Van Veen Nursery was started at its present location by Theodore Van Veen , Sr. (Van) in 1926 as a means of supplying his landscape clients. He grew the usual plants popular in his day and sold many camellias and deciduous azaleas, often using them as trade for groceries during the Great Depression. When Rhododendrons were introduced into production in 1930 the general line was phased out. This left the exclusive Rhododendron operation as it exists today.
Van came to America in 1900 from Aarlanderveen in The Netherlands and worked in various nurseries in Holland, England and Canada along the way. A forward thinker, he was tinkering with rooting compounds, using electric cable to heat his propagation beds, and mist to cool them, already in the 1930's. This was because he believed it possible to grow Rhododendrons on their own roots. Previous to this they were multiplied only by seed, layering and grafting. Van was a charter member of the American Rhododendron Society, which was founded in Portland in 1945. He d id much to popularize the "cutting grown rhododendron" the King of Shrubs.
Ted Van Veen took over the management of the nursery upon the death of his father in 1961. He expanded it with the purchase of an adjacent nursery in 1968 and is responsible for its present layout - of 4 acres of greenhouses and gardens near downtown Portland. He wrote "Rhododendrons in America," the first how-to book for the layperson, which is in color besides. It was so popular it was printed in Japanese. He was very involved with the American Rhododendron Society both locally and nationally, and was awarded the American Rhododendron Society's prestigious Gold Medal in 1976.
Kathy Van Veen, daughter of Ted and Granddaughter of Van, assumed management in 2003 with the passing of Ted. She brings the accumulated knowledge of her ancestors to the nursery and is said to be able to "root a pencil". Following the family traditions she is active with the American Rhododendron Society and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and was awarded the ARS Gold Medal in 2011.
Thousands of different Rhododendrons, Camellias, and azaleas bloom each year at our nursery between January and June. Stop by to see our historic greenhouses, Heritage trees, 80 year old rhododendrons, and the world's cutest cats. We might even be persuaded to show you the Japanese version of Rhododendrons in America.
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