Interview John Amand of Jacques Amand International

For more than 90 years, Jacques Amand has offered flower bulbs in many varieties to discerning gardeners. The company began as a flower shop on the Strand, a shopping street in London, when Jean Jacques Amand arrived there from the Netherlands. Since then, the company has grown into a major supplier of flower bulbs, from established favourites to rare and unusual, and his company is renowned for the diversity and quality of bulbs offered to customers around the world.

Jacques Amand International is still a family business. It participates annually in many world-renowned flower shows such as the Chelsea Flower Show (May, UK), the Philadelphia International Flower Show (March, US), the Hampton Court Palace International Flower Show (July, UK) and many regional shows and events across the UK. John Amand, director of the company, regularly lectures on rare flower bulbs at major garden groups and associations.

The company has for many years purchased Garden Orchid from Anthura which they market in the UK, our hardy orchids ‘shining’ every year in their presentation at the Chelsea Flower Show. We talk with John about his company and his incentives.

Garden Orchid at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Can you tell us a little more about your company?
My father started the business in 1927. He came from Haarlem to sell Dutch flowers to English florists and later flower bulbs were added. He joined the army and restarted his business after World War II, mainly selling flower bulbs. We supply the finished product to retailers and also to many nurseries with unusual plants and bulbs. We also supply specialist bulbs to large distributors in the UK who then supply the UK market and a few companies in the Netherlands, the rest of Europe, Japan, the US and Canada.  Nowadays we specialise in the more unusual species. This is where we diversify into the family of hardy orchids which, although botanically not bulbous plants, have underground storage organs.  

How long have you been in the business yourself?

John Amand of Jacques Amand Internationaal.

Where does your love for hardy orchids and plants in general come from? 
The love for plants and flowers in general comes from my parents. The specific interest in unusual species and varieties, including hardy garden orchids, came from my mentor, Mrs Kath Dryden. She was a wonderful amateur grower of alpine plants and for a time president of the Alpine Garden Society. 

What is important to you when choosing and working with a supplier? 
For me, the quality of the product I buy is very important. Equally important to me is having a supplier I can trust and with whom I have a good working relationship. I find all these conditions with Anthura and they with me as well.  

Can you give an example of the difficulties you encounter in your day-to-day operations? 
There is always work to be done in a nursery, but as a result of the Brexit, we spend an awful lot of time with the extra paperwork. We are also unable to deliver plants and bulbs to our many small retail customers in Europe because of the high cost of documentation and because of couriers unwilling to transport them. But that doesn’t stop me. I love the plants we sell, especially the more unusual ones like Arisaema, Cypripediums, Calanthe, Erythronium and Fritillarias.   

For those who might not know: what is the Chelsea Flower Show?
The show has been around since 1862 and was founded by the Royal Horticultural Society. Since 1913, the Chelsea Flower Show has taken place at its current location. So for more than 100 years, this event has taken place in the same place. That’s saying something! Considered the most prestigious flower show in the world, it features presentations by international arrangers with a huge variety of plants.  

Outside the main pavilion, show gardens are created by garden designers. Here, at this edition, I used, among others, Anthura’s Cypripedium again and they definitely attracted attention. This edition your flowers were also used in an arrangement of Rose Cao. Jumbo®, Extase®, Maravilla®, Zafira® and Anthura Chamonix sparkled in her arrangement.  

Arrangement from Rose Cao. Jumbo®, Extase®, Maravilla®, Zafira® and Anthura Chamonixsparkled in her arrangements.

Why is it important for your company to participate in the Chelsea Flower Show?
My father was already exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show in the mid-1950s until the late 1960s. I started again in 1972. The show is an excellent showcase for your product: countless visitors come and for a whole week the show is on television every day, both in the afternoon and in the evening, and it gets a lot of press coverage. Last edition went well for us, we sold many plants again partly thanks to the show.