Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Modest Price of Luxury

An orchid greenhouse where I like to shop in Half Moon Bay. And yes, that ten dollar price you see on the sign means ten dollars per plant.

With company coming this weekend, I began to ponder how I might make the rooms of my house really sparkle. Orchids are a wonderful way to do that. So I made a quick trip to the orchid greenhouses at Half Moon Bay, California. Best of all: I was able to do it at budget prices.

Orchids all in a row at the California greenhouse.

You may have noticed that the price of orchids everywhere these days is amazingly low. You can find all kinds of them at local grocery stores all over America for something slightly under or slightly over twenty dollars per plant. For the once exotic orchid, prices have gone Costco!

They are even less expensive at the greenhouses in Half Moon Bay, because the greenhouses are one stop on the orchids' way to your local store.

What has happened is this: automation has entered the world of orchid growing. In Taiwan, they've figured out a way to propagate, hybridize, and nurture this sensitive epiphyte ("air plant") using machines; so they are producing them by the hundreds of thousands. The baby plants love the tropic heat and humidity of China. When the orchids mature, they are shipped to greenhouses on the California coast where the mild, sunny weather is just right to make the plants bloom.

The buds are out and these plants from Taiwan are now being nurtured in California so they will be ready to sell to retail outlets.

All this automation has made hybridizing easier too, so all kinds of new colors and quirky patterns are available. The growers have gone way beyond the plain white and fuschia colors of the past.

A few examples of the varieties available in orchid colors ...

If you live near the California coast, you owe yourself a trip to the orchid greenhouses. If you don't: now you know why the price of orchids is so reasonable and why you shouldn't hesitate to scatter them around your house the way Liz Taylor used to fling her fur coats around. Gorgeous, darlings, just gorgeous.

Only one problem. I might have to get myself a bigger car!

The greenhouse I visited is called ePlantWorld and is on Highway 92 (12511 San Mateo Road 94109) in Half Moon Bay, California. The owner is HeeSeung Lee and his web page is

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