Floriculture Industry Loses Another Legend

Floriculture Industry Loses Another Legend

Gus de Hertogh in his element among flowers.

Among the flowers, Dr. August (Gus) Albert De Hertogh was truly in his element.
Photo courtesy of North Carolina State University

Dr. August (Gus) Albert De Hertogh, age 83, died October 26, 2018 in Raleigh, NC. Gus, the son of Belgian immigrants, was raised in Chicago. He was fluent in Flemish and enjoyed returning annually to visit his Belgian family.

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Gus’ research on flower bulbs began at Michigan State University in 1965. Dutch exporters came to the U.S. seeking answers on challenges with flower bulbs. Dr. De Hertogh accepted the challenge and spent the next 35 years researching flower bulbs. In 1978, he moved to North Carolina State University to head the Department of Horticulture and moved the flower bulb research with him. He is recognized as a world authority and freely shared his bank of knowledge with scientists and growers around the world. His many contributions included the development of shipping procedures, protocols for handling bulbs upon arrival in the U.S., bulb cooling processes, and protocols for forcing bulbs out of season. He was able to take an age-old industry and advance it into a new age with many economic opportunities. He was instrumental in expanding the world market of flower bulbs. He also pioneered university-industry partnerships.

De Hertogh’s publications were many: 52 journal articles, 55 symposia/research reports, 58 Extension leaflets, 45 books and book chapters, 25 industry service bulletins, 85 industry popular press articles, four web sites, and two software packages.

Gus was the recipient of many awards and honors; far too many to mention all of them. Highlights include: A Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science; Medal of Honor, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, The Netherlands; Floriculture Hall of Fame Award and the Alex Laurie Research and Education Award from the Society of American Florists; the Nicolaas Dames Golden Medal, The Netherlands; the Teaching Award of the American Horticulture Society; the Innovator Award by North Carolina State University; the Gold Pin Award of Dutch Bulb Exporters Association; the Herbert Medal, International Bulb Society, Pasadena, California; and the naming of a hyacinth cultivar in his honor. The bulb industry gave him their highest of honors, the Silver Tulip Award.

He is survived by his wife Mary Belle, children Mark, Michelle, Jennifer, Mary Moore, Susan, Jay; grandchildren Mark, Lori Beth, Drew, Patrick, Aaron, Claire, Addison, and great-grand daughter Caroline.

He will be missed by family and friends. He helped changed the world and make it a more beautiful place.

To honor Gus, please consider donating to the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State or the American Diabetes Association – North Carolina.

Reprint From a Dedication: August A. De Hertogh Horticultural Reviews, Volume 26, 2001, By Paul Nelson and Sylvia Blankenship, North Carolina State University

Who can deny that the profusion of spring flowering bulbs in the landscape and interior environments are truly wondrous? While flowering bulbs are miracles of nature, we have August (Gus) De Hertogh to thank for helping to successfully bring these gifts into our lives. Dr. De Hertogh’s contributions to horticulture are truly outstanding. He is a world authority on flowering bulb plants (geophytes) and his career embraces the science, technology, industry practice, and education in that world. His integration of science, technology, economic application, and public education serves as a model for all horticulturists.

When Gus began his work on flower bulbs at Michigan State University in 1965, it was not possible to effectively control the flowering of tulips or other bulbs following overseas shipment from The Netherlands, the world’s largest producer. He not only developed procedures to successfully ship bulbs across the Atlantic Ocean but also developed production protocols for handling bulbs upon arrival, properly cooling bulbs, and then forcing bulbs in the greenhouse from January through May for pot and cut flower markets. He developed production schedules for every major flowering bulb produced in the United States, The Netherlands, South Africa, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand. In short, he managed, through science and technology, to take an age-old industry and advance it into a new age with many economic opportunities. He has been instrumental in expanding the world market of flower bulbs.

Dr. De Hertogh pioneered university-industry partnerships when he began collaborative efforts with the Netherlands Flower Bulb Institute and the Holland Bulb Exporters Association. From 1965 to 1970, Dr. De Hertogh and his team conducted basic physiology studies of flowering bulbs. This laid the foundation for the production of the first of five editions of the Holland Bulb Forcers Guide, which is considered the “bible” for bulb producers and forcers.

One of the striking attributes of Dr. De Hertogh’s career is his inexhaustible zeal to educate people from all walks of the geophyte world. The breadth of media for his publications speaks to this desire to communicate equally to scientist, producer, and end user. These publications encompass 52 journal articles, 55 symposia/research reports, 58 extension leaflets, 45 books and book chapters, 25 industry service bulletins, 85 industry popular press articles, 4 Web sites, and 2 software packages. Probably one of his greatest literary contributions to science is the comprehensive treatise co-authored with Dr. Marcel Le Nard on bulb crops, entitled, The Physiology of Flowering Bulbs. It is a one-of-a kind work that will be an invaluable reference far into the future.

Gus has transferred his knowledge and wisdom in more personal ways than just the written word. He has served as leader, partner, and team player in numerous collaborative programs. These programs have included 42 student trainees from The Netherlands, 17 master’s students, 6 Ph.D. students, 17 post doctorates, and numerous technicians and fellow scientists. His personal touch has had an effect on traditional students at all levels, industry clientele, other scientists, and the public. His leadership and dedication to University service was demonstrated by his 10 years as Department Head of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University (NCSU). He led the department with an enthusiasm for the advancement of individuals, as well as the discipline and industry. He was a mentor to the faculty, a father figure, an always capable “John Wayne” type, who did his best to act in the best interest of everyone.

Perseverance has always been one of his hallmarks. His ability to complete a chosen task with focus and organization is legendary in horticulture and in the world flower business. He led a worldwide bulb industry while also leading a large horticulture faculty at NCSU. In 1988 the Japanese Society for Promotion of Science engaged him to evaluate their research program in horticulture.

Gus has received many awards and honors during his career. These include Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science; Medal of Honor, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, The Netherlands; Floriculture Hall of Fame Award and the Alex Laurie Research and Education Award from the Society of American Florists; the Nicolaas Dames Golden Medal, The Netherlands; the Teaching Award of the American Horticulture Society; the Innovator Award by North Carolina State University; the Gold Pin Award of Dutch Bulb Exporters Association; the Herbert Medal, International Bulb Society, Pasadena, California; and the naming of a hyacinth cultivar in his honor. The bulb industry gave him their highest of honors, the Silver Tulip Award.

Dr. De Hertogh has truly exemplified the vision of an exceptional horticultural scientist. His dedication and efforts will long be felt in the accomplishments of his colleagues, the careers of the many students he educated, the commercial successes of an entire geophyte industry he supported, and the pleasures of a worldwide consuming public who through his efforts find their lives a shade brighter than before. Gus is truly an ambassador for horticulture and, because of this, we dedicate this volume of Horticultural Reviews in his honor.