Patriarch of van Eeden Tulips the late Jacques van Eeden
pictured at his West Plains property, near Invercargill, in
the 1950s. Photo supplied.
It was not luck which brought Jacques van Eeden to
Southland but science, so the family story goes.
He and his brother sat in the Rotterdam Library in the early
1950s to work out where in the world outside the Netherlands
tulips would grow best.
Tulips require cool temperatures, a long growing season and
plenty of rain, so it's not surprising their analysis of
climatic data pointed to Southland.
The Dutch economy faltered during and after World War 2, the
country was overcrowded and land was scarce. Jacques, the
sixth generation of a well-established bulb growing family,
decided to spread his wings and try his luck in another
country, his son Philip said.
He spent a short time in Argentina but ''decided their work
ethic did not fit with the Dutch work ethic'' of hard graft.
Back in the Netherlands, he had time to select his next
country of choice - New Zealand - and a fiancee, Tilly.
Immigration laws of the day meant Dutch married couples had
to have guaranteed jobs and incomes before they could settle
here, so Jacques and Tilly arrived in 1952 as singles and
married soon after in Balclutha.
About two years later, they moved to West Plains, on the
outskirts of Invercargill, where they grew their tulips,
built a home and processing shed, and raised five sons,
Michael, Peter, Eric, Philip and John, now ranging in age
from 58 to 49.
West Plains is only 6km from the sea and hail-prone, and land
has been subdivided into lifestyle blocks, Philip says. So
for many years, most of the van Eeden tulip growing has been
on leased land in Myross Bush/Grove Bush area, about 20km
northeast of Invercargill, with processing still done at West
Philip's mother is 89. His father died in February aged 92.
''He was waiting for the harvest to finish. He had to wait
until John got the last of the bulbs out of the paddock, then
he was allowed to go.''