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Brownell Holly Farms
Over 100 Years of Northwest Holly

Brownell Holly Farms 100 Years of Northwest Holly

History of The Brownell Holly Farms

This year marks Brownell Farms' 103rd year of growing and shipping premium Northwest grown holly! Attorney and Senator George C. Brownell started the company by planting  400 holly trees imported from England in 1910. He was a true holly pioneer since this was one of the first commercial orchards in the Pacific Northwest. The trees thrived in the temperate climate and rich soils of the Willamette River valley in Oregon.   The first shipment of holly went by ocean liner to San Francisco and Los Angeles  florists in 1918. By the early 1920's Brownell holly was delivered to Denver, Kansas City, Chicago and other Midwest cities. Just a few years later our holly was found in nearly every principal city in the country. George past away in 1921 but his son Ambrose had spent lots of time tending the hollies and had decided that he would be a farmer. Besides growing holly he also was involved in the purebred poultry eggs, baby chicks and breeding stock. One day, in the 1930's while addressing Christmas cards to his poultry customers with  his wife Helen, they thought how cheerful it would be if they could send  a personal selection of choice cuttings of real berried holly from their own trees. They decided to go ahead and collected an odd assortment of gift boxes and the response was spontaneous and so enthusiastic and appreciative. The following year they sent holly in shoe boxes and the poultry customers were requesting  them to send  Christmas holly to their friends. So it was that  the mail order holly business began. Before, the sale of our holly had been confined to the wholesale florist trade but we now knew we could send the lovely fresh cut sprays directly to the homes of those who were to enjoy Christmas cheer. To improve our gift package a cellophane wrapping was utilized to help preserve moisture and freshness. Also the gift boxes were improved in shape, strength and designed with colorful printing to make the total package an appropriate gift.

Ambrose Brownell was passionate over his holly but he also knew that the quality of holly could be improved with careful selection and propagation of trees with desirable characteristics. He developed over 35 named cultivars of holly with superior qualities. A commercial holly has to be fast maturing, have early berry ripening, be uniform, disease and drought resistant and produce well balanced, marketable sprays. His commercial hollies are Rederly, Firecracker, Special, Escort and Silvary which are planted in our orchards today. Ambrose grew hundreds of thousands of "tru to type" hollies for the industry and had over 100 acres in two separate farm orchards. Collecting rare and unusual hollies from seedlings, mutations and from nurseries around the world Ambrose created a holly arboretum of nearly 300 different specimens.

Through the years as the holly gift market continued to expand many family members were recruited to help during the hectic holiday season. Daughter Patricia Brownell Lee was enlisted to manage the holly operations in the late sixties. She designed and built a new modern packing facility with cold storage on our river farm in the  early seventies. Our operations are now concentrated on this 75 acre property with over 10,000 beautiful, well established trees.