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12/09/2022 - 13:22
You can only deliver quality with quality products
Gilles Dehem has a broad knowledge of plants and knows exactly what plants need to grow well. He has been active in horticulture and landscaping for 20 years and designs gardens with a lot of passion.
What is your background?
After my studies, I started as an intern at Tuinen Van Wassenhove in Belgium. There I learned a lot about garden architecture and topiary. After that, I wanted to gain more understanding about perennials and worked in nurseries at home and abroad. At Nursery De Hessenhof, I was able to fully indulge my passion by studying 5,000 species of perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns, and shrubs. Subsequently, I became the head gardener at Hertog Jan, a renowned starred restaurant. There I annually grew some 600 vegetables, herbs and edible plants in the kitchen garden.
In 2018, I became self-employed. I took over the company from Wim Van Wassenhove, who unfortunately had to stop working due to health problems.
In which region are you active?
Most of my customers live in Sint-Andries, Varsenare and Jabbeke, in the region of Bruges, but we also work on projects in Ostend, Brussels and Ghent, among other places.
I am a customer at wholesale supplier Sanac (or where I place a combined order) and I mainly get advice from Luc Vanlerberghe. I usually order a large quantity online once. I buy most of my plants from Willaert. For more special perennials, I go to nursery De Hessenhof in the Netherlands. Beautiful solitary shrubs or trees I order from tree nursery Van den Berk.
How did you get to know TerraCottem?
I've been working with TerraCottem for 20 years. I got to know your product through my internship with Wim Van Wassenhove. His father André Van Wassenhove was one of the best landscape architects in Belgium and an avid TerraCottem user. He was very progressive for his time. In his own garden, he experimented for years with often very special perennials, trees and shrubs. To see how they would behave, how they would flower and grow, how big they would become, how they could best be combined...
I use TerraCottem in almost all my planting projects unless the soil is very moist.
For perennials, shrubs, hedges, small trees, roses, bedding plants and window boxes I use TerraCottem universal. For the creation of lawns I use TerraCottem turf and for planting large hedges, shrubs and trees I use TerraCottem arbor.
My customers know that I use TerraCottem. They know that my products are pricey. I explain to them that it is a worthwhile long-term investment.
The soil conditioner promotes strong roots, acts as a water buffer and is active for 5 to 8 years.
It is extremely dry this Summer. Can you see a difference with TerraCottem?
Yes, I can. The lawn stays green longer. Now, if it doesn't rain for six months straight, I'm not so sure…
What is your speciality?
I love working with living materials and making people happy with a new garden design or a finished project. I do not lay any paving myself. This I contract out to contractors I work with.
I specialise in pruning and topiary hedges and in designing and planting gardens. I find it important to bring structure and colour into a garden. My great asset is therefore my extensive knowledge of plants and at Hertog Jan, I have also learned a lot about vegetable gardens.
In the future, I want to share my knowledge, creativity and passion even more with my customers.
How do you keep up to date?
Staying innovative to me means to continuously inform myself about new developments and also to have a specific vision in the trade. Sometimes I get special requests from customers with specific problems. Every so often you come across new products that solve certain problems.
Which project would you like to highlight?
Hmm ... I am proud of many projects, but I get a particular satisfaction from solving difficult ones. When a customer says: "I have done many plantings here, but they don't survive" or he has problems with a site in coarse sandy soil, or in a forest with both shade and sunlight. If I can improve the soil structure with TerraCottem universal, Compover, Agrosil LR and peat and plant the right plants in the right place, if I then achieve results, I get a lot of satisfaction.
You can only deliver quality with quality products. I work in a small company, with a few subcontractors. I always say: "You don't have to be big to do big things".
What is your vision on water management?
Extra watering is only good for the first few years of life. The more water you give, the weaker your plants become in the long run. They are used to water and will not look for it further down. The idea is that the roots grow deeper so that the plant becomes stronger and draws water from the soil itself.
An example, in my neighbourhood there is a garden with an irrigation system and the lawn was watered every day. This led to lazy roots, which reduced the quality of the grass. The water-buffering effect of TerraCottem around the plant’s root system is very active during the first few years. In addition, TerraCottem contains biostimulants that stimulate root growth. TerraCottem was not used in this neighbourhood garden.
When the plants are fully grown, they basically have strong roots and need less water.
Have you ever won a prize?
I have not won any prizes yet, because I have never participated in a competition.
A competition is about one project, but you have to work every day to satisfy your customers.
They are talking about recession for the second half of the year. Are there fewer projects now?
No, I don't get that feeling. 70-80% of my customers are repeat customers. I have loyal customers.
New customers come mainly through word of mouth and through online platforms such as my website and facebook page.