Conrad Conradie and Louise Steenkamp
WHERE The Wild Bunch Flower Farm, Wellington
TYPE OF SOIL Sandy and loamy
Conrad Conradie and Louise Steenkamp arepassionate about growing plants. Even when they lived in a basement apartment in the heart of London, these plant enthusiasts had a garden.
“We travelled through Europe and Africa for a number of years but in our early thirties returned to Conrad’s hometown of Wellington, where we leased land on the slopes of the Groenberg mountain and started growing organic vegetables,” says Louise. “Using that produce, we supplied veggie boxes to households and restaurants in the Boland. One year, though, the demand for artichokes was so low that the plants bolted and produced the most beautiful blooms. I still remember feeling a little despondent that all that delicious produce was going to waste as we simply could not consume it fast enough!
“That same week, Mabel Steenkamp of Die Gieter, a florist in Paarl, visited us and spontaneously exclaimed: ‘Oh, Louise, I must have these beautiful flowers in my shop!’ And that’s when our flower adventure began.”
The following week, Louise went in search of more florists and she remembers well how they would run out of their shops when she arrived with her load of unusual blooms.
“Conrad and I began to see our vegetables with new eyes and couldn’t wait for the onions, carrots and the rest of the veggies to show us what flowers they were capable of producing! It’s now 15 years later and the artichoke and onion blooms are still our biggest hits.”
After six years on leased land, Conrad and Louise bought five hectares of farmland just outside Wellington and started The Wild Bunch Flower Farm. “It all happened very quickly. Even before the sale had been concluded, Conrad had started planting trees,” Louise recalls.
“He chose avenues of American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and water oak (Quercus nigra) for their beautiful autumn shades, as well as coral trees (Erythrina coralloides) for their bright orange flowers in late winter when not many other plants are in bloom. Then we planted a hectare of artichokes, a hectare of onions (Allium) and a hectare of annual and perennial flowering plants. We now have four hectares planted up with flowers. Starting an enterprise like this from scratch is just the type of challenge we thrive on!”
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