If you’ve ever stopped and wondered where your houseplants come from and how they come to be, there’s no story more satisfying than that of Smit Kwekerijen.
The horticultural world has lots of important moving parts, and the indoor plants you find in supermarkets and market stalls will probably be of unknown origin. Plants in Smit’s assortment (at least the ones genetically designed by the nursery) can be traced directly from rainforest, to lab, to greenhouse, to our packing team, to your front door.
Plant hunter Obed Smit travels to almost untouched tropical regions across the globe in search of unusual varieties that might be reproduced in Europe, or hybridised to create new plants, unique to Smit.
‘He travels two or three times a year to jungles in South America and South East Asia to find new varieties of plants,’ a representative from Smit tells us.
Obed then brings back cuttings of new discoveries to the Dutch nursery, where he hands them over to the botanical engineers who will endeavour to create unique hybrids. Horticultural innovation is central to Smit. They are one of the most exciting growers around because they make genetic engineering a priority - both to create new, patented varieties, and to ensure the health and reliability of classic plants (like the Money Plant).
Is it a long process
The time between a cutting being taken from the Southern hemisphere, and an indoor plant being ready for sale is almost three years, Smit reports.
Obed brings back a lot more varieties than will ultimately be used - maybe 15 to 20 per trip, but only a fraction of those will be carried forward. Not all plants will grow reliably or adapt well to European indoor environments.
For the nursery to be sustainable, the plants they grow need to be sellable within about a year. This means varieties that are very slow growing tend not to be taken forwards. Instead,
Even when expert botanical engineers are involved, growing plants is nothing like manufacturing man-made products. You’re working with living organisms so there’s a lot of uncertainty, trial and error.
How do you create new varieties?
From the late 1980s, when Obed Smit began his plant journey, he starting building a living database of his finds from across the globe. He has collected plants from South American rainforests, deserts in the Middle East and much of South East Asia.
Subsequently he teamed up with an expert plant geneticist, and together with a greenhouse full of plant genes, set to work on experimenting with novel cross-fertilisations, in a bid to create new varieties, and stabilise existing rare plants, so they might be sold as houseplants.
It is an occupation driven by curiosity, creativity and a holistic understanding of the natural world. You can find plants by Smit in our current Featured Grower collection page.
As they're renowned for their intelligent design of classic, as well as new, varieties. We source our Money Plants, Alocasia cucullatas and Wandering Dudes from Smit. But you can also find the rare Jungle Vine plant and delicate Pepperomia pepperspot.
View all plants from Smit here.