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Elands Nursery cc, a short history

Family farms and small businesses are the backbone of our communities: Tom Allen

Eland’s Nursery was started as a small retail nursery in the early 1970’s by Dick and Merle Carter on the farm Blue Mountains in the Elands River Valley. The business became the family’s key focus in 1978 when Dick resigned as a PE Technikon lecturer and turned his attention to farming and helping Merle in the nursery. With both Dick and Merle involved and with a family of 3 young children the nursery expanded quickly and during 1983 a retail Garden Centre was built on the farm. Further retail nursery branches were later opened in Port Elizabeth, Plettenberg Bay and Uitenhage.

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With five retail branches to stock, plant propagation developed into a core focus for the company and Elands Nursery established a reputation for supplying quality plants, not only to their own retail nurseries, but also to other nursery outlets predominantly in the Eastern Cape region.


During 1990 the Carter’s daughter, Dee, joined the business followed by her brother Rick in 1991. Their youngest son, Mike, joined the team in 1997 allowing Dick and Merle time to retire in 1998. 

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. : Martin Luther King, Jr.


With the two brothers now heading a fast growing business they realized that it would be vitally important to set out a business plan. An emphasis was placed on establishing a clear and regular method of communication between Rick and Mike as well as ensuring they each had independent roles and responsibilities. These were divided by clear management lines .This would mean that, although each brother was in charge of his own department, critical business decisions were made together. 

A succession plan was also put into place for their children and the value of consulting with their parents on past business experiences was never forgotten. 

With a detailed business plan, Rick as Managing Member and Mike as Sales Member the nursery was able to grow from strength to strength.

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During 1999 rapid expansion meant that water consumption became a critical issue and it was decided to convert most production blocks from overhead spraying to drip irrigation. This increased the nursery’s water efficiency and minimized water wastage. This conversion proved to be yet another critical factor in the nurseries successful growth. Plants are now grown with minimal water and wastage was virtually eliminated.

Two storage dams were also built around 2002 to preserve the precious water resources and today the nursery operates with over 500 000 individual drippers. Approximately 65% of the water used in the nursery is re-cycled from the production areas run-off flowing back into the dams. Elands are extremely proud of the success they have achieved using this water-wise growing technique.

A company is only as good as the people it keeps.: Mary Kay Ash 

With the success of the propagation, production and development departments under Rick, Mike found it difficult to keep up with the demands for Elands products in the South African market. It was decided that more sales staff were needed and plans were put in place to address this. Mike’s work at building a competent sales team as well as ensuring that Elands products were marketed and sold in all provinces in South Africa proved a winning formula. Elands Marketing and Sales department currently boast a ten member strong team which is known for its friendly service and “always willing to help” attitude.
The sales department has always strived to listen to its clients and in response to the gardening publics need for a ‘well marketed product with an informative label’ the Elands Emerald collection was born in 2006. These groups of selected plants become a huge success as their labels acted as silent salesmen when a staff member was not able to help a customer in a nursery. As an added bonus the information would be at hand to the gardener on returning home. The Elands Emerald Collection has since been discontinued and a label is now added to the majority of Elands products and not just a select few. Elands labeled products are in great demand and are easily identifiable on retail nursery and garden centre floors country wide. 


In 2010, the Elands sales team once again needed to come up with a new marketing concept and the 15cm colour pot range was introduced. These were once again selected plants ,grown in brightly coloured 15cm pots that would scream “buy me” on a retail floor. These proved hugely successful and are still being produced today. Elands Nursery currently delivers premium quality plants country wide with a fleet of 8 well maintained 5 to 15 ton trucks. We pride ourselves on a reliable and consistent delivery schedule to all major centers in South Africa. The introduction of Danish trolleys has meant that plants are transported securely packed with less damage and stress to leaves and pots. The fitting of tail lifts on all our trucks allows these trolleys to be loaded quickly with minimal handling and off loaded efficiently and fast on arrival at our clients.In 2016, turnaround time for orders and the loading and distribution efficiency of product became our key focus. Design and work began in earnest on what is fondly known as the ELZ (Elands Logistics Zone) to ensure we could send out orders faster and of a better quality to our clients. We are proud to say that the ELZ received its roof in 2018 and plants being pulled for orders are now quickly processed in a cool, clean and secure environment meaning a continuity of quality from our growing area right to our clients’ floor.

It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. Tom Brokaw


To make a difference, community projects have always been high on our family’s priority list. We have partnered with Child Welfare South Africa and numerous other locally based community projects to give back to those who are less fortunate. 
As part of our marketing strategy, we also felt it was important to promote gardening in and around South Africa. This would not only boost plant sales but also encourage people to get back into their gardens; a trend that we felt was sadly loosing popularity. Marketing was primarily done by way of editorials and advertising to the public, however it was felt that something with more impact was needed .We also needed to look carefully at whom we were marketing to and it was decided that children and families were an important gardening group we were missing out on. Consequently, in 2012, to give back to the gardening public and to educate school children about the importance of plants and gardening the ‘Call Kay” campaign was launched. 

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The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. David Ogilvy

Who could have a family run business without family involved? 
Dick and Merle Carter are the nurseries biggest supporters and do not miss attending an open day or showing their support at a nursery event.
Dee, the eldest sibling of the Carter family , is involved in the Sales department. She is happily married to husband Sebastian and ,with their son Joshua, have always been keenly invested in farm life, the nursery and of course plants.
Rick and Mike are proud Dads to Richard and Emma and Thomas and William respectively. Richard and Emma, while currently following their own career paths in the Engineering and Graphic design fields, enjoy being involved in various aspects of the nursery. Thomas and William , have been brought up by both Mom ,Katie, and Dad, Mike, to love the outdoor and nursery life , they are animal lovers ,keen gardeners and seed collectors.


 Angie, Rick’s wife, is actively involved in the day to day running of the business. She has always taken a strong interest in the farm and the nursery and is constantly on hand to give “good consumer “advice to Mike and Rick (they need it !). 


The Carter families believe that a strong bond, family support and hard work has aided them in making Elands Nursery cc the success story it is today. 

Growing into the future
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