Or­chids

Yes, yours can flower again… and again!

go! Platteland - - FRONT PAGE - TEXT JEANNE VAN DER MERWE PHOTOS KOSIE JANSEN VAN RENS­BURG

Even gar­den­ers tire of life in the city – just ask Corné Pre­to­rius and An­dré Beau­rain, who put down their roots in the Riebeek Val­ley 15 years ago.

You’d be for­given if you missed the Riebeek Val­ley Gar­den Cen­tre en­tirely as you drive out of Riebeek West on the R311, the main road to Riebeek Kas­teel. The sign is barely vis­i­ble be­hind a lush bar­rier of shrubs.

There’s noth­ing about the place that sug­gests that the en­thu­si­as­tic, en­gag­ing own­ers have been ap­proached by some of the Boland and Swart­land’s most em­i­nent res­i­dents to de­sign and plant their gar­dens. Be­cause Corné Pre­to­rius and An­dré Beau­rain are as happy help­ing peo­ple with a bag of pot­ting soil as they would be ad­vis­ing some­one on their glum-look­ing rose gar­den.

Men­tion their names in the Riebeek Val­ley and peo­ple will prob­a­bly ask you, “Have you seen their gar­den?” Or they’d tell you that Corné and An­dré de­signed the lo­cal ACVV’s gar­den, as well as the splen­did gar­dens at Merindol House and Cari­bou House, two well-known pri­vate res­i­dences in Riebeek West.

The nurs­ery own­ers them­selves would tell you that they spe­cialise in gar­dens with in­dige­nous and en­demic plants, how they both adore rare plant species

and that an ex­tremely rare bulb grows right here in the moun­tains be­hind the nurs­ery.

“I re­mem­ber plant names bet­ter than those of peo­ple,” An­dré says. “I only read plant books. You never stop learn­ing, be­cause new things are be­ing dis­cov­ered con­stantly. I can’t even tell you what my favourite plants are – I must have about a thou­sand. Plants never let you down.”

Their nurs­ery is tiny com­pared with the large fran­chised gar­den cen­tres you get in the city, but the tidy yard is crammed with an im­pres­sive va­ri­ety of plants. You’ll even find a vanilla orchid or an Aloe poly­phylla for sale here. Or, from Jan­uary 2016, a wel­witschia seedling. And you wouldn’t have to pay ex­tra to have Corné or An­dré ex­plain to you that you shouldn’t plant gar­lic and onions near beans and peas, or mint next to as­para­gus…

Small begin­nings

In the early years they didn’t have time to buy plants from whole­salers, and they had no choice but to cul­ti­vate their own plants. Nowa­days they have such a big out­put that they sell to whole­salers.

“It’s al­ways been my dream to have a nurs­ery,” says An­dré. “I think it’s any horticulturalist’s dream.” Yet he has no for­mal hor­ti­cul­ture train­ing – he sim­ply got a job at a nurs­ery and taught him­self.

“We wanted to make a life here, be­cause we’re both from the plat­te­land,” says Corné, who grew up in a nurs­ery in Ma­goe­baskloof. “The Riebeek Val­ley is beau­ti­ful and it’s a won­der­ful place for a gar­dener. There is no frost and plants grow easily – any­thing from a mango, avo or paw­paw tree all the way through to peach, pear and ap­ple trees. As long as you have wa­ter, you’re sorted.” He pauses briefly be­fore adding, “But that doesn’t mean it was easy.”

Fif­teen years ago their lush premises was an un­re­mark­able patch of bluegum trees where Corné and a friend ran a strug­gling nurs­ery. An­dré was work­ing for a large gar­den cen­tre in Dur­banville and had built up a good rep­u­ta­tion as a land­scape ar­chi­tect in his spare time. But he wanted a change.

“I knew about Riebeek, be­cause I’d done work here,” An­dré re­calls, “and I’ve al­ways wanted to come and live here – or in Swellen­dam, prob­a­bly be­cause of the moun­tains. Then a mu­tual friend told me of Corné’s nurs­ery, and asked if I wanted to get in­volved. So I ar­rived… and it was love at first sight.”

At the time Corné had a plan to grow flow­ers in plas­tic tun­nels for the Euro­pean mar­ket, but An­dré con­vinced him rather to start de­sign­ing gar­dens. This gave them a whole new mar­ket for their plants.

“The nurs­ery opened in 2000 but it didn’t make money. Those were four years of bleed­ing,” Corné re­calls. “Then An­dré ar­rived, with his knowl­edge of land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture and his train­ing in in­te­rior de­sign, which he’d mar­ried with 10 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in nurs­eries. He be­came the driv­ing force be­hind the busi­ness. His ex­pe­ri­ence gave us the con­fi­dence to tackle big­ger de­signs, to go from a R5 000 flowerbed here and a R10 000 fence there to projects worth hun­dreds of thou­sands of rands. And with that, we could hire good staff and start build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion.”

“We’re also lucky,” An­dré adds, “be­cause we’re the only nurs­ery in the val­ley.”

With the growth in the prop­erty mar­ket from the early 2000s, more city dwellers bought plots and built >

Nurs­ery own­ers Corné Pre­to­rius (left) and An­dré Beau­rain’s recipe for suc­cess: never give up, avoid debt as far as pos­si­ble and al­ways look for the good in oth­ers.

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