Frieda Duckitt says the orchid bug bit her after she bought four of the plants at the South African Orchid Council Show in Cape Town.
Venturing into orchid production came naturally to her, as she has green fingers and was already growing Anthurium and vegetables, and raising poultry on a small commercial scale on the Duckitts’ family farm, Oudepost, near Darling in the Western Cape.
Initially, they grew the flowers in a wooden slatted house with a glass roof that Frieda’s husband, Wilferd ‘Junior’ Duckitt, built.
“Since orchids were highly exclusive at the time, my mother used the money generated from Anthurium cut flower sales to gradually replace the Anthurium with orchids,” says her son, also Wilferd, who today runs the business along with his brother, Nicolas.
Frieda mainly supplied florists with cut flowers. She, however, quickly gained popularity in the cut flower industry, thanks to her excellent eye for quality, which helped her upgrade and improve her stock collection during the first year of production.
“Instead of keeping plants for up to four years before eliminating them, we reduced production costs by culling up to 90% of seedlings that showed weakness, and selling orchids that were unsuited for cut flower production as pot plants,” says Wilferd.
“Plants that did not make that grade were fed to the cattle.”