First half 20th century
The Penning company was founded in 1926 when Martien Penning sr. started growing vegetables and fruits on a small scale at a location in Honselersdijk, called Bospolder. In 1929, the first greenhouse was built. Among the first crops to be grown in this greenhouse were grapes, tomatoes and endive. During the thirties and forties, the range was expanded to include cucumbers, lettuce, melons and carrots. In 1946, the first freesia crop consisting of 300 m² of the variety: ‘Buttercup’ was grown.
Second half 20th century
In 1949 and 1953, Martien and Jan Penning – the second generation of the family – entered the business. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the company expanded and focused increasingly on cutflower crops, mainly freesias, but also some carnations and gerberas.
The founder of the company, Martien Penning (standing, 2nd from the left) with next to him on the right his son Martien and on the left below him his son Jan.
In the early 1960s, the company expanded, growing some 6,000 m² of freesias, including varieties: ‘Golden Yellow’, ‘Snow Queen’, ‘Blauwe Wimpel’ and ‘Princess Marijke’ and around 8,000 m² of other crops. In 1965, the company began creating its own assortment of freesias by setting up a breeding programme, initially on a small scale. Two years later, the company structure changed with the establishment of M. Penning en Zonen B.V. Freesia cultivation continued to expand throughout the 1960s and by the end of the decade, with the final crop of carnations and gerbera’s in 1968, the company specialized entirely in freesias.
Freesia breeding activities subsequently expanded and in 1974, the first results were introduced with the commercial introduction of ‘Silvia’, ‘Flamingo’ and ‘Rhodos’. In the same year, a trading branch of the company was established: Penning Freesia B.V. Throughout this time, the company concentrated on the breeding, trading and growing of freesia for cutflowers. Throughout the 1970s, the freesia assortment grew steadily with 3-4 new varieties launched each year. Besides the sales of planting material for the home market, export activities increased rapidly. At the same time, both the greenhouse area and the cooling and preparation facilities underwent significant expansion so that by 1980, the company consisted of 5,5 hectares of greenhouse and 0,5 hectares of cooling and preparation stores:Air view of the company in 1983 including the windmill.
Eventually, a brand new freesia assortment in a wide variety of colours became available. Today, Penning Freesia has become a major supplier of freesia corms and cormlets for the Dutch home market and an increasing number of overseas countries throughout the world. Because of steadily increasing energy prices in the early 1980s, the search for energy-saving methods resulted in the purchase of one of the first Total Energy Installations and the siting of a windmill; the latter being removed within two years due to technical problems. In 1987, the company commenced a hippeastrum breeding programme in cooperation with the Dutch bulb growers’ association ‘Floralia’.
In 1990, a new breeding complex was put into use, comprising some 6,500 m² glass housing and new research and testing facilities. All breeding activities of the company were brought together in Penning Breeding B.V.Mayor J. de Bruin of the city of Naaldwijk is being welcomed at the new breeding complex in 1990.
In 1994, the first new varieties from the hippeastrum breeding programme (‘Roma’ and ‘Las Vegas’) were introduced. The new hippeastrum assortment expanded rapidly and today over 30 varieties of different types and colours are in commercial production. Commercial flower and bulb production was cut back in the late ‘90s due to the economic situation and since then, the company has focussed on its core activities: breeding, propagating and trading of planting material.
At the beginning of the new millenium, ’Yvonne’ reached No. 1 in the Dutch freesia ranks and was Penning Freesia’s first variety to achieve such an accolade. In 2002, a restructuring of the company took place with the establishment of the holding company Penning Beheer B.V. With the appointment of Marko and Peter Penning to the executive board on 1 January 2003, the third generation of the family took over the management of the company. In 2003, a new greenhouse over 12,000 m² equipped with state-of-the-art technology was developed, involving the replacement of all the old glass. For the first time, this enabled Penning Freesia to show their products to their customers throughout the year. Following two years of testing, commercial propagation of freesia planting material began in Morocco in 2004. The favourable Moroccan climate enables healthy, virus-free corms and cormlets to be produced as starting material for flower production for freesia growers throughout the world. In 2008 a restructuring of the area resulted in the sale of part of the company’s greenhouse to a neighbouring company. Since then, all the company’s activities have, once again, been concentrated on its original location where the company’s history began, way back in 1926.