Conifer grower Henk receives prestigious prize

Henk in his conifer garden
Henk van Kempen (right) busy in his conifer nursery / Photo credit: Studio040

Henk van Kempen from Son en Breugel is a tree grower, in conifers to be precise. And not the well-known ones that are found in many gardens, but very special ones. Henk has even received a prestigious international award for it: the Justin C. Harper Award.

This is a prestigious prize for someone who contributes to the propagation and improvement, but also the discovery and cultivation of conifers. Henk is only the second Dutch person to receive this award from the American Conifer Society.”

“When people hear the word ‘conifer’, they immediately think of a big monster. However, there is much more. I mainly specialize in small dwarf forms and rarities.” Requests for Henk’s trees come from all over the world. “That’s why I’m constantly looking for new varieties.”

As an example, Henk shows the so-called Japanese parasol, which actually looks nothing like the ‘traditional’ conifer, which the layman recognizes as such. “It has thick, fleshy needles. There are more than a hundred different types of this tree alone. There are variegated forms, yellow forms, dwarf forms, extreme dwarf forms, etc..”

On expedition

Every two years Henk goes on an ‘expedition’ to the United States or Canada, where he looks for new types of conifers. And he can also be found regularly in various European countries, including Scandinavia, Germany and Austria. However, America is the Valhalla.”

“There are a lot of ‘seekers’ for conifers. Because in the wild you can also find new species and shapes. Just drive around and see if you see an abnormality somewhere in a very large tree. And if you then multiply it again, you can get out conifers like the ones you see here.”


Henk’s nursery in Son en Breugel has approximately 23,000 different plants, of which approximately 4,000 are new every year. On Saturdays his business is open to private individuals and residents can also buy a conifer.


Source: Studio040

For Eindhoven News: Lila Mehrez

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