Misleading advertising again: Bakker, bulbs and photoshop

Most of the time I am glad to be in the horticultural industry. But there are times when I wish I either had nothing to do with it or that I was a lawyer.

To make it clear, what follows is my opinion, based on my observations and experiences.

The reason for this rant was a gardening mag I received the other day with a DPS (double page spread) for Bakker. This Dutch company with tentacles in Spalding UK and possibly in the USA under other names produces colourful catalogues and sells a wide range of plants and bulbs. I have not ordered anything from them for many decades. I would suggest that you would get better value if you ordered from a company with catalogues with more realistic representations of their wares.

Photoshop (R) is a marvellous tool. It can make you look younger, you can add bits of images to others and do all sorts of useful things. On this blog I do not manipulate any of the images, partly to save time since I am so cranky at Photoshop but mostly because I want the blog to be real and helpful.

Many years ago when I was working for the RHS Journal we used to publish ‘plates’ of flowers. This was a lot of work. We had to set up an outside ‘studio’ at a garden that had all the flowers, pick and arrange them on a background and then, if two plates were needed, we had to make sure the colour saturation was the same on both. Now it would be so easy. The plants could be photographed on different days individually, cutout and ‘placed’ on a background, turned and resized to fit and colours changed. So this manipulation is enormously useful.


But I was incensed when I saw this advert! I do not have a problem with the bulbs, or even the price of the bulbs since this is an expensive tulip – though it does not state the bulb size which would be useful.

What really gets my goat is that birdhouse planter. What a great offer – you get that great planter and bird house free when you buy just 8 tulip bulbs for £15.28 (yes there is postage on top). You get extra free bulbs – this is only a guess but I would suspect that the majority of them are anemone, allium moly or muscari – could be wrong but I won’t be ordering to find out.

bakker 2

So let’s look at this illustration in more detail. I have cropped the image below at the edges of the ‘tub’ so the width of the image represents 18cm. Look at that little bird cheekily viewing that potential home. Well, it looks like a house sparrow to me. But wait – the bird is less than a fifth of the width of the image. So the bird must be only one fifth of 18cm long – that’s about 35mm long! A house sparrow is 16cm long from tip to tail so it can’t be a sparrow. I checked and according to the Guinness Book of Records, the smallest bird in the world is the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) from Cuba and the Isle of Youth (I must go there) and that is 57mm long. So it can’t be a bird then. Maybe it is an insect that has evolved to look like a bird. Whatever the bird is, a sparrow will not be nesting in that box since the hole is less than 3cm across. That is too small for a house sparrow though it may be OK for a blue tit. Of course it may have to back into the hole since there will not be much room to turn round once it is inside. We will dispense with the fact that, since the whole structure is only 30cm high any bird small enough and foolish enough to try to make this home will probably be eaten by cats or, at that height, by worms!

bakker 3

So what about those flowers? We have a breathtaking display of tulips, lilies, hippeastrums, daffodils and chrysanthemums – no leaves of course. With the odd rose thrown in. I do hope Bakker also sell these lovely flowers. Daffodils the size of hippeastrum or is that hippeastrum the size of daffodils. I am confused. Along the width of the tub are three hippeastrum and two lily flowers. In a tub 18cm wide? Er – that makes then about 3cm or just over an inch across. And what about stems?

Now I know that Bakker will argue that these images of flowers and bird are ‘for illustrative purposes only’ and that is their reason for manipulating the image.

But this is just not good enough. Calling it misleading is not even the beginning. It is my opinion that the illustration is ‘composed’ deliberately to mislead the buyer into thinking this ‘gift’ is much larger than it really is. I accept that the measurements are clearly stated beside it but that is not the point. If you bought a pack of 4 burgers with a ‘photo’ of ten on the front – or with a child holding one and the burger was enlarged to deliberately give the impression that the burgers were twice the real size there would be an enquiry.

Bakker, among others, have been getting away with this for years so I don’t expect anything to be done any time soon. Just please – don’t get caught out by this lot.

If you do order you have been warned and remember – they will know where you live. And they may make money selling the data to someone else. Make sure you tick the box to prevent it.

Out of interest, Parkers seems to be the cheapest supplier in the UK – just – with a pack of free pinks but this may vary. At least they also state the bulb size too.



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12 Comments on “Misleading advertising again: Bakker, bulbs and photoshop”

  1. derrickjknight
    July 5, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    Very well said

  2. Steve
    July 5, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    It is surprising no one has sent a copy of this (or previous brochures) to the ASA.
    Rule 1.1 of the CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) Code is:

    “Marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

    My guess is that the British are a race of quietly disappointed people that find it difficult to complain and may not realise the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) website even exists to complain about such things. And yes, leaflets and brochures are covered by the ASA and the supplier is expected to abide by the CAP Code.


    Go on, you know you want to!

    • thebikinggardener
      July 5, 2015 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks for that – why has no one done this? Maybe we all think that someone else has!

  3. Meriel
    July 5, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Exactly what I have always been thinking. My mum in th Isle of Man regularly gets these catalogues in the post.

  4. helen dillon
    July 5, 2015 at 6:06 pm #

    Geoff – just to say you gave me two pelargoniums a year or two ago (one called ‘Scarlet Pet’ – lost the other name of the other one – and they are absolutely brilliant plants – OK outside as well – am so pleased with them!

    many thanks and kind regards
    Helen (Dillon)
    couldn’t find an email number for you

    • thebikinggardener
      July 5, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

      Hello Helen. I have been meaning to email for ages – my apologies! I can’t remember the other one either – I will have to visit soon and then I can look and tell you. Yes ‘Scarlet Pet’ is a great plant and I use it for outside here – I am glad it has proved useful! I hope everything is well with you and I hope to visit soon. Best wishes Geoff

  5. joy
    July 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    dare I tell you many years ago we got a bird house from a company think it was bakker and the hole is about quarter of a inch its called home sweet home lol never put it out . it just sits doing nothing in my shed

    • thebikinggardener
      July 5, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

      lol – yes you do dare! Perhaps you can use it as a bug hotel!

  6. Scott T
    May 12, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    Great article & very well writen , speaking as a disabled hobbying garden enthusiast ..(i tend to build planters and benches ect from reclaimed sheds and fencing respectively).. My partner has more of the green thumb as she and her late dad (who’s efforts where very well received locally) have always enjoyed reading and learning more from those with more experiencr isa great help

    Thank you!

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