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  • Norfolk Farms

You Can Never Have Too Many Flowers

In 1964 Walter Blyleven arrived in Canada from Aalsmur, Holland, home of the biggest flower auction in the world, to begin a new life.

Cuttings & Seedlings

With just $100.00 in his pocket, he settled in Dundas where he worked a number of different jobs but always knew he wanted to be in the flower business. That moment came about when, on Mother’s Day, 1970, he opened the doors of Walter’s Greenhouses in Paris, ON. From there his wholesale and retail business continued to ‘bloom’ and grow. In the late 1980’s Walter brought his daughter, Diane Hutchinson, into the business and together they worked on improving Walter’s Greenhouses.

Walter Blyleven

In 1996 Walter purchased and opened a new growing facility in Wilsonville with his daughter Diane not only his co-owner but his ‘right hand woman’. This acquisition afforded him more room for both inside and outside production and control of what they would grow to sell in their Paris location. In 2000 Walter moved to the Wilsonville location – Wilsonville Greenhouses- and work began to improve the operation. The greenhouses were empty and definitely fixer uppers so he knew he had his work cut out for him. Some of the existing greenhouses were refurbished while others had to be replaced but it was all part of his plan.

Hard work was not unfamiliar to Walter and retirement is not part of his immediate plan.

“There’s no germination done here. It’s cuttings or seedlings that go into a propagation house, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, where under table heating helps them root and grow a bit. When they’re ready to be planted a machine fills the flats and these flats are moved to the appropriate greenhouse with the right temperature for the plant species. “Pansies don’t like heat but fuschia need a warmer location” states Walter.

He went on to explain that they practice integrated pest management and only spray when monitoring indicates a high threshold. “We release beneficial insects – bugs eating bugs – like nematodes who are predators of shore flies. We do growth monitoring, temperature control and by- hand pinching”.

All of this work requires many hands. “Our staff is predominantly female and we hire several local workers. Some are university students, some work just part-time …We’re very flexible with our employees’ schedules. We have a really good core staff and some have been with us for a few years. We also have 10 off-shore workers and have been using them for about fifteen years now. Their time here is limited and some go home in October, some in January. Some of them will take seeds back with them and have their own farms back in Jamaica” adds Diane.

On site there is over 100,000 sq. feet of greenhouses along with about three acres of field production. “The bulk of our flowers are 4” Spring annuals, hanging baskets, patio pots and window boxes. In the summer we have perennials and in the Fall we do Mums – roughly 25,000 – that we start from cuttings in May and June “adds Diane.

While 30 % of their crop goes to Walter Greenhouse in Paris they also deliver to customers in Windsor and Mt. Forest. “Our biggest outlet for wholesale is definitely the Toronto Food Terminal where we supply to numerous retailers and wholesalers. Our truck arrives there at midnight and is there until 8 am. We do supply Mums to local schools sometimes for fundraisers as well” adds Walter.

Walter credits his core staff for their hard work and long hours to insure nothing but the best in flowers for his customers. While Walter and Diane invest their time at the Wilsonville facility, Granddaughter Erica, a third- generation family member, manages the day to day operations of their Paris greenhouse - with the 4th generation born just this past May. “She’s already got her own Walter’s Greenhouse T-shirt” chuckles Walter. They are also proud of the fact that two of their Paris employees have been with them for over 18 and 20 years respectively. “We’re proud of all of our staff at both locations and appreciate their hard work and dedication”, adds Walter.

Walter went on to explain “At the Paris greenhouse we do a recycling program of pots. We reuse as much as possible with the rest going to a recycling plant. There are bins at Paris where you can drop off your old, empty pots or even take some and re-use them”.

Though planting season may be over, work at Wilsonville Greenhouses will continue on in prep for next year. Long days and hard work will continue for Walter and daughter Diane as they prepare for the next growing season. 

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