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History in a nut shell

It was in 1924 when a young and enthusiastic headmaster and horticultural teacher in Limmen village in the Kennemerland district, in the province of North Holland in The Netherlands, notices with an ever increasing pace how historical flower bulbs, quite some with name and fame, were threatened with extinction. His name was Pieter Boschman. He started collecting these historical cultivars in his garden around the schoolhouse and the headmaster’s residence; next to the picturesque parish church of this bulb growers village. After four years there is not a single nook left in his garden, stocked with over 400 different varieties of tulips and some daffodils. Even the neighbouring roadsides were planted with his bulbs.

Pieter Boschman

At that same time, Pieter Boschman happens to meet the well-known hyacinth hybridizer Dr Willem Eduard de Mol from Amsterdam, by coincidence. Willem de Mol teaches at a secondary modern school next to his research activities. Later he works amongst others at Columbia University in the United States. Willem de Mol also avails of a highly interesting bulb collection: historical hyacinths from after 1830. Both were running out of space. Boschman’s youth friend Nicolaas Blokker, in the mean time running a successful bulbgrowers and export firm, the Van ‘t Hof & Blokker company, offers them 1928 to plant both collections on a plot of his vast nursery. They accept this warm-hearted offer with both hands. The two bulb devotees baptize their new combined collection: the Hortus Bulborum. Decades follow with more and less spectacular moments and developments. However, the collection gradually grows. When Van ’t Hof & Blokker moves about fifty years later to the nearby Heiloo village, the Hortus Bulborum follows its generous host.

Recognition

In 1988 the Hortus Bulborum is invited to participate in the Dutch Botanic Garden Collections Foundation [DBGCF]. This umbrella organisation gathers all the important botanical collections of The Netherlands. Among its primary goals are the conservation and improvement of the living plant collections that are of scientific, cultural, historic and/or social importance, and safeguarding the biodiversity. Also of great importance is to foster the genebank function of these collections. This invitation is a well-earned recognition for all those volunteers that have maintained the collection of the Hortus Bulborum during many decades. Four years later the bulbs return to their maternal grounds, to the fields behind the little village church. At the spot where Boschman’s primary school is also located. For the first time in its existence the bulb collection gets a garden of its own, complete with a monumental entrance gate, a garden house and a bulb barn annex information centre.

 

Public at large

From that moment onwards the Hortus Bulborum, till that time in particular an attraction and pollen bank for the bulb trade, focus itself more and more to the public at large. The Hortus Bulborum celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2003. In over three quarters of an age the private bulb collection of Pieter Boschman grew into a unique gene bank, a cultural-tourist jewel and a second to none treasure trove of spring bulbs on the globe.