Queenstown Nursery: the green-thumbed partners who dream plants

by Lauren Pattemore - Mar 11, 2024

Matt Jones and Leah Spencer are the team in charge of Queenstown Nursery’s 80,000 plants. And they're growing them tough to match Queenstown’s tough climate.

They're long-time locals, and the pair started the business three years ago as a way to solve a problem Matt says he kept encountering as a landscaper in Queenstown building residential gardens.

The plants purchased from other suppliers kept dying.

“We were having ongoing issues with them struggling with environmental stress, and that was causing problems with clients, so we started growing to supply for our projects,” Matt says.

“It started off quite small, and it was successful. So we progressed from there.”

This week, they want to encourage autumn planting, which for Queenstown plants is the optimum time.

For Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17, they're hosting a 15 percent off sale, available to anyone who comes to their retail site on Mountain Ash Drive.

The pair supply to a range of customers, from professional landscapers, to volunteer groups undertaking community planting days, and the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which hands out a native plant to freshly-minted Kiwis at its citizenship ceremonies.

Matt says before plants up put up for sale, they're grown for a year outdoors at the business' Arrowtown nursery, where they’re exposed to high winds and all four seasons.

He explains the logic behind this: by the time the plants get to their final resting spot, the hardest part of their life is behind them.

“There're not many people that are going to buy these plants and put them into an exposed garden. They won’t have to deal with half the issues we do…the plants are grown outside, so they just get battered by all scenarios,” Matt says.

Plants are grown outdoors for a year before they're transferred to the Mountain Ash Drive retail site.

And it’s definitely survival of the fittest, as almost 5,000 of their plants didn’t survive last winter.

Since they started the business, Matt and Leah have begun eco-sourcing too, growing plants from their own seeds and cuttings, making them a lot stronger and having a built-in immunity to local diseases and acclimatised for Queenstown.

Now, the pair live, sleep and dream plants, and have only had one holiday since they started the company in 2021.

Leah, who works at their Arrowtown growing site 365 days of the year - even Christmas Day - says every day brings a new challenge, battling with pests and frost and wind damage.

And then, every night brings a new plant dream.

Tending to the 80,000 plants all day, every day, they've become a permant fixture in Leah's dreams.

She’s had Triffid-esque nightmares of being attacked by flax plants, as well as of possums getting into them, and another time she had to head down to the site in the early hours of the morning, thinking she’d left  the hose to their 30,000-litre tank on.

They’ve got an experienced team down at their Mountain Ash Drive store, and more than 120 plant species to choose from, with close to 80 percent of them natives and the rest, exotics.

Matt has learnt over the years that autumn is the best time for planting locally, because it gives the plants a good stint in the ground to allow them to settle into their new environment before the heat comes.

He reckons summer is the harshest season for Queenstown plants.

Check out Queenstown Nursery's website and Facebook page for more information on what plants are available this weekend at 15 percent off.

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