Famous horticulturalist Frederick Sander - also known as 'The Orchid King' - is set to be commemorated with a blue plaque in St Albans.

The plaque will be installed at 3pm on Saturday, June 10 on the site of Frederick's first shop at 21 George Street.

Frederick's great-granddaughter, Anne Sander, and her family will be present, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Trinder, the shop currently at the site, will decorate their shop front with orchids and a painting by Ant Steele, the Cathedral Artist in Residence, to mark the occasion.

Born Heinrich Friedrich Conrad Sander in 1847, Frederick Sander emigrated to Britain in 1865. In around 1870 he married English woman Elizabeth Fearnley.

In 1875 the family moved to St Albans, where Frederick set up a business selling seeds from his George Street shop.

Herts Advertiser: Trinder, which currently occupies the site of Frederick Sander's shop at 21 George StreetTrinder, which currently occupies the site of Frederick Sander's shop at 21 George Street (Image: Blue Plaques St Albans)

He then acquired four acres of land in the Camp, where he built a family home and established a large number of greenhouses for selling orchids.

Frederick was constantly looking for new varieties, and at one time employed 23 collectors to search Asia and South America for unknown species.

In 1885 Frederick started work on the publication Reichenbachia - named after German orchidologist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach - which depicted orchids life-sized with text in English, French and German, and was illustrated by Frederick's future son-in-law Henry Moon.

Though his fortune was erratic at times, Frederick's eventual commercial success enabled him to expand to establish nurseries in Bruges in Belgium, then the heart of European horticulture, and in New Jersey.

His great-granddaughter Anne recalls: "Bruges nursery was thriving, due mainly to a Swedish gentleman, Milstrom, who Frederick brought in as the general administrator while Frederick concentrated on the orchids and plants.

"The Belgium nursery made a profit under Milstrom thanks to the Belgian workforce.

Herts Advertiser: Frederick Sander published Reichenbachia - a 'monumental' publication on orchidsFrederick Sander published Reichenbachia - a 'monumental' publication on orchids (Image: Blue Plaques St Albans)

"Some German generals loved orchids, including Hitler, and orchids were sent by train to various parts of Germany all through the First World War."

However after WWI the Victorian and Edwardian love of orchids faded and the business declined. 

In 1920, on a visit to Bruges, Frederick - who was already unwell - fell ill and died. He was brought back by his family to be buried at Hatfield Road cemetery. 


This is the eighth plaque to be installed by Blue Plaques St Albans, a voluntary organisation which was established to commemorate famous people with a connection to the city.

Professor Tim Boatswain, the Chairman of Blue Plaques St Albans, said: "Frederick Sander was an exceptional self-made man.

"He came to Britain as immigrant, fleeing his native Germany and was to become a leading orchidologist, eventually establishing nurseries in the Camp, St Albans, Bruges in Belgium and New Jersey, USA.

"His orchids were sought by leading members of European society and beloved by Queen Victoria, who awarded him the Victoria Medal of Honour for his services to horticulture.

"Probably not known to many Albanians it is most fitting we can draw attention to his remarkable achievements with a blue plaque."