Humber Nurseries Limited is Ontario’s largest, all-season outdoor living centre. Located on 24 acres in the southeast corner of Brampton, with a 100-acre growing farm in Caledon East that helps support the demand for high quality landscape plants, locally grown at competitive prices.
Humber is also an industry leader in the production and supply of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and aquatic plants with varieties that are not commonly available at other nurseries and garden centres. When you visit, you will find over 135 different varieties of ornamental grasses, 3,000 different perennials, 190 herbs and over 60 aquatic plants growing in our greenhouses, along with a selection of trees, shrubs and evergreens that is second to none. From the most common shrubs to the most exotic of trees, you can find them all here.
We further meet your outdoor living needs, by offering a full range of patio stone and retaining wall systems, natural rockery stone, fencing, bulk soils and many other items are available to get your projects started or to add that special finishing touch.
A visit to our 25,000 square foot retail store offers a large selection of giftware, pottery, garden furniture, fertilizers, insecticides, lawn fixtures, hand tools, soils and mulches. Virtually everything you need to create or maintain your dream garden.
Our Goal at Humber Nurseries is to set and surpass the standard of Horticultural Excellence, Complete Selection and above all . . . . . Satisfied Customers.
Humber Nurseries will consistently meet and exceed the expectations of our customers through superior customer service, making Humber a great place to shop and work. To be a leader in our industry and community requires teamwork, a positive attitude, pride, attention to detail, innovation and, high quality products and services.
The Growth of an Ontario Family Business since 1948
In today’s rapidly changing world, it is rare to see a 70th anniversaries of any kind. Therefore it is important for us to pause and appreciate this type of achievement. In 2018 Humber Nurseries Limited celebrates its 70th year in business. A wonderful accomplishment for this family owned and operated business. It did not come easily, but the family overcame each challenge it faced. Here is their story:
Frans L. Peters was born on January 24, in 1921, in Deventer, Holland. He was educated in Deventer and at about the age of sixteen, apprenticed for a local gardener. It was here that he first began to learn the hands-on techniques of identifying and growing plants, which he would later apply to his endeavors in Canada. Frans furthered his education, gaining more knowledge at the Horticultural School of Nymegen, graduating in 1940 at the age of twenty.
The outbreak of World War II in 1940 ended the Depression and plunged the entire nation of Holland into a struggle for liberty. As we all know, the Canadian Army fought its way across France and Belgium to liberate Holland in 1945. After the war, Canada welcomed new citizens from many world cultures, one of them being the Dutch farmers and horticulturalists. Frans L. Peters would soon apply and be accepted to immigrate to Canada in the spring of 1948, but first married Sibylla Dorothea Johanna Maria Janssen.
Frans and Sibylla, were married in their home town of Deventer on April 12, 1948. Then only two weeks later, on April 27th, they bid farewell to their families and boarded the ship Tabinta at the port of Rotterdam. Mr. and Mrs. F.L. Peters were headed to their new address in Sudbury, Ontario, and eventually to Sheguiandah on Manitoulin Island where there were greenhouses to tend to and quite a bit of land!
The arrival to Sheguiandah was eventful. Their first night was spent in a dilapidated and very small, windowless dwelling, with a soil floor and straw beds. In the weeks that followed, there was plenty of work planned for the unsuspecting couple, leading up to the Mother’s Day season.
Frans worked in the greenhouses during the day and ploughed the fields of the farm at night. Sibylla budded carnations for five cents an hour. Six weeks went by, but it felt like six years, especially for Sibylla. It was time to leave Manitoulin Island and head to Toronto. So with suitcases in hand, they took buses and hitch-hiked to Mimico, a small community in west Toronto, where Grobba Greenhouses was to employ Frans. Frans and Sibylla settled into a room, gathered their luggage originally sent to Toronto from the Tabinta, and adjusted to their new lifestyle in Canada.
The Start of Humber Nurseries Ltd.
Frans wanted to start his own business, so in 1948 he rented ten acres of land near the Humber River from the Wilson family in nearby Mount Dennis. Frans, Sibylla and their newborn daughter Sibylla, moved to one of the Wilson houses. In the spring, Frans placed an order with Stokes Seeds, built some frames, and started growing seedlings. That was the birth of Humber Nurseries, with the name coming from the fact the property ran along the Humber River.
Frans looked for related ways to grow the business and decided to do maintenance of people’s gardens, which he pursued successfully after buying a truck. He also didn’t want the land to lay empty during the summer months, so he planted five or six acres of nursery stock which came from Holland. Through trial and error, he found out which varieties were hardy in Canada. Sibylla in the meantime helped out with the planting and would go to Toronto by bus to sell flower bunches at seventy-five cents a bunch. For two years she would sell flowers at St. Joseph’s and Toronto General Hospitals. At night, Frans would also sell the home grown annuals at the Tuberculosis Sanatorium on the top of the hill of Buttonwood Ave. in Mount Dennis.
Their first son Frans was born in 1950, and their second daughter Astrid, was born in 1952. The small nursery was growing with added stock such as Privet, Chinese Elm and Red Barberry for hedging. Clientele came to Humber because they trusted the goodwill of Frans and Sibylla.
In 1952, they also acquired a 100-acre farm at Mono Road for the production of local nursery stock, which continues to supply a large volume of trees, evergreens, and shrubs to wholesalers, landscapers and the garden centre.
In the autumn of 1954, just after the birth of their last son, Guy, the business was challenged by Hurricane Hazel. The Dutch bulbs were just in from Holland and stored in the little barn, and the young pansies were all in flower in the fields. The floods of the hurricane destroyed it all. It was a hurricane not to be forgotten. Since they were in the “Humber Valley”, most people thought that the Peter’s family and nursery did not survive. However, the phone was still in operation and the police were informed of the abiding family. They moved to a house they had purchased for future use, on Islington Avenue, but were not allowed to do business there, so they needed to return to the Valley.
Upon returning to the Valley in the spring of 1955, they found that the soil was useless, and the nursery stock had been washed away. For the next five years, Frans, Sibylla and their little family rebuilt the house and nursery, but finally decided to move in November 1959.
The Present Humber Nurseries Ltd.
They moved to the present location of Humber Nurseries and on Christmas Day 1959 and set up two greenhouses brought from the Valley. One of those greenhouses, after all these years, still stands today. The flourishing ten acre business on Highway 50 represented the fulfillment of a dream for Frans and Sibylla, whose combined talents and ambition nurtured the enterprise to maturity. The greenhouse, nursery and retail square footage continued to grow dramatically.
During the 1960’s and the 1970’s, there were many factors in the growth of the business. The four children played a large supportive role in the daily business activities, handling accounting, labour organization, and inventory in the office, as well as budding of roses, cuttings, planting, seeding, deliveries and many other jobs around the nursery. Customers also returned year after year to purchase nursery stock and gardening supplies. The business expanded into the areas of specialized stonework, sod and loam delivery. Reliable suppliers handled deliveries and Frans applied his passion for discovering new plants, innovative methods of growing and creative landscaping techniques.
In 1973, disaster struck again, fourteen years after moving to the now twenty-four acre garden centre, fire destroyed the main building and all of the equipment inside it. The house was not damaged, but the family was devastated. The set-back was enormous, however Frans and Sibylla, a persevered and rebuilt their dream.
Also in 1973 Frans G. graduated from the University of Guelph. Guy graduated from the same university in 1974. Both brothers had degrees in Horticulture and they took on administrative roles at Humber Nurseries. After graduation from University, Frans and Guy eventually assumed their duties at the nursery: Frans in Wholesale Operations and Guy in Retail Operations. Frans L. and Sibylla Peters acquired other responsibilities in the daily management of the business.
During the 1980’s to 1990’s Humber divided into four departments: Landscaping – an area which communicates to us in many ways without saying a word; Greenhouses – a growing area producing thousands of flats of annuals and perennials aided by computer technology; the Garden Centre – an expansive retail area and the Wholesale Operation – which is the growing of nursery stock for future Humber Nurseries sales.
In 1998, August 2, Sibylla Peters celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday. To commemorate this day and to give memory to her work and dedication to Humber Nurseries, she was honored with a Hybrid Tea-Pink Fragrant Rose named “Mrs. S. Peters”.
Once Frans and Guy’s careers were set, came weddings and children. There was a tradition of giving the name Frans to the eldest male of a Peter’s family since the birth of Frans Carolus Peters in Holland in 1857. Frans G. Peters named his son Frans, who now takes the name of Junior (JR) to differentiate him from his father, because they work so closely together in the business. The Peter’s families are fortunate to be in business for many generations, especially in a family-owned and operated business. The family also projects its personality and character into the business and so it is important for the family to retain this heritage.
The Future of Humber Nurseries Ltd.
The family has worked hard and plans to continue to do so for generations to come. Frans (JR) Peters learned the nursery business from his ever so patient father Frans G. Peters, while his sister Monica Peters, learned accounting and office management from her mother Vita. Monica is now married to Ron Piotrowski, who brings new knowledge and talent to the nursery business. It is clear that another generation of Peters is ready to take its place in the company and continue growing Humber Nurseries for the next seventy years.
On Saturday April 10, 2010, at the age of 89, Frans L. Peters passed away. He was indeed a very clever nurseryman, lover of plants and gardens and a force in the nursery business, yet more than that, a very loving, honest and admired man by his family and his friends. He will truly be missed, but never forgotten. He planted his roots here as part of Humber Nurseries and his legacy will continue to grow on.
On Thursday, May 12, 2011, at the age of 92, Sibylla D. Peters passed away. She was and will always be a cornerstone in the growth of Humber Nurseries. She would run the cash registers, the office and often be seen talking on the phone to one customer while directing another customer to a certain plant. As the years went on Sibylla Peters would be seen in the Perennial or Annual departments talking with customers and answering their plant questions. Customers may even have also caught her taking a nap while working.
Sibylla Peters will be missed by family, friends, employees, and customers, but will never be forgotten. We can always enjoy her in our garden with the patented “Mrs. S. Peters rose”.