The Beginning 1994
A brief history: I started Shadowlands in 1994 with some savings, a pension payout, a bakkie, 72meter square tunnel and some ground offered by a friend. My last employer had warned; “Jy, Mannetjie, gaan nie weer maklik 'n werk kry nie!” and I will always be grateful for that challenge. The idea was to grow shade-loving plants and produce young plants for other growers. Shade plants turned out hard to grow - there is an awful lot of sun at
Kuils River. Young plants were seldom taken up by other growers - they would select hard to grow or unusual plants only and I could not achieve a ready market resulting in having to grow on my own young plants and then ended competing with my own clients. Antoinette Brooks, then of Mountain Streams Nursery was one of my earliest clients, buying a bakkie load of stock over the phone, never having met me before, while the le Roux Family of Robertson Garden Centre were also an early generous supporter. A big boost came with the landscaping of the access road to the V&A Waterfront, Marina Landscaping's order allowed us to buy a first truck and now we could deliver properly, not putting plants on the dash-board and behind the seat.
An overview of the business: We grow perennial 6pack groundcover, beautiful select colour pots, Lawngrass trays and a range of shrubs - largely indigenous and hardy plants. We have strategic partnerships with other growers who produce 10kg & 20 kg trees, shrubs- our responsibility in these partnerships is to market and distribute stock complimentary to our own.
How has the business changed over the past decade? The biggest change imposed on us has been the effect of current economic climate.
It seems that a declining property market means that property is not being traded and as a result gardens are seldom rebuilt, fewer homes being built means fewer plants planted. Without significant new commercial construction, the larger landscape contracting is almost absent. Our business has depended on the landscaping market. More recently, I am convinced, we spend more time at our homes and look for more domestic activity and look to improve our immediate environment. Essentially we DIY and gardening is one of those activities. We have started to cater better for this market.
What is the biggest challenge in the industry at the moment and how do you deal with it within your business? I find staffing one of my biggest challenges and am sure this is similar to many businesses. It seems difficult to recruit experienced people at all levels. Coming through recession, so much of my own response had been out of fear and anxiety, and recognise that to remain strong we have to maintain a positive approach to everything. So, I am trying to impose a motto; “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” This is a big challenge that requires determination of “Man or Mouse”, to get up and take action. We have significant absconding that happens and as a response we try to include our staff in training opportunities, we try to offer positive feedback for work well done, we try to assign responsibility. I feel that this approach speaks to our dignity and self-respect and makes a workplace a place worth contributing to. We seem to have made some progress with this and the mutual trust and respect among my team is valuable. We will have to continue to invest in our people and continue to develop their skills and find ways to improve levels of fulfilment for all of us. We do feel that quite a lot of this is already happening, we need a lot more.