Nursery “Petersminde”, 1900-2000: From Vegetables to Cape Daisy®
Exactly 100 years ago this year Christian Peder Soerensen (1868-1951), grandfather of the current owner, established the nursery “Petersminde.” For the first 8 years the nursery in Aabyhoej was close in to town, but in 1908 it moved to its current location.
Petersminde has developed considerably over the last 100 years. It started as an open nursery with covered beds, growing vegetables and flowers, which were transported by horse-drawn wagons and sold on the Aarhus central square. In the 1930’s management passed to the next owner, Carl Kragh Soerensen (1901-1963), who built greenhouses, first for tomatoes and cucumbers, later also for flowers (freesia, chrysanthemum, tea roses and green plants). These were sold through the new (1929) Nursery Sales Association (GASA), where Carl Kragh Soerensen was one of the first members. A new crop was introduced: Orchids, which later became the nursery’s signature product.
During the Second World War there was a coal shortage and an associated fall in production, but after the war things improved for Danish nurseries, including Petersminde. Petersminde shifted from coal to oil-fired heat, and added automatic temperature control, ventilation, and fertilizing. Before 1960 watering was done with watering cans and hoses; afterward with automatic sprayers.
Orchids were the start of a major breeding effort, which started small but quickly built up speed. It began with manual cross-fertilization of types in the nursery, but later meristem propagation came into the picture. Many beautiful hybrids won medals at exhibitions in Denmark and elsewhere. After the 1972 oil crisis, it became too expensive to grow the heat-loving orchids, and the nursery began a difficult, but successful project with other potted plants. After some experimentation with Schefflera, Poinsethia, Campunula, Aster Novi Belgii and Eustoma, the new product Osteospermum was developed in 1982. This developed into a major culture, which is the nursery’s product today. Many colors are sold worldwide under the trademarks Cape Daisy®, Sunscape® Daisy, and African staR®.
Cape Daisy® brought plant-breeding work back to Petersminde, and this development was difficult, so there is now a special plant-breeding department. Beginning as informal “hobby” crossings, the work is now professional and involves experts in universities and research institutions all over the world. It is the company’s explicit goal to continue the active development and management of goal-oriented breeding work with Cape Daisy®.
My uncle tells:
There were many different vegetables grown every year. In particular: beetroot, onions, cabbage, broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, rhubarb, berries, strawberries, parsley, celery, corn and beets. It was important to have a good crop rotation. Leeks and broccoli were set out in winter in the old cow barns, where there was a little warmth. Broccoli was often cut with snow on it.
Early in spring seedlings were grown in special covered beds. The earth was each year dug with horse manure for warmth so the seedlings would grow quickly.
We grew forgetmenots, morning glories, and several other blooming plants. We cut branches from earlier growths of forsythia, birch, genista and lilac. We had a special type of violet, which smelled particularly good.
My father told:
Plans were laid for the building of greenhouses for tomatoes and cucumbers in the period 1930 through 1935. In the winter chrysanthemum and freesia were grown. They were driven in horse-drawn sleds. There was one horse and three sleds, so there was always one being filled, one being emptied, and one in transport.
Prices were low in the thirties, but when the war broke out prices rose because of high demand. Production was lower after we could not get coal. We had to make do with peat, brown coal and straw. One had to hold watch against fire constantly. During and after the Second World War, one remembered lessons from the First. For example it was easier to earn money because of high demand and small production, but rebuilding was difficult and expensive.
My sister tells:
From my childhood I remember a large covered bed with melons. In the field, rhubarb grew in the spring, then later in the year leeks, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. In the severe winters during the war, fuel was scarce, and several crops froze, including the beginning of the orchid crop.
There were also many green plants in the greenhouses, including fatshedera, monstera, zyngonium and cissus (which I tied up in pyramids). In the winter we harvested parsley, and I tied up bundles with Mrs. Jensen.
We also had some cucumbers and many tomatoes in the houses, and when we picked the tomatoes, we sorted them ourselves with a sorting machine. I was proud when I was given the responsibility of sorting.
There was also a large block of freesia and it was work to spread the netting and direct the leaves and flowers through the strings.
In the fall we planted bulbs outside and covered them, and eventually brought them into the greenhouses and forced them, and it was beautiful to bring the tulips, Easter lilies and other flowers to the auction.
The worst part was to pick forgetmenots from the covered beds in fall mornings. It was cold and wet work.
My brother tells:
Around 1958 was a good time for Danish nurseries, including Petersminde. There were new greenhouses, where there were tea roses; two blocks of tomatoes and orchids. The fields were sown with corn. It was a large and rapid change in our crop production.
Coal power was changed to oil, and automatic climate control was added to the greenhouses, with forced air and electricity. There was also fertilizer technology, so plants got different compounds of fertilizer.
This gave more output with the same cultivation, so one could have 1,2, or 3 crops in the nursery. Consequently there was year-round production, both at high and not so high price periods.
In these years, serious export of Danish flowers began.
I can tell:
After my father died in 1963, my mother carried on and I came home as manager.
I bought half of Petersminde in 1969. This was the start of the generation change, which was finished in 1983.
Gradually we produced more orchids than tea roses. In 1972, with the first oil crises, we cleared the last roses, and thereafter we grew exclusively orchids.
When the competition in orchids became to great, we decided to develop a new potted plant culture. These would be the future. We tried many different crops, including Schefflera, Poinsethia, Campanula, Aster Novo Belgii and Eustoma, before we found the special product Osteospermum in 1982. We have developed this niche into a major crop.
Osteospermum became the firm’s new flagship. Many colorful types are sold today worldwide under the trademarks Cape Daisy®, Sunscape® Daisy and African-staR®.
PLA handles our protection and distribution of licenses, so we get optimal coverage in all the important countries. PLA looks over the competition and looks for promotion opportunities, so we can secure market leadership.
My breeder tells:
In the 10 years I have been with Petersminde there has been rapid development. When I started on January 1, 1990, it was a traditional production nursery. There were Campanula carpatica, Osteospermum ecklonis, Aster novo belgii, Euphorbia pulcherima, and there was one house from the old, glory days with orchids, mostly Paphiopedilium hybrids.
In the course of the winter and spring of 1991 we succeeded in showing that it was possible to make stammed Osteospermum. It was unfortunately impossible to make this profitable here in Denmark. We grew some every year, however, so that our customers could see the product.
When I came to the nursery, there were already 7 different varieties of Osteospermum. There was additional selection work in progress, which led to new varieties, including Zimba®. In the early 90’s we got several new varieties from England, Africa and New Zealand. Some were in production, but most of them were not good enough, even though they had some good characteristics. This led to the idea of crossing them with some of our own varieties, and in 1991 I made the first crossings in Osteospermum. There were not many successful crossings but we did get something out of it. In the spring and summer of 1992 we saw the results of our first crossings. They were so good that we continued our breeding work. One of the ideas was successful, namely to find a better yellow variety. This came to be known as Zulu®, and is today well known.
In 1996 we started to grow certified plants. This was a big change at the nursery, because there was now a clean area. Because plants in the old breeding department were not certified, it was necessary, to give the department its own greenhouse. Later, more greenhouses were added, especially in spring and summers, when tests of the new varieties required space. It is also in spring, that we make most of our crossings.
In fall of 1997 we began biological control of pests in the breeding department. It works. It is however still necessary to spray with chemicals once. The move to biological control is the latest step that has reduced chemical use in nurseries substantially.
Today Petersminde is a specialized nursery. It has gone from producing 4-5 different crops to concentration on Osteospermum Cape Daisy®. Ten years ago we mainly handled finished goods; today we focus on breeding, development, marketing and production of cuttings. Cape Daisy® is sold today over most of the world through a network of licensees.
We can tell:
It is our wish that our positive and active development will continue.
We are in a position to continue our targeted breeding of Cape Daisy®.
We will meet new competitors in strong competition.
We will support our licensees and customers in an open, professional way.
We hope customers will remember and recognize our products from year to year.
We have asked PLA International to coordinate our control and promotion in a strong and future-oriented marketing concept.
To meet coming competition, Petersminde has instituted a quality management system.
We have qualified Petersminde to grow AAE-Certified plant material with new clean areas and techniques.
This will help us keep the supply of Cape Daisy® as healthy as possible.
We have instituted an MPS environmental control system, so we strain the environment as little as possible.
The family, our clever group of coworkers and our worldwide group of professionel licencees wish to secure a healthy future for Petersminde and Cape Daisy®.
Carl A. Kragh Sørensen.