A First-Class Plant Nursery, Well-Rooted in Johannesburg

An internet search, using keywords like “plant nurseries Johannesburg”, quickly reveals that there are numerous such nurseries listed; prominently among them, you’ll find our Johannesburg wholesale plant nursery – Windy Willows.

A nursery is defined as “a place where plants and trees are grown for sale or planting elsewhere”, which makes one wonder how and where nurseries in this country originated. Where did they have their roots?

A search for the history of plant nurseries in Johannesburg or in South Africa, fails to deliver a definitive result. One comes across an extensive article, entitled “The History of the Establishment and Development of the Nursery”, first published in 1929, written by an employee of the Ryazan-Ural Railway in Russia.

The author, I.V. Michurin, reportedly a keen gardener and apparently a self-taught horticulturist too, refers to some of his studies of plant nurseries, orchards, and fruit-bearing plants in Central Russia, dating as far back as 1875. So, one may accept that plant nurseries existed in Russia at that time.

Export of Cuttings to the Cape

While a history of plant nurseries in Johannesburg seemingly remains elusive, one may fairly safely assume that the earliest nurseries in South Africa probably had their origin in the Cape area, just post van Riebeeck’s arrival at the Cape of Storms in 1652. Van Riebeeck believed that wine could be used medicinally, as a cure for scurvy, the acquired disease that killed many sailors during long voyages at sea, due to a lack of fresh food.

Grapevine cuttings from Rheingau in Germany arrived in the Cape in 1654. It is thought that their packing method and the long journey adversely affected the cuttings’ growing ability, once planted. More cuttings were subsequently dispatched, this time from the Canary Islands, enabling the early settlers to produce their first wine early in 1659.

Other plants and crops must have been cultivated likewise, from imported cuttings, or from seeds. Existing food producing farmers probably bartered or sold seeds, seedlings, or cuttings to fellow farmers when new and more farms were established – presumably the first trading “plant nurseries” in the country that was to become South Africa.


Much like the settlers in those distant days, we also grow most of our own plants, which we then offer for sale to others at our plant-growing nursery, Windy Willows. About 90% of our stock is “home grown” on our growing farm that is attached to the nursery, a practice which offers numerous benefits to all concerned.

The health and quality of nursery plants is assured. Healthy plants grow well, hence our customers are happy and we rarely receive complaints. We’re able to offer our plants to the general public and the industry at competitive, wholesale prices, saving them money and enabling them to buy more for less money.

Customers making use of Windy Willows’ unique and affordable landscaping services are able to acquire all the plants required from one source – Windy Willows – that offers incremental discounts on landscaping costs, depending on the value of their plant purchase, which may be “free”.

Although we may have some of our figurative roots in the early Cape era, it’s our winning plant nursery solutions and you, our valued customers, which keep us among the plant nursery leaders, now well established and rooted in Johannesburg.