The Big Growers of the 1940’s


The orchid industry, today, is on full throttle and commercial nurseries everywhere are having their best year in recent memory and possibly ever. There is a nationwide shortage of plants as retailers are having trouble getting product and many wholesalers are simply sold out. The last time there was a run on orchids to this extent was eighty years ago, during the corsage era. 

The Naples Botanical Garden

Orchid enthusiasts, who are looking to get away this holiday season, now have an additional reason to visit Florida. In the southwest corner of the Sunshine state is the city of Naples, a touristy spot that is known for its countless golf courses and 300+ sunny days each year. But its ten year old botanical garden and prized orchid collection is getting all the attention.

Waterfalls, Hearts, and Spirals

Consumers may have noticed some unusual offerings in Phalaenopsis lately. The traditional ‘moth’ orchids with their signature cascading blooms look different somehow. The size, shape, and color of each flower are the same but the overall appearance requires a second or even third look.

What is difficult to comprehend initially is that the flower stems turn in a way that is not normal. Each is attached to a piece of angled wire and is pointing downward or to the side. The designs have clever names and command a premium price.

Dinner with Priscilla

Six degrees of separation refers to the notion that all people are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. Imagine if only two degrees separated you from someone very famous, in other words, an A-List celebrity is “a friend of a friend.” We experienced this situation in 2009 when a walk-in client informed us that she worked extensively with Priscilla Presley.

A Short History of Orchid Nurseries

A few weeks ago, I visited one of the largest Phalaenopsis growers in central Florida, DeLeon’s Bromeliads. The nursery has been there for decades and workers were frantically packing orders. It was peak season and the colorful blooms seemed to go on for miles.

A large sign on the property read, “Closing soon. Everything must go.” I went into the sales office to get an explanation. Imagine my surprise when the manager informed me that DeLeon’s was getting out of the orchid business and going into marijuana.

Pendant Orchids

Orchids are full of surprises.

There are the ‘grocery store’ varieties, better known as phalaenopsis, whose long sprays of colorful blooms seem to last forever. Then there are the more exotic types with unusual flowers and fancy names like Lady Slippers and Dancing Ladies. The crème de la crème of the orchid world are, arguably, the cattleyas whose grand blossoms adorned royalty a century and a half ago.


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