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In June 1939 – just weeks before the outbreak of World War 2 in Europe – Cees and Johanna Tesselaar left Holland on their wedding day aboard the Strathallan. They were headed for Australia, bringing little but their farming expertise and a firm belief in hard work and the land of opportunity.
They first settled in Ferntree Gully, then in 1945 moved to Silvan which is located in Victoria’s beautiful Dandenong Ranges. They purchased a small six hectare farm and planted their first crop of Tulips and Gladioli. Over the following decades the company, under the name Padua Bulb Nurseries, grew into Australia’s largest family owned floricultural operation.
The growth and the development of the company, which is now headed by Cees and Johanna’s eldest son Kees, has also been heavily dependent on the ‘larger Tesselaar family’ – the employees. Many employees have been with the company for years and have then encouraged their own children to join the firm. The result is a strong thread of family tradition that binds everyone together.
Tesselaar is a unique blend of the growing and marketing of cut flowers, bulbs, plants and perennials. The major thrust of the business is the distribution of flowers grown on the Tesselaar farms situated around the country. Through a specialist network of subsidiaries and associate companies in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, locally grown flowers are air freighted and delivered directly into the florist shops around the country. Flowers grown by some 140 Australian growers are also marketed through the Tesselaar network. Given the Tesselaar expertise in growing, the company can ensure all flowers they market are of the same high quality.
While bulb crops are mostly field grown, most cut flowers are now grown under cover. Tesselaar’s pioneered the use of plastic houses in Australia back in the 1960s. Now with six hectares under cover, including the latest automatic elevated plastic houses, the most fuel efficient computerised glass house system in the world, Tesselaar’s are able to grow consistently high quality crops year round.
Bulb crops are grown for distribution to other wholesalers and pre-packed in large quantities for one of the major Australian distributors. Bulbs are also marketed through Tesselaar’s Mail Order Division. Amoungst the first to see the potential of this powerful distribution method, Tesselaar are now the largest bulb and perennial mail order company in Australia. The large and very loyal customer base is the envy of the industry.
The company’s industry leadership is enhanced through a long-standing commitment to developing the industry as a whole. This tradition began in the 1940s and ’50s with Cees Tesselaar helping other Dutch immigrants establish their own nursery businesses.
The purposeful, pacesetting approach of the company has also helped to develop local industry and is evident through the continuous adoption of new technologies, techniques and plant varieties from around the world
Tesselaar family members have also participated in tourism, training, floricultural and horticultural organisations including serving as president of both the Nursery Industry Assocation of Victoria and Flower Growers Association of Victoria. They have also been on the boards of the Nursery Industry Association of Australia, the Horticultural Research and Development Council, the Australian Flower Export Council, the Australian Flower Growers Council, the local tourism authority and they participate in the Industry Training Council board of Victoria.
The family heritage is maintained through the annual Tesselaar Tulip Festival. Surrounded by thousands of tulips and other flowers in full bloom, members of the Tesselaar family and extended family dress in traditional Dutch costume and clogs to welcome the public and loyal customers to their Silvan farm. This festival has over the years attracted one million visitors and raised over $68,000 for the Australian Red Cross and other local charities.
Through hard work, innovation and creativity, Tesselaar Bulbs is colouring Australian lives with ever more beautiful garden plants and longer lasting, better performing flowers. Three generations of the Tesselaar family are united in their commitment to supplying their customers across the nation with Australia’s best bulbs and flowers.