Meet our Master Grower
Celebrating the skill, knowledge and growing methods of specialist nurseries who produce picture-perfect plants
The Warmenhoven family, named the RHS Master Grower for the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, has been growing plants in Holland since 1885. The name W.S. Warmenhoven is now synonymous with alliums, and Peter and Karen are ushering in their son Mark, the fifth generation of the family, to lead the business into the future and continue to bring these indispensable favourites to British gardens.
The family first started by growing amaryllis, and although they are still cultivated in the nursery they have taken a back seat to allow the allium business to flourish. Now in his late 80s, Peter's father still takes an interest in the business.
The first alliums were cultivated about 25 years ago and now the nursery lists 55 cultivars and counting. 'We are always crossing and pollinating,' says Mark Warmenhoven (28) hinting at the promise of new introductions in the not-so-distant future. The nursery comprises 1ha under glass and 1.5ha for field growing but Mark hopes this will expand.
'We are always crossing and pollinating,' says Mark Warmenhoven
Video interview - alliums and how to grow them
Peter and Karen Warmenhoven have been familiar faces at RHS Flower Shows for almost 30 years with their breathtaking exhibits which have earned them multiple Gold medals. No show is complete without them and they are obvious candidates for RHS Master Grower.
Mark says RHS members come specifically to find them at shows. 'They know what they want, they know what they are talking about and come to buy rare and new bulbs,' he says. Business is also good in Ireland and Belgium and Mark plans to investigate the potential for the US market, although he admits that during May, June and July, 24 hours in a day is just not enough.
'We cut the stems by hand at five in the morning to send them to auction, and they can be in customers’ homes the same day'
The nursery is run with a minimum workforce, bringing in seasonal workers when the alliums come into bloom. Most of the stems seen at the shows are cut when they naturally come into flower and cold stored so they can be kept at their peak. However, a new initiative of selling the stems to the auctions for cut flowers is now taking off. 'We cut the stems by hand at five in the morning to send them to auction, and they can be in customers’ homes the same day,’ explains Mark.
The future looks bright for the Warmenhoven family, and with their specialist knowledge safe in the hands of the next generation, we can continue to marvel at and grow these curious and bee-loving flowers.
What is the RHS Master Grower?
This new RHS initiative celebrates the growing methods of specialist nurseries and acknowledges sound, skilful production among the teams who produce picture-perfect plants and amazing displays at our flower shows.
For 2017 we selected five leading nurseries to feature in the scheme, and at each of our major shows we told the story of one of our Master Growers – explaining their journey to the show through the highs and lows of breeding and producing plants. Visitors had a behind-the-scenes view of the nursery and were introduced to the dedicated people who make the business possible.