AN exciting new business venture is putting Greytown on the map throughout KwaZulu-Natal as magnificent proteas feature in many homes and offices.Juanita Mason of Brayleigh farm, on the outskirts of Greytown, recently harvested her first flowers from two- year-old Leucospermum (pincushion) plants in what she hopes will be the beginning of a successful cut-flower operation. Three years ago Juanita began establishing an indigenous garden and was delighted to find the protea plants did well, despite the heavy clay soil. She planted seven varieties in 2013 as a trial - some flourished - others did not. The following year was the same story as another eight varieties were planted. This year nearly 3 000 protea plants of 25 different varieties will be planted.Juanita told the Greytown Gazette that learning the art of pruning and caring for proteas had been a tremendous, exciting and satisfying learning curve. The objective is to have a range of protea, pincushion and foliage flowers available that flower at different times to provide a consistent supply throughout the year to KZN customers. As many of the large protea growers are exporting their production, this has left a gap in the local market. Commercial production is very different to growing them in your garden however, and the operation is labour- intensive. This will hopefully also provide much-needed employment opportunities for local people. “I always wanted to develop a small business from home, and while this has definitely been more work than I initially bargained for, I’m really loving the challenge.” she said.