I had the chance to talk with Mark Pendleton, Manager of Brookside Nursery in Menlo Park, CA. It is located very near the apartment I rent in the winter and my friend Kristy insisted that I check them out, knowing that I love orchids. When I am home in Chicagoland the Spring Orchid show at The Chicago Botanic Garden is an wonderful treat at the end of winter. Orchids are the most sold potted plants in the U.S., I learned. I discovered that Brookside is a very unusual place. While enjoying the gorgeous colors and shapes of the orchids, I was simply amazed when I saw the two huge spaces filled with orchids and learned these were all boarded.
Brookside Nursery ‘s plant boarding program is unique. It’s two locations include Pacifica with about 25,00 square feet and Menlo Park with 30,000 square feet. Amazingly, nearly half of the space in each location is devoted to 24/7 year round care for plants that belong to 350 people. Each of these patrons board between 20 and 1000 plants. The collections that are stored are very impressive. Plants come in for “plantsitting” when the plant is dormant. The owner will bring the plant in or arrangements can be made to pick them up. When the orchids are ”showy”, beautiful and healthy, they are returned to their owner. Because not all orchids respond to the same conditions, caring for this vast number is challenging.
These orchids are kept in a very special environment. For some reason, I really never thought about differences in greenhouses. I noticed different sizes, shapes and materials but since I never purchased one, I didn’t think too much about them.
Brookside Nursery cares for the boarded plants in a greenhouse that was recycled from Colorado and has some very modern features. It is Dutch style having walls that are 10ft high and insulated by Double Wall Polycarbonate that protect against heat and cold. They also have retractable shades and can filter light. The large air volume creates a more stable temperature and all of these features benefit the plants.
Brookside Nursery is 32 years old. In the days before Smith & Hawken was associated with Target, when its individual stores were a delight, Brookside Nursery was the orchid supplier for their catalog. Then things changed. Now Brookside has a well developed wholesale market shipping all over the U.S. Enjoy their website
Retail sales are being promoted at the Nursery, at Farmer’s Markets and at local Garden/Flower/Orchid Shows such as:
February 20th to 23rd--Pacific Orchid Expo “Orchids and All That Jazz”
March 14th to 16th -- Santa Barbara International Orchid Show
March 19th to 23rd -- San Francisco Garden Show
Mark Pendleton is an avid participant is the breeding program at Brookside. Growing orchids from seed allows purchasers to find plants that are not only clones but are original. Growing from seed can have advantages like preserving a particular orchid, being able to breed for the best orchid qualities, and being creative. Mark has registered more than 200 crosses.
I asked Mark for a few tips for those of us who care for orchids at home. He suggested that new orchid owners begin with the two best low light (not no light) orchids, which are the ones that look like moths, called Phalaenopsis and the Asian lady slipper orchid also known as Paphiopedilum.
Problems with orchids are probably caused by watering- overwatering, underwatering, watering too frequently and not enough humidity.
Look for the beautiful orchids from Brookside Nursery if you attend the garden shows or local Farmer’s Markets. Stop in at the nursery for a treat. It will be hard to leave without an orchid. I couldn’t.
2718 Alpine Road Menlo Park, California 94028 Wholesale/Retail 650.854.3711 or Boarding/Repotting 650.854.4156 [email protected] Fax: 650.854.3764
Photos:Barbara Keer unless otherwise indicated