Ruth Mathias, of Munster, who has a degree in history from the University of Edinburgh, did courses in horticulture through Unisa before launching her family-run business, Rare and Air, three years ago.
Mathias’s small home nursery is focused on importing and growing Tillandsia or air plants and other unusual and rare plants, such as ant plants, shingle plants and cacti. She is also constantly working on increasing her range of home-propagated Tillandsia, growing plants from seed and hybrids so that the business eventually won’t need imports. Tillandsia are indigenous to Central and South America and the south-eastern US, growing in rainforests, inland, in coastal deserts and swamps and up to 2 750m above sea level.
Mathias sells her plants to nurseries, to a florist in Durban, through her online shop, and she also creates plant features for cakes, wedding tables and for indoor and outdoor decor.
She has had to overcome several challenges to operate in this niche business space, although she says other small businesses have recently emerged in the field.