We can not talk about
Jorge Verboonen without talk about "Orquidário Binot" (Binot Nurseries),
founded in l870, by Pedro Maria Binot, with the name of "Etablissement
P. M. Binot".
The story of the foundation started in Europe, when Jean Baptiste Binot,
landscape-gardener of profession, extremely sorrowful over his only daughter's
death, decided to leave Europe and chose, by chance, the first ship leaving
the quay to go away with his family. It was his destiny that this ship
came to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In l845, he settled in Petrópolis, as
a gardener-horticulturist selling plants and fruits trees.
He made his
work stand out in a such way that, in l854, he has been charged by the
Emperor Dom Pedro II, to project and execute the gardens of the Summer
Imperial Palace, in Petrópolis (nowadays Imperial Museum) to detriment
of a project created by Glaziou. As an award for the work done in the
palace, the Emperor gave him 6 slaves to help him cultivating the lands
he owned in Retiro, a district of Petrópolis City (those lands
would also be given by the Emperor). The close relationship between them
made the Emperor the godfather of his son, Pedro Maria Binot, whose name
was chosen probably to homage him.
Pedro did not show any interest for gardening and showed an adventurous
and independent temperament. His father complained with his godfather
who decided put the rebel in jail in order to impose discipline to him.
As soon as it came to his ears, he run away to Rio de Janeiro and stayed
hiding until his father and godfather's rage calmed down. For raisons
not very cleared up, perhaps to appease the rage of both, he accepted
to study horticulture in Gand, Belgium, where he has been graduated in
the "École d'Horticulture Van Houte", however, as a matter of fact, the
gardening did not attract him. In an age that the interest in our orchids
and our plants in general effervesced in Europe, Pedro, who was not 20
years old, succeeded in foreseeing the excellent commercial perspectives
that would guide and make him rich. He returned to Brazil and started
to collect orchids and other tropical plants to export. As he did not
get any help from his father, he loaned money to a Belgian friend of his
family and left Rio de Janeiro's port, with his first plants cargo straight
to Belgium which was, by this time, one of the most interested country
in orchids and, in that way, the Etablissement P.M. Binot was founded.
It has been a success. With the result of this first travel, he paid the
loan and got enough money to provide capital for the next. He did not
less than 76 journeys over the Atlantic Ocean. He spent 6 months in Brazil
and 6 months in Europe, carrying and bringing plants. Here, he was always
collecting and packing plants. In the evening of the travels, he sat up
all night, working under the light of small oil night lamp or candles.
He introduced the palm Coco weddeliana in Belgium, a first sight
European passion. Two specimens did such a great success that there were
sold by 500 Belgian Francs, enough, nowadays to buy a second hand car.
Pedro Binot succeeded in getting fantastic things such as bring a palm
tree of 4 meters height to a show. On one occasion, he carried a Samambaia
arborescente which clump weighed 1.500 kilograms. Nobody knows how he
could do that because, by this time, animals did the traction, horses
pulled the coaches and the transport to the seaport was made in the loin
of donkeys. In l871, he started the exportation of palm's seeds which
would only be interrupted by the two world wars. The list of new plants
introduced by him to Europe is long. He also supplied Brussels Botanical
Garden with an entire collection of botanical values. He was made a knight
of Leopold Order in recognition of his valuable contribution.
In spite of the great number of hybrids, which started to be made in Europe,
the interest in native plants did not cooled down and, as a matter of
fact, they were the components for the hybridization. At the end of his
life, Pedro started the construction of the first nurseries and introduced,
in Brazil, some of South-American Cattleya species: such as trianae,
perciviliana, mossiae, some divisions of them are still
To pay homage of him, species from orchidaceae family and others have
been named: such as Marantha binotii, Lc binotii (natural
hybrid between Laelia pumila and Cattleya bicolor, Miltonia
binotii, natural hybrid between Miltonia candida and Miltonia
He was always busy doing something, sometimes with a hammer, a watering
pot or a pen. With his adventurous and speculative sprit he could not
or he does not allowed himself to stay doing nothing. He was known by
his affability and honesty. Always showing happiness and sympathy to his
customers, he was extremely severe with his family as well as with his
employees. His outbursts of rage were famous but momentary. In despite
of his temperament, he found time to marry a widow cousin who has already
a boy named Georges J. A. Verboonen. From this marriage, the couple had
a son and a daughter. Paradoxically, considered as a very good person
for who knew him, he did not succeed in having a good relationship with
his children and, alive, did not allow their participation in the nursery.
He died in l911.
Georges H. A. Verboonen who would be Jorge Verboonen's father went as
an apprenticeship in Germany, Italy and England. With the death of Pedro
Maria Binot, he returned to Brazil and took the direction of the nursery,
with his brother and sister and alternated the representation of the nursery
in Brussels. Overtaken by the explosion of the 1st World War when he was
there, he succeeded in getting the last train of passengers before the
Germany occupation and went to England where he stayed for many years
in Stuart Low. In this country, he met Elizabeth May Robinson, his future
wife. Tired of waiting for the end of the war, he returned to Brazil in
l915. The outbreak of the 1st World War affected the exportation because
as the fuel to heat the greenhouses was stinted, many of them have been
closed and many collections were lost. As a result the exportations stopped.
A radical metamorphosis occurred in "Etablissement P. M. Binot", its main
activity became the supplying of flowers to be sold in the shops in Rio
de Janeiro, "Casa Flora" took in almost the entirely production. By this
time, Cattleya warneri flowering, for example, was very expensive.
Slowly and calmly, things made progress and more greenhouses were built
Since l921, the production of the first hybrids by symbiotic methods started
although just some specimens were cultivated because the number of the
amateur growers was still very small. From this time, Bc Maronae,
Lc. Bletchleyensis, C. Marielli, C. Mimoso and C.
Minucia between others.
Just before the Second World War, the first modern hybrids were imported
and they charmed the visitors of the first orchids shows, which took place
in São Paulo. The most famous has been Brassocattleya Bambino nº
1. Nowadays is quite common to see "albas" in any collection but by this
time they were the sensation and were very expensive. Only after the 2nº
World War, BC Ann Sladden, BC Francinette, BC Laure
Sladden have appeared and made an enormous success.
In l945, the name of the firm changed to Orquidário Binot Ltd. and the
production of the flowers increased in order to answer the increasing
request of the specialized trade. In spite of giving to his son Jorge
Verboonen a rigid European education, when he showed his interest in working
at the nurseries, Georges Verboonen put him to execute the most humble
tasks such as uprooting weeds of the pots and clean the nurseries. Little
by little, Jorge absorbed all the secrets of orchids cultivation and when
his father begin to became blind, he practically took over the command
the establishment, where he was since l940. The end of his father's like
was very painful. To someone who spent his life to produce the beauty,
the blindness was a real torment. When he died, Jorge Verboonen was charged
with the direction of the Orquidário. He started a program of extension
of the installations and the cultivation of new series of hybrids.
In l960, Orquidário Binot started a new age when Rolf Altenburg, a dynamic
and innovator person, with whom Jorge had a strong affinity and considered
him a very close friend, became a partner and gave an upswing in the trade.
Jorge Verboonen considered that partnership a happy association that honored
him a lot. Still recently, he became deeply affected when he talked about
his friend. With the continuity of the expansion, the nursery began again
to export to Europe and continued until 1994, when those activities stopped.
In l980, Rolf Altenburg, spontaneously, left the society because he thought
that the "Orquidário Binot" should be stayed with Verboonen family, showing
the nobility of his character.
Rolf Altenburg paid homage to his friend when, in 1955, he produced a
hybrid (Potinara Creole x Lc. Gothaurea), and called it Potinara
Jorge Verboonen. A natural hybrid has been also named in his homage, a
crossing of Oncidium crispum X marshallianum - Oncidium
Jorge Verboonen as well as Binotia verboonenii. It is interesting
to remark that, in the spite of the appearance, the name Binotia
has not been given in homage to Binot as explains to us Father José
Gonzáles Raposo, in his "Dicionário Etimológico das
orquídeas do Brasil". To him, Binotia Rolfe, is a little
bit strange name because, first of all, gives the impression that it is
formed by Binot and after, because it is a compound hybrid name formed
by: Latin bin (two) + Greg ûs, otós
(ear). The name would be an allusion to the form of the lip which
medial lobo, from the half to the base, showing two prominences, which
can give the impression of two ears. However, some authors considered
that the name was given in honor of Binot.
With the development of the orchidophilie in Brazil, Jorge Verboonen has
done his contribution encouraging the societies, being present with his
plants to the orchids shows in big or small towns. As an old associate
to SBO, in l999, agreed to the fusion with OrquidaRio, allowing the society
to having its headquarters.
In l963, attended to IGA (International Gartenbau-Austellung) in Hamburg,
Germany, brought with him a selection of Brazilian species which awarded
the the first place with an outstanding Sophronitis coccinea. Hamburg
Botanical Garden bought all plants exhibited.
Going on with of the tradition of the pioneer Binot, he introduced, in
Brazil, Cattleya aurea and botanical species of Masdevallia
that he loved so much.
He participated as a registrant and/or lecturer to many World Orchids
Conferences in London , Long Beach, Frankfurt, Meddlin, Bangkok, Durban
and Miami. He went to USA and Canada to give lectures about Brazilian
species answering a request of the local societies.
During his frequent travels, he attached a great importance to visit orchid
nurseries and in one of those travels, in 40 days, he visited 37 nurseries
as reported by his wife. If the nursery was too much big, sometimes, he
spent all day to see every thing, if it was small, he could visit some
two or three in the same day.
He spent part of his time to study and often he could be found absorbed
studying in his library, entirely took by the reading.
Under his direction, Orquidário Binot became a national and international
reference. In spite of being introspective, he received everyone who looked
for him. He cooperated to many Brazilian and foreigner researchers (German,
American, finally every nationality). Many books, Brazilian or foreigner
had his cooperation. He fluently spoke French and English and this made
easy his contact with orchidophiles from all around the world, he made
a lot of friends among them. Reserved, when the subject was orchids, he
transformed himself and could spend hours talking about them, always interested
in exchange experiences, in collaborating with taxonomists and researchers
in their discovery and identification of new species. Many researchers
went to Orquidário Binot to study species; Campacci,
Denis Duveen, J.A.Fowlie, Lou Menezes, Francisco Miranda, Guido Pabst,
Vitorino Paiva, Carl L. Withner,
among many others.
His son Maurício Ferreira Verboonen, an agronomist engineer, actively
participating in the nurseries since l979, gave a new impulse to trade.
The installations have been renewed, new concepts of watering have been
adopted and researches have been done on searching for new substrate options
as tree fern is threatened by extinction. He fit up a modern laboratory
to propagate orchids by sowing. Many hybrids have been produced as well
the reproduction of a great number of Brazilian species mainly those ,
which are threatened of extinction. His father was proud of this work.
Under Maurício direction, Orquidário Binot will keep on being the
granary for the researchers of our species mainly those which have botanical
interests as it always was.
He is the fourth generation of this family who works with orchids , which
started in l870, in the District of Retiro, in Petrópolis. This
is an unusual fact in our country.
Interview with Maria de Lourdes Ferreira Verboonen (wife)
Interview with Maurício Ferreira Verboonen (son)
Article published in Tribuna de Petrópolis, July 30 -31 l994 (by Antonio
Eugênio Taulois, permission of Jorge Verboonen family)
Orquidário Binot catalogue (90 years of foundation - l960)
Article by Maria de Lourdes Ferreira Verboonen and Maurício Ferreira Verboonen
Photos: Family photos album and Sergio Araujo