In 1904, Martin Dorrenbach founded his greenhouse at Isselburg in the lower Valley of Germany.  By the 1930's, his son-in-law and horticulturist, Hermann Holtkamp, Sr. had already started breeding his first Saintpaulias on only one square meter of greenhouse space.

After the war, Hermann Holtkamp, Sr. intensified his breeding activity of African Violets, and by the first part of the 1950's, Hermann Holtkamp, Sr.  was immediately convinced of the plant's enormous potential.

Martin Dorrenbach

Holtkamp's first significant contribution to African Violet breeding came in 1952 with the introduction of a new variety.  The breeder Hermann Holtkamp, Sr., named the sport "Saint Martin" in honor of his father-in-law, Martin Dorrenbach.  In that same year, "Saint Martin" was awarded a gold medal at the prestigious Bundesgarten Schau  Flower Exhibit in Essen, Germany.  Since then, the breeders at Holtkamp Greenhouses have seated thousands of varieties and have received innumerous awards from all over the world.

Not long after "Saint Martin," another new variety, "Saturn," was introduced.  From this plant, the first African Violet starters were marketed.

Hermann Holtkamp, Sr.

Beginning in 1956, Holtkamp began offering their African Violets under the trademark "Rhapsodie," and in 1962 "Rhapsodie in Blue" (now  "Alrun," type 18) and "Rhapsodie in Pink" (now "Sophia," type 25) were introduced.  At that time, Saintpaulias were mostly grown with multiple suckers in one pot.  Hermann Holtkamp, Sr. propagated the "Biedermeier" style:  a single crown plant, with only one plant per pot.  One immediate advantage of this style has been the shortened growing period.  In addition, it has resulted in the now familiar rosette, in which the leaves develop in the pattern of a "Biedermeier" flower bouquet.  Today, African Violets are grown exclusively in this form.

During the same period, breeders were coping with the many challenges that were once associated with shipping African Violets.  One particular problem with shipping the plants was the African Violet's characteristic of dropping its flowers after blooming.  Once the flowers had begun to bloom, the slightest movement could shake the flowers from their stems.

In 1965, as a response to this challenge, Hermann Holtkamp, Sr. introduced the first single, non-dropping African Violet.  Rhapsodie "Elfriede," as the new variety was called, had dark blue flowers that remained securely attached to their peduncles throughout blooming.  Now taken for granted by much of the African Violet world, this characteristic took years to develop and has had an enormous impact on the industry. The breeders at Holtkamp Greenhouses have contributed significantly to the spectrum of African Violet varieties.  In addition to the well-known dark blue African Violet, Holtkamp had come out with the varieties, "Birgit" (pink), "Ruby" (red), "Gigi" (white with blue), "Linda" (true white), "Wega" (pink), "Margit" (blue), and "Candy" (lilac).

Beginning in 1974, the super variety ,"Elfriede" (type 208/67) was gradually substituted by the new variety "Richarda" (type 26).  This plant was known for its short growing period and little need of space.

In 1982, "Maria" (US:" Wyoming," type 19) and "Kristel" (US: "Vermont," type 6) were introduced.  These two varieties became very popular with growers and flower enthusiasts because of their especially good characteristics.

In 1984, "Emi" (US: "Molokai," type 282) was introduced.  This variety's special color (light blue with silver edge) was an absolute novelty at that time and conquered the hearts of growers and flower enthusiasts.  It was, and still is, characterized by a strikingly long-lasting bloom time.  It has even caused the expression "Emi-durability" to be coined as a standard to which all other varieties are compared.