What’s the story of the nursery?
One day in 1976 Mum and Dad went out for a drive and found this place – we’ve just celebrated 41 years here. They migrated to Australia from Belgium in 1965. Dad was an electrician in Belgium and when he came to Australia he worked with the Water Board (now Sydney Water). He’d always toyed with plants, and when I finished school, he quit the Water Board and we started the nursery here full-time. Mum and Dad are still involved with the business, and so is my brother Ben.
What do you grow?
We started in conifers, but gardening changes: architecture changes, the way people live, fashions in plants, and now conifers are old-fashioned. We’ve changed as fashions have changed hanging baskets have increased in demand. We grow other plants in answer to demand, like azaleas,lavenders and those bread and butter lines lines like buxus, nandina and raphiolepis. We also have a line of succulents – we have about 70 different varieties – and of course the hanging baskets.
How long does it take to grow a full hanging basket?
It depends what you’re growing. Rhipsalis takes a good 12-18 months and 10 cuttings to a pot. The tradescantias are quicker – you can get a basket looking good in about 10 weeks.
Hanging baskets of rhipsalis and string of pearls growing in the greenhouse at Valley View.
What succulents would you recommend for first-time gardeners?
Crassulas are very easy, they don’t need pruning or attention, so are echeverias. The thing to remember is that plants in pots or hanging baskets need to be watered more than if they were in the garden.
What do you do when you’re not growing plants?
I have two children, 15 and 13, who are very active so there’s lots of driving on the weekends, though I’d rather be fishing. I don’t care what I catch as long as I’m on the boat on the water. But now that it’s so dry weekends involve trucking water in. We’re in the process of putting in another tank, but until it rains we’re trucking in about 12 loads of water a day, which is very expensive and time consuming, and that’s just to give the plants a drink once every two days. We haven’t had to cart water since 2007 and we’ve never been so dry so early. So that looks a bit grim.
Is water the biggest challenge?
This season it’s also been having the stock! It’s hard to keep up. Green life has really kicked off. Everyone wants green life in their office, there’s a big demand for vertical walls, and those alone can take 60 plants per square metre. Everyone wants plants – which is a great thing!