Palmerston North's "flower man extraordinaire" has received a Dutch knighthood.
Yesterday, Henk den Hartog's 80th birthday festivities were interrupted by a surprise visit to his Westbrook home by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Arie van der Wiel.
Mr den Hartog received a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, which is given to "extraordinary" people who have served their community. A knighthood in the Netherlands does not come with a title, unlike the New Zealand honours system.
Surrounded by friends and family, a bewildered Mr den Hartog sat speechless as Mr van der Wiel spoke about the contribution he had made to society.
Before he migrated to New Zealand in 1960, he worked for Dutch horticultural companies but struggled to find work when he arrived.
Mr den Hartog later designed the gardens at the German Embassy in Belmont, Lower Hutt, and maintained the gardens of Wellington Hospital.
He then began importing flower bulbs from Holland. In the 70s, he worked for Turners and Growers as flower division manager. The flower division of the company is now called Floramax.
He is a founder of the Flower Council of New Zealand and is considered to be the "father" of the New Zealand bulb growing industry. He grew his own bulbs using Dutch materials.
He and his wife Jacoba moved to Palmerston North 12 years ago to be closer to their daughter.
Mr den Hartog has terminal cancer but that hasn't stopped him from importing flower bulbs from his native country to New Zealand.
He said being recognised by the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was "fantastic".
"This is absolutely and surely not expected," he said.
"If I could do it again it'd be the exact same. It's been a wonderful life. Flowers colour your day and if flowers colour your day, you're never grumpy or dreadful."
- Manawatu Standard
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