This is a story about top sport. Growing begonias is a top sport, Peter ten Have from Dutch high-end nursery J&P Ten Have can tell you all about it. And he does. In a candid interview, Peter shares his story about how his passion for flowering begonias and, why he added leaf begonias to his impressive assortment as well. And being a cycling and ice skating fanatic, he knows how to push to the limit, just like he does by creating world-class begonias.
The Many Interests of Peter Ten Have
Peter ten Have is a passionate grower of the kind that hardly skips a day to visit his greenhouses, walk around, checking the progress and quality of the production himself, leaving nothing to chance. That's how you become a big name in the world of plants, a trusted source for many wholesalers and garden centers.
"To always grow top-notch quality begonias is top sport. There is always a variety that blooms too early or too late, plants may have a different size, too thick, or too thin. You really have to be on top of it constantly. That's what makes it top sport, that's the key for success with these plants. And that's what I love about my job, to produce the best plants. Always."
It is probably this desire to stand out that by the end of the previous century, Peter adopted the idea to diversify the cream of his crop under a label, so it would be easily recognized by the market. We all know this label because it is the world-famous brand Decorum.
Until that eureka moment growers just put their total production on offer at the clocks and direct sales platform of Royal FloraHolland. One big lot without too many specifications. But plants are plants, their growth can be controlled and monitored, but never with a 100% identical outcome.
Peter discovered the potential for that 20-30 percent of his plants that were not just 'very good', but 'outstanding'. He gathered a group of quality growers around him to be able to really make a difference in the market. And he did.
With all his knowledge and networks, Peter is a board member of the Flower Council of Holland. Since November 2022 he is the connector for whom the interests of the sector are paramount. A role that explains exactly who Peter the Have is.
Flowering & Leaf Begonias
J&P Ten Have was not always about the brothers J (Jos) and P (Peter). Their father Wim was the real pioneer when he started the company back in 1955. Not yet with begonias, but Wim kicked off with houseplants like bougainvillea, cyclamen, anthurium, and primula obconica. In the early 1980s, flowering begonias were introduced in the nursery as a replacement for the cyclamen. The reason why begonia replaced the cyclamen had everything to do with Jos' allergy to these plants, so this product group was terminated.
The brothers Jos and Peter had been growing flowering begonias for about forty years when an opportunity emerged to add leaf begonias to the range of products.
"About ten years ago, I noticed that there was hardly any development in the begonia assortment. With a few tricks and upgrades some new varieties were coming, like the Valentino series that we have exclusively, but nothing truly new. I remember calling up several of those big breeders to warn them. I said to them: "If you want my children to become begonia growers as well, something has to happen." Koppe was a breeder that picked this up very well. We realize they need input from us, the grower, as well to be challenged. That's why we are very happy with Koppe Begonia as a partner."
Leaf begonias were really something else, something new. However, the market is not so big as for its flowering siblings. So, it took a while for J&P Ten Have to pick the right starting point. That came when a big leaf begonia grower quit, leaving a gap big enough in this niche market for a top-quality grower to enter. The decision was evident in 2021: J&P Ten Have would start growing plants from Koppe's Beleaf series.
"For us, leaf begonias are a welcome addition, because from October on it is no use to growing flowering begonias anymore. There is no market for these until January. We did already grow poinsettias in that period, and now year-round the leaf begonias in a 13 cm pot. We have noticed that green plants are becoming increasingly popular, so the timing to start this new product line was perfect.
Moreover, leaf begonias are hip, although they are vastly outnumbered by flowering begonias. The assortment is very nice, with an array of attractive colors. There is always a color that matches your interior. And do I have some at home? Yes, definitely. I think they look good, and this way I can also test how they do in a home environment.
So now it looks like every begonia breeder wants or has leaf begonias these days. Growing them is not so hard as the flowering plants, so this lowers the threshold a bit."
The name Koppe Begonia has popped up in the conversation. Peter speaks highly of this breeder, especially valuing the good and close relationship. When it comes to quality of input and output these cracks in the begonia business may have little to learn from each other, but precisely being on the same level of know-how builds the trust between Koppe and Ten Have.
"I know the owner Bert Koppe very well. He lives and breathes begonias. How many directors of big breeders still walk through their greenhouses and have knowledge about the actual breeding? They are CEOs, busy managing the company. Koppe's focus is entirely on begonias, just like with us. That creates a bond."
It may be clear that with Peter's network inside and outside Decorum the Beleaf Begonia series gets the best marketing a plant can wish for. J&P Ten Have promotes its green plants, including the leaf begonia varieties as the 'Must-Have' plants that every plant adept wants in his or her collection. These include the Koppe varieties Begonia Purple Blush and Begonia Beleaf Jungle Black.
It's a Top Sport
To always want to be the best, and get the maximum out of himself and his company is characteristic of Peter ten Have.
"It's a top sport of growing the best plant, that's where it starts."
And Peter proudly shares that his son Alex is cut from the same cloth, passionate about growing the perfect plant. That means Peter is assured that future quality is guaranteed.
"Growing great plants is 80% of the work, commercialization comes later. Selling the plants is the other 20%. My demand comes from the higher segment, like wholesale to florists and garden centers. I have learned this: A good plant you can sell to everybody, for a lesser plant you only have a few customers. This has proven to be true especially in my Decorum years and during the COVID era.
These experiences, added to the current energy crisis, have led me to believe that to survive as a grower, top quality is paramount. There will certainly be drop-outs, leaving the 'elite' growers to serve the market. Plants will become more expensive, so ensure that high quality standard. This will be happening over the next few years."