The story of Namib Trees began just over two years ago when Ivor Powell and Carol Steenkamp met at a Botanical Society meeting in March 2016. Ivor was looking for an outlet to expand his passion of growing indigenous plants by establishing a nursery, while Carol was germinating seeds at her home and needed a bigger place to grow them. She had already moved her baby trees to Krumhuk but frost, amongst other issues, was proving a major problem there. Carol and Ivor joined forces and together were able to rent a large enough space from Ramblers Sports Club in Pioneerspark. By the end of June that year they had issued their first invoice!
Carol had been involved in environmental impact studies at the time and struggled to find indigenous trees for rehabilitating building sites. Reasons included the fact that the National Botanical Research Institute ceased their Plant Sales Days, the Wilde Eend nursery had closed and the Department of Forestry was selling increasing numbers of fruit trees and alien species. But the increasingly long drought periods were not kind to exotic plants. The time was ripe for an indigenous nursery to be established, and Carol’s first landscaping project with indigenous plants was the Namibian Oncology Centre in Windhoek.
Namib Trees has a good relationship with the National Botanical Research Institute and often has clients referred by them. Namib Trees is also keen to encourage government to support community-based projects, where local people can be trained to sell indigenous plants in their areas.
Future plans include setting up a branch in the north of Namibia. Carol would also like to start plant rescue and rehabilitation of denuded areas across the country, involving local people to regenerate the vegetation.
In February this year Carol and Ivor enlisted the services of botanist Silke Rugheimer. Formally a taxonomist at the National Botanical Research Institute, with a special interest in lilies and succulents, Silke has come to ease the workload as the landscaping side of the business continues to grow and demand Carol and Ivor’s attention. Propagation of plants is Silke’s main role at Namib Trees, along with other nursery duties.
The nursery and landscaping business employs eight full-time and casual staff. In addition they have two full-time interns for five months each this year, who are studying natural resource management at NUST (Namibian University of Science and Technology).
Currently Namib Trees is enjoying some success in converting lodge owners to plant indigenous, which of course has a direct impact on how tourists experience our natural flora. Namib Trees is being approached by more and more lodges which are now realising that indigenous plants are more sustainable and drought resistant. Planting species specific to the area also avoids frost damage in the winter. It simply makes sense to grow what occurs naturally in the area so that tourists can experience our local flora first-hand. They come to see Namibia in its entirety and plants are an integral part of that experience.
Driving around Windhoek you can find beautiful examples of the work that Carol and Ivor have accomplished so far. The Burmeister offices in Olympia, the gardens of the Eros Manor Retirement Village and a few private gardens in Heliodor Street all boast their work and the list is growing weekly.
Carol is very keen to raise awareness for indigenous gardens amongst the architectural profession in Namibia and she and Ivor would like to see a greater commitment to using our local vegetation for new developments instead of yet another (exotic) palm tree. This is something more architects and developers need to embrace, as trees take many years to establish and provide the shade we so desperately need in Namibia. One option would be to map existing trees on a site and make every effort to build around them, incorporating them into the design.
BENEFITS OF PLANTING AN INDIGENOUS GARDEN
Namib Trees is open every weekday from 8:00-16:00 and Saturdays from 9:00-13:00.
Twice a year, in February and October, there is a wonderful Plant Sale Day at the nursery with stalls selling plant-related art and books and a host of like-minded indigenous gardeners.
I would like to challenge you to plant your own indigenous garden, no matter how small, wherever you live and allow yourself and your patch of earth to breathe easier.
As Carol says, she’s planting a forest at her home, and I, too, have a mini ‘forest’ of six small to medium-sized trees in a townhouse garden. No garden is too small to enjoy the bounty of local vegetation and reduced water bills with the bonus of birdlife that it brings. Go on, give it a try and you’ll be hooked!
SAY NO TO ILLEGAL HARVESTING OF PLANTS!
WHY NOT CACTI?