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Bush Brothers: in search of undiscovered orchids

Is it a trailer for an Indiana Jones movie or the story of a nurseryman? The website of nursery Bush Brothers puts your imagination to work. They call themselves treasure hunters and for this they dive deep into the South African Jungle. Their life’s work. With practised noses, they trace exclusive orchids and green plants. Who are these two brothers and what drives them?

The adventure begins

The story of Bush Brothers begins in 1968.Then still Lansbergen Orchids and founded by Theo and Toos Lansbergen. They first grew vegetables and later cut flowers. Until their sons, the twins Marco and Patrick, joined the nursery in 1994. Year after year, the nursery grew and other crops were added. But the real turning point came in 2000. Then the brothers shifted their focus to more exclusive plants, especially orchids. Today, they grow a wide assortment of up to 150 orchids on 5.4 hectares. The collection includes, for example, a scented orchid, the panther-print orchid and orchids in special colours, such as blue and black. Since 2020, green houseplants such as the Aglaonema .

The expedition

“Unravelling the secrets of nature is the Bush Brothers’ passion. Both botanists at heart. Both fascinated by discovering yet another new plant species. For decades, the Bush Brothers have searched jungles and mountain regions.”

Patrick Lansbergen chuckles when we present him with this piece of text. “It’s symbolic,” he explains. “The website also says ‘Cum Grano Salis’, to be taken with a pinch of salt. So we don’t really trek to the jungle, but we always look for exclusive species. Orchids that no or few other growers grow. If we come across beautiful species, we have them cutted in a large laboratory in Thailand. For the first 18 months of their existence, the orchids and green plants grow up there, in authentic conditions. When they are big and strong enough, they are further grown off in our greenhouse. In these greenhouses, we imitate the climate in which the plant thrives best.  

We always look for exclusive varieties. Orchids that no or few other growers but grow

Patrick Lansbergen

Niche offerings

Their discoveries have already brought much recognition among fellow botanists around the world. Not for nothing have they been awarded the International Botanists Association’s prestigious Botanical Discovery Award several times. Their inventions have graced the covers of widely read trade magazines dozens of times. What makes their range so special?

“We offer a wide range of not so common species. Think Oncidium, Zygopetalum, Ludisia and Brassia. We grow only a limited edition of each species. Moreover we grow each species in optimal conditions. Which means we can offer strong plants. Heavy and compact. Because of our diversity, we have an outlet for every market .”

Using what nature gives us sparingly

Growing 5.4 ha of orchids and green plants requires quite a bit of energy. How do the brothers keep that under control?

“We purchased a CHP in 2019. In addition, we invested in energy-efficient LED lighting: in 2022, a greenhouse of 4 000 LED lighting with 60% more light and 50% energy savings. In 2023, this was joined by 25 000 metres in energy-efficient LED lighting. With this, we light one greenhouse and more will follow in time. We are also installing a heat source. This will go up to two kilometres underground and the hot water will be pumped from there and brought to us via a pipeline. A process of years but the intention, of course, is to eventually grow completely fossil-free. Not just for energy reasons but mainly to avoid burdening the environment. We need to use natural resources, such as energy and water, sparingly. Furthermore, we do not use plastic. Our certifications according to MPS-A and MPS GlobalGAP prove our sustainable vision.”

Floréac as a fixture

Even if the big adventure is central, the nursery is happy to have some regulars. Like Floréac. 

“I think we have been working together since 2000. Always on good terms. I can safely say that we reinforce each other. Because we have different types, we can soon offer large volumes. We have built a stable relationship and hope to continue working this way for many years to come.”

A view through the binoculars

And then the future, do the brothers hope to discover many hidden treasures?

“I am indeed hoping for growth. We rent a few gardens now and it would be nice to have one big garden of about 5 to 6 acres, or two gardens. That is our dream, but we realise all too well that the sector is not having an easy time. There are many growers throwing in the towel. But we have nothing to complain about. Moreover, we have several green plants in our range. That’s how we spread the risks.”

Finally, a personal question: is it an advantage to work with your twin brother? “Quite a lot,” laughs Patrick. “We complement each other well. Marco mainly takes care of the organisation, finances and staff. In addition, he directs cultivation. I mainly deal with the sales of all varieties and give steerage to AA. It is now waiting to see whether our children will take up the torch so that Bush Brothers remains a family business.”

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