Bonne Ruys, Mien Ruys' father, (1865-1950) was married to Engelana Gijsberta Fledderus (1872-1935), a minister’s daughter from Hellendoorn. The family history can be traced back to the 12th century. Bonne was from a business family in Kampen.

When he was 6 years of age the family moved to Dedemsvaart. His brother -in- law in Dedemsvaart, Arend Berends, had bought the house Moerheim (house in the peat) with 25 acres of land and offered to sell the house and land to Bonne’s father for the same price. After primary school Bonne went to The French school ( MULO) in the Kalkwijk.

From the age of 10 Bonne had said he wanted to become a nursery gardener. Together with his best friend Francois van der Elst he often visited Mr Jongkindt Coninck’s tree nursery.

The influence of Jongkindt Coninck

Bonne was a slow learner at school and his father soon realized that the type of school Bonne was attending was unsuitable for him. Taking Mr Jongkindt Coninck’s advice, Bonne’s father sent him to a Private school in Brussels. To become a nursery gardener Mr Jonkindt Coninck thought it was very important to be able to speak foreign languages and this could be achieved at this this particular school. It took until 1882 before Bonne’s father would give him permission to become a trainee at Mr Jongkindt Coninck’s nursery in Dedemsvaart. Mr Jonkindt Coninck called his nursery Tottenham after Thomas Ware’s large perennial nursery in Tottenham, where he had worked for a year.

Bonne Ruys’s first work experience

In the beginning of 1885 Bonne went to England to work at Thomas S.Ware’s nursery. He also worked in various nurseries in Germany, although unfortunately only for a short period. At the age of 20 Bonne applied for a job at the nursery of Mr Rahder, tree nursery gardener in Hoogeveen. After a few months Mr Rahder became seriously ill and asked Bonne if he would take on the business. However, Bonne did not want to do this as he felt he was too young to start his own business and wanted to learn more about cultivating fruit and vegetables and also cultivating seeds and seed merchandising.

After leaving Hoogeveen Bonne accepted a job in Zwijndrecht with the Van Namen Brothers.

The development of the nursery

In the November of 1887 Mr van Namen gave a lecture in Dedemsvaart on horticulture. He stayed with Bonne’s father and indicated in one of his conversations with father Ruys that he found it rather strange that his son, Bonne, never talked about having his own nursery in Dedemsvaart. According to Mr van Namen the soil was extremely suitable for both seed production and vegetable cultivation. In 1888 on the 15th of March, Bonne who was 22 years old, started a nursery in Dedemsvaart. He called the nursery “Moerheim” after the parental home. In truth Bonne could not think of a better name. Bonne did not really want to start a nursery here because of the bad connections. De decision to go ahead was mainly based on the quality of the soil.

Moerheim’s giant pod

In the first year of Moerheim nursery, Bonne Ruys started by buying a batch of vegetable seeds in order to experiment. He bought a number of packets of a new pod variety called the Grauer Roesen Schnabel. This was a sort with large purple flowers. However, in the summer it appeared that one stem had large white flowers. Also the pods which had developed were extremely long and wide. Bonne started to grow the few peas he had left from this plant. The rest had been eaten by the birds.

His feeling that this could turn out to be something very special proved to be true. In 1892 Bonne had produced so many plants that he was able to do good business with the firm in Efurt. This business, a large seed house, spent a considerable amount of time experimenting on anything new in the vegetable and flower seed section. Because of all this Bonne Ruys became well known as seed grower and merchant.

New perennials

In 1902 Bonne introduced a new perennial : the Aubrietia Hebr. Moerheimi (he had found this plant earlier in a little bed with seedlings, a plant with extra-large bright pink coloured flowers). Bonne took this plant to the Temple Show in London where it received an ‘award of Merit’. A conflict with the co-director of Jongkindt Coninck nursery resulted in having to produce clear descriptions of plants in Garden magazines. The reason for this conflict was the double white Campanula Persicifolia. Bonne wanted to be the first to put this plant on the market. If the Jongkindt Conninck nursery was to sell this plant first, then it should be under the name Moerheimi. Unfortunately this plant appeared under another name in Jongkindt Conicks’nursery catalogue. Somehow or another Bonne was able to put this right. The importance of the introduction of Campanula moerheimi as a new perennial can be compared to that of the Moerheim Giant pea in the seed industry. Both ensured that the name Moerheim became well known all over the world.

Borders

Round about 1900 Bonne Ruys discussed the idea of how to make a border in his catalogue. In England this was called a ‘herbaceous-border’ (by William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll). Bonne described it as ‘planting the same sort of plants in groups , taking into consideration the plants flowering at different times of the year, putting the tallest plants near or between the shrubs and the lower plants at the front joining on to the lawn. In his jubilee catalogue in 1913 Bonne wrote that the use of perennials was becoming more popular, especially in the borders. During the first world war the perennial trade with Germany was brought to a halt. The loss of income was compensated by establishing a garden architecture department in the nursery. The main purpose was to give advice on choosing plants and plant combinations for gardens and parks.

The New-Moerheim house

Necessary changes were also made to the living accommodation. Moerheim was not large enough and suitable rented accommodation unavailable. The best solution at the time was a new house. This new house was built next to where later the Moerheim nursery office stood. This building is at present no longer in use. At that time there was just potato mounds and a haystack on that spot. The house was built by the architect K. A. Hakkert and was given the name ‘New Moerheim’. ( now ‘Huize Lellingbo’” ) The family lived here till 1928.

The crowning glory of Bonne Ruys’s work

Searching for and growing new plants played an important role in Bonne Ruys’s life. In the beginning he had a small selection of plants but by cross pollination Bonne succeeded in developing varieties which he became well known for, particularly in England. In this way he was able to add more than 100 plants to the existing collection and many of these are still available: among others. Delphinium Morheim, Astilbe Betsy Cuperus, Phlox Spitfire. In 1904 Moerheim nursery was given the title: Royal. The nursery had supplied many plants for the Royal gardens of Soestdijk and Het Loo.

Acknowledgements:

“Memoires van Bonne Ruys”, 1865 – 1950.

“Mien Ruys, een leven als tuinarchitecte”, Bonica Zijlstra.

“Mijn tuinman”, Mien Ruys.