Nelly Poonyane, the owner of De Plante Roses in Bloemfontein, makes rose farming look glamorous. Read how this astute businesswoman is determined to make the city reclaim its title as The City of Roses…
Tell us about De Plante.
We are a family farm situated in Roodewal, which produces high quality luxury roses. In 2020, we ventured into growing cut roses commercially. We also create partnerships and networks everywhere we operate. These include Welfare Committees on our farm, and partnerships with local institutions, including schools, youth groups and local government, to build a stronger company, community and country.
Will your rose project contribute to tourism in the city?
Yes, more than anything we wish to contribute to the vibrant, dynamic and energetic character of tourism and help the city to live up to its name as The City of Roses. But, just having a commercial farm that supplies quality roses to the local market already adds value to the city.
What planted the seed in your mind to start a rose farm?
In March 2018, I attended a seven-day training course at the SA School of Weddings in Flower Arranging and Function Deco. On the fourth day, we learnt about sourcing flowers and we took a trip to flower markets. I remember seeing all the shops with different kinds of flowers, and the trollies and trollies of flowers, and thinking I would love to know where all the flowers came from. When I returned home, I found out that roses are not grown commercially in our city, and most, if not all our florists, retailers and wholesalers source their roses from Johannesburg and Cape Town. Then, I started pondering the idea of growing roses. I pitched the idea to my husband and we saw an opportunity. We researched different ways of growing roses, taking in consideration our weather, and we came upon the technology we are using in our greenhouse now.
What makes De Plante Roses unique in Bloemfontein?
We offer a collection of premium Hybrid Tea and Garden Shaped/Classic Roses, which have been carefully selected from an international rose breeding company in the Netherlands. We grow our roses using hydroponics and a fully automated irrigation system to ensure the best quality possible. We also have an automated climate system, which enables us to create our own climate in the greenhouse so that we have a consistent supply of roses, even in winter. How many roses do you cultivate each month? We stated harvesting our roses in late July this year. On average we cut about 23 000 stems of roses a month. In five years, we hope to have doubled our production capacity.
What challenges did you face in starting De Plante?
The obvious challenge with every emerging business is capital. We needed capital of R13 million to start this project. We knocked on many doors, without success. But because we were determined, we managed to get financing, and put our house up as collateral for the banks. I’m mentioning this because we were blessed to have a property that we could put up as security in order to get capital. This makes one ask how many great business ideas of young people go unrealised because they can’t raise capital, nor have the assets to help secure financing.
What did you do before you ventured into floriculture?
I was in ministry full time – one of my responsibilities was coordinating programmes and events for the ministry, and that’s where my love of event planning came from.
Who taught you what you needed to know about producing roses?
Honestly, I’m still learning. I have a production manager from Kenya with vast experience in growing roses. Where are De Plante roses sold? People can buy roses directly from our farm. Alternatively, find us every Saturday at the Boeremark in Langenhoven Park. We also supply Pick n Pay in Preller Walk.
Lastly, how has the Bloemfontein community received your roses?
I’m humbled and overwhelmed by the support of our local florists, events industry, and the community. The appreciation of our roses makes all the sacrifices and challenges worth it!
Find De Plante Roses on Instagram and Facebook, or contact them on 051 476 0202 or [email protected]