Two Decades of Growth

The Midlands MagazineDecember 12, 2023

From a seedling vision to a budding and blooming nursery, meet the family behind the Midlands Garden Centre and how they keep growing, come rain or shine.


Situated in Rosetta on Old Main Road, Midlands Garden Centre is celebrating its 20th anniversary this September! The beloved store opened its doors on 1 September 2003 and is still going strong. The owners, Albert and Jacky Jooste, have made it through “black frost, hail storms, wind storms, cold winters and COVID”, and they can undoubtedly weather any storm by now while continuing to grow and cultivate the finest organically grown plants.


It all started with Chris and Lesley Koch, who were based in Eastern Cape in Queenstown where they were running a successful nursery. Chris’s desire to return to his home province, KZN, led the couple to make a move in 1998 and buy a small holding in Otto’s Bluff in Pietermaritzburg. For the next five years, they grew a range of plants that they sold at the Bird Sanctuary and the old Pietermaritzburg Farmers Market.


When Chris found an advert for a piece of land on sale in Rosetta, which was a daylily nursery, he immediately knew it was the sign he was looking for. He bought the nursery, and the couple moved to Rosetta in June 2003. In just three months, they prepared to establish their new nursery, despite the criticism they received about it being too cold of a climate to succeed. Even though they experienced frost the night before opening, and covered their plants with linen, they held fast to their vision.


As a respite from the pace of the city and corporate life, Jacky, Chris’s youngest daughter, and her husband, Albert Jooste, joined the family business in 2010. Four years later, they bought Chris and Lesley’s shares in the business and have been full-time owners ever since. Today, Chris and Lesley live in the Republic of Georgia. They took their love of growing plants and gardening with them and will “carry on doing so until they can’t anymore”.


Jacky and Albert have two children, Armin (22 years old), who studied law and is doing his articles in Cape Town, and Karla (18 years old), who is studying theology at the University of the Free State. Both take after their parents and are hard workers who perform well in whatever they set their minds to. Jacky and Albert have been cultivating the nursery business with as much care as they have cultivated their plants.


As Jacky explains, although running a family business is not always easy and “you work hard and long hours”, it has nevertheless allowed the family to create a life on their terms and a successful garden centre. They pride themselves on several aspects that have contributed to this success. “Fantastic one-on-one customer service – as owners, we believe that it is important to be on the sales floor 80% of the time, be visible, and be available to our customers. We are blessed with amazing customers. We love people so we are always ready for a chat and building relationships,” says Jacky.


Teamwork also makes the dream work, and the majority of the staff members have been there for 10 to 20 years. It is more like a family. “We laugh together, we cry together, and we love each other. Ndunakazi Monica Msele (or the “boss lady”) started working with Chris and Lesley in 2000 and is mainly responsible for growing our beautiful seedlings.”


Beyond the family, Jacky and Albert always consider their community and believe in the importance of working together to take part in the growth of the surrounding small towns. Albert grows and supplies vegetables to several local schools that have successful feeding schemes. The Midlands Garden Centre aims to grow and propagate hardy plants that can withstand cold climates and harsh weather conditions that we all know come with the territory here. Their plants are grown as organically as possible and they don’t always believe in excessive feeding or spraying programmes.


Some of the plants available include flower and vegetable seedlings, perennials, scrubs, a wide range of fruit trees, roses and, for spring and summer, some indoor plants, along with other essentials like garden tools, fertilisers and indoor and outdoor pots. There is also a coffee shop that serves home-baked cakes and scones. With Jacky’s seven years of experience in landscaping, the garden centre boasts beautiful gardens for potential customers.


Jacky, Albert and Midlands Garden Centre express their gratitude to their loyal customers and suppliers for their support over the last 20 years. “We appreciate each and every person taking the time to come to Midlands Garden Centre. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank God. Without God, this would not be possible. We have experienced many tough times over the past years and God always helped us through these times. In our business, you see God’s hand in every plant we grow and we rely on Him for good weather and to protect us in bad weather circumstances.”


To celebrate their 20th birthday, they will be having a few well-known speakers for the months of September, October and November. They will also have lots of specials and celebrations coming up, so keep an eye on their Facebook for more information.


Facebook: Midlands Garden Centre

Photos by Richard Hunt and Karen Edwards