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Van Belle Nursery is great Canadian success story with exciting future

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Opinion: Van Belle Nursery now has four locations in the Abbotsford area.

Article author:

Brian Minter

Release date:

19th June 2020 • • 19th June 2020 • • 3 minutes read Striking chartreuse foliage makes this Thunderbolt honeysuckle glow. Striking chartreuse foliage makes this Thunderbolt honeysuckle glow. Photo by Van Belle Nursery /.jpg

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We are fortunate to have so many innovative breeders in BC who are instrumental in introducing new crops possible across Canada and North America.

Van Belle Nursery in Abbotsford is one of those many great success stories. Bill and Grace Van Belle, both born in the Netherlands and both independently immigrated to Canada, met here, got married, raised a family and began the journey to create an internationally recognized and award-winning company.

Bill started a landscaping company in Ontario, but when he moved to BC he also started propagating new varieties of plants and even shipping them to business associates back home.

In 1973, Bill and Grace founded Van Belle Nursery as a wholesaler and began supplying BC gardeners. Because of his penchant for propagation and foresight, Bill realized that there was a niche for young starter plants.

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In 1994 they bought another location and expanded their small plant propagation capacity.

'Electric Love' has the first real red flowers on a dark-leaved weigela. Electric Love has the first real red flowers on a dark-leaved weigela. Photo by Van Belle Nursery /.jpg

Together with their son David, who is now the company’s president, they put together an inspired young management team to strategically position their business in a new direction.

I had the pleasure of speaking with DeVonne Friesen, Van Belle’s Vice President. Friesen expressed his appreciation for the open management style of her company and the cooperation within the company.

“Everyone,” he said, “plays an important role in the company’s success.”

Van Belle now has four locations in the Abbotsford area. As they continually expand their products, build new greenhouses and introduce new technologies, their focus is on people. This collaborative commitment has allowed them to focus on developing and growing the best consumer-friendly assets of tomorrow and finding new opportunities across North America.

Poprocks Petite is a compact spirea with candy pink flowers. Pop Rocks Petite is a compact spirea with candy pink flowers. Photo by Van Belle Nursery /.jpg

Van Belle’s goal has always been to develop easy-to-grow, easy-care, pest-resistant, longer-flowering, more compact and more unique plants that are ideal for the reality of today’s smaller spaces and container gardens. Working with a local marketing firm in Abbotsford, they developed the brand name ‘Bloomin’ Easy ‘to capture all of these new works.

Starting with three great plants, the ‘Bloomin’ Easy ‘brand has now been expanded to include 26 exclusive product launches. The ‘Tilt-a-Swirl’ hydrangea (Zone 5) was one of the first. It’s a compact re-bloomer with a unique color palette of swirling red and green.

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Next came two Weigelas (Zone 4): ‘Tuxedo’, a compact variety with dark foliage and white flowers (a great new color combination for the garden), and compact ‘Maroon Swoon’, a rich deep green with blooming auburn flowers a long Time in early spring and into summer.

Color-changing foliage makes 'Rainbow Fizz' an outstanding spirit. The color-changing foliage makes Rainbow Fizz an excellent spirea. Photo by Van Belle Nursery /.jpg

It was unfair, but I asked Friesen to pick his favorites from the other 23 new strains. Without hesitation, he said, “Lonicera ‘Thunderbolt.’ “It’s an evergreen honeysuckle (zone 5) with bright yellow flowers, and it’s fantastic, especially when used as a garden accent, in border plantings or in containers. Compact, a boxwood alternative and disease-resistant, is a star all year round.

‘Electric Love’ (Zone 4), another Weigela, was named Plant of the Year by Canada Blooms in Ontario. A low hilly variety with rich chestnut brown foliage and long-blooming red flowers that does not require maintenance.

Spirea ‘Pop Rocks Petite’ (Zone 3) with its long-lasting pink flowers is another very compact, deer-resistant and easy-care variety. The foliage starts out deep maroon, turns greenish in summer, and returns to a deep maroon in autumn.

The compact 'flare' hydrangea has the best red flowers. The compact flare hydrangea has the best red flowers. Photo by Van Belle Nursery /.jpg

Spirea ‘Rainbow Fizz’ (Zone 3) receives the ‘Color Change’ award. Starting in spring with bright red foliage, it turns into dramatic gold and chartreuse in summer before returning to bright red leaves in autumn. Its pink flowers emphasize this changing leaf color. ‘Rainbow Fizz’ is a kind of garden show.

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The popularity of heat-loving panicle hydrangeas did not go unnoticed by Van Belle. Many of the new varieties grow fairly wide and tall and are a little too big for many home gardens. Van Belle’s introduction, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Flare’ (Zone 3), however, has all of the characteristics of these larger summer beauties, but only grows two to three feet tall and wide. It has beautiful, cone-shaped, creamy white flowers that turn a glowing fire truck red.

These strains are just some of the great plants that Van Belle Nursery has introduced to Canada and the rest of North America. Her works have received many international awards, as has the Van Belle team. This company is a great Canadian success story with an exciting future.

Visit the website at bloomineasyplants.com.

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Robert Dunfee