The Humble Beginnings Of Van Veen Nursery

Theodore Van Veen, Sr. (Van) established the nursery back in 1926 as a means of supplying plants to his landscaping clients. He grew plants that were popular in his day and sold many camellias and deciduous azaleas, often using them to 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.

Meet The Founder: Theodore Van Veen, Sr.

Van came to America in 1900 from Aarlanderveen in The Netherlands. Along the way, he has worked in various nurseries in Holland, England, and Canada. He has always been a forward-thinker— as early as the 1930s, he was tinkering with rooting compounds, using electric cables to heat propagation beds, and using mist to cool them. He did all this believing it was possible to grow rhododendrons on their own roots.

Van was a charter member of the American Rhododendron Society, which was founded in Portland in 1945. Back then, the plant was multiplied only by seed, layering, and grafting. With Van's innovative thinking, the method of "cutting grown rhododendron, the king of shrubs" became popular.

ted sr.

Ted Van Veen: Growing The Business

When Van died in 1961, his son Ted Van Veen took over the management of the nursery. He purchased the adjacent nursery in 1968 and expanded their land. At present, the nursery has four acres of greenhouses and gardens near downtown Portland.

Sharing Their Expertise

Ted shared his knowledge in the field by writing "Rhododendrons in America," the first colored how-to book for the layperson. It became so popular that it was printed in Japanese.

Like his father, Ted was also highly involved with the American Rhododendron Society both locally and nationally. In 1976, he was awarded the American Rhododendron Society's prestigious Gold Medal.

Kathy Van Veen: Continuing The Legacy

Kathy Van Veen assumed management in 2003 with the passing of his father, Ted. She brings the accumulated knowledge of her ancestors to the nursery and is said to be able to "root a pencil".

Following family tradition, she is also active with the American Rhododendron Society and was awarded the ARS Gold Medal in 2011. She is also active in the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

cuttings house 3

Visit Our Nursery

Between January and June, thousands of different Rhododendrons, Camellias, and azaleas bloom each year at our nursery. 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.

Connect With Us

Reach out to us today to learn more about our propagation nursery. We’d love to hear from you soon!