work a lot in our nursery, and sometimes for Dümmen Orange, so at one point one of the representatives said: "Why don't we name the variety 'Ilonka'?" I was asked if I would like that, and of course, I did! So, in the end, it became that name, especially because it's easy to pronounce and use internationally - for instance in the main markets in Eastern Europe, like Poland, Russia, and Hungary."

Above Expectations

So how is it growing this new chrysanthemum Ilonka for nursery Sensation? Does the flower match the high expectations that became visible during the test phase?


"Yes, absolutely. Even above expectations. I have not grown these chrysants around the year yet, but the weight of the flowers is good. We are constantly learning how this flower is best grown, so after two, three years it will even be better than today."


Chrysanthemum Ilonka
Aalbert Ekelmans

Support from Dümmen Orange


"We have to grow a top product, but we need assistance from Dümmen Orange to promote the flowers. During the last few years, Dümmen have really stepped up their activities to assist growers with marketing. This has proven to be very helpful, so we appreciate this. We have noticed this, for instance, during the introduction of Chrysanthemum Pina Colada, that we also grow here."


Aalbert is not a big fan of dyeing flowers, more of a natural type of person, but he understands the growing demand for this. Dyeing flowers is gaining popularity. The chrysants of nursery Sensation are in the top segment, so they are not often used for dyeing or painting. Still, this was a point of consideration for the breeder.


"We did look at the aspect of dyeing during the selection process. And Ilonka dyes very well, so feel free to give them all the color that you need."


Chrysanthemum Ilonka

High Expectations

The expectations with Aalbert, Jan, and Ilonka are high. Analyzing the long road to deciding upon which single-white chrysant was to be THE ONE, it must be pretty obvious that everyone at nursery Sensation is more than 100 percent convinced that Chrysanthemum Ilonka will be the top chrysant in its segment for the next decade. Half the nursery is now filled with Ilonka, while the relatively new Pina Colada fills the other half. Nursery Sensation is ready for the now and for the future with these high-end chrysants.



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