Thursday, April 23, 2015

Photo Essay: A Walk Among the Orchids (and Chrysanthemums and Daisies)

It doesn't take much to convince me to spend a day meandering through flower fields. I hike to wildflowers. I ferret out secret gardens and engage in a lot of botanical tourism.

But usually the flora is native – or at least out in the open, adaptable to our climate – and not harvested in greenhouses for cutting, potting, and shipping. It turns out that the open houses at Carpinteria's nurseries are more like factory tours than garden strolls, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.



At our first stop, Gallup & Stribling Orchids, we were greeted by a friendly parrot...



...but the real attraction here was the orchids...



...some tropical...



...others traditional...



...in an exotic array of both cut and potted flowers, many of which have been hybridized and even cloned in their laboratory.



Orchids can last a long time, but not when left out in direct sunlight or heat...



...so they must be kept inside a greenhouse, temperature-controlled by a wall of fans that mimic a swamp cooler.



There are many different varieties and species at Gallup & Stribling...



...from Laelias to pansy and moth orchids...



 ...but they've devoted a whole house to the Cymbidium orchids...



...which come in a rainbow of colors.



Down the road, Ocean Breeze Farms grows lilies, daisies, and hydrangeas...



...but we were there for the chrysanthemum harvest...



...watching bundles of cut flowers...



...turn into bushels...



...to be trucked away...



...leaving a few blossoms behind in their wake.



Ocean Breeze tries to run as sustainable an operation as possible, recycles materials (like old tires)...



...and keeps the business in the family...



...which, for generations, has been successful in agriculture, dating back to the 1600s in Holland.



When the family moved to the States in the 1970s, Chrysanthemums were considered the "money crop" – and they're still the centerpiece of the business.



Members of the same family founded another local nursery, Ever-Bloom, which specializes in gerbera daisies...



...growing them hydroponically...



...in a very contained, warm and moist environment, which is all computer-regulated.



They adhere to a strict schedule of harvesting and shipping, especially in times of high demand (like Mother's Day)...



...and they use a "closed loop" irrigation system, to minimize water waste.



They even employ integrated pest management, reducing the use of chemical pesticides...



...by introducing beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs...



...which is an improvement over the bug-spraying trucks that used to have to drive around the grounds.

In a time of water crisis when Californians are being encouraged to drain their pools and let their lawns go brown, you wonder whether the business of cut flowers is responsible agriculture. They're not food. They provide beauty and enjoyment, but not nutrition. And they use up a lot of water. The gerberas are even being shipped in "wet packs" to keep them hydrated while in transit.

But we're not quite at the point (yet) where we have to rank whose water usage is important and whose isn't. Are almonds worth the water they require? Are cows? For now, let's collect the rainwater, flush the toilet every other time, and shower together. Maybe that'll let us enjoy the flowers a little while longer.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: High Desert Orchids
Photo Essay: The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
Plunging My Hand into a Field of Terror at the Lavender Farm
Photo Essay: The Floats of the Rose Parade, 2015
Photo Essay: Throwing Good Bugs After Bad at Associates Insectary