Jan grows for community

Plant grower Jan De Kleijn (left) hands over another batch of home-grown natives to Rakaia Community Association chairman Neil Pluck.

Netherlands-born Jan De Kleijn is green fingered and has propagated thousands of native plants for the Rakaia community over the last six years.

His plants are grown from seeds and cuttings and have been used for projects like the Rakaia Walkway, the Rakaia Domain and other beautification projects.

A farmer in his former homeland, Jan has lived in Rakaia for 20 years and these days is a caregiver for his wife Nonni who suffers from dementia.

He grows and propagates plants in his backyard and also grows vegetable plants and natives that are sold to raise funds for St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Rakaia.

“I’ve always enjoyed growing plants.
“The problem for me was that when I arrived in New Zealand from Holland I didn’t know anything about the natives growing here,’’ Jan said.

He enrolled on a plant propagation course, had steadily build up his knowledge and growing experience, and was still learning.

“It’s something I can do and enjoy doing and it gives me an opportunity to give back to my community and to make new friendships.’’

Jan recycles and is given pots and answered a call for community growers put out a few year ago.

Rakaia Community Association chairman Neil Pluck said a number of people like Jan generously supplied plants for the benefit of the community, but he was by far the biggest single provider.

The donated plants saved the community a lot of money and were used on projects like the walkway, which ran from the scout den and along Rakaia Terrace West for a distance of 3.5km, he said.

A new section near the scout den will be planted soon and Jan has been consulted on what plants he has available.

He is also currently growing grasses that will be used to beautify the area around a new Rakaia dog park, where grass seed has just been sown.

-By Mick Jensen