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The local flower growers working round the clock to meet the demand for Mother's Day

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Orchids at Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria

Did you know many of the flowers sold across the country, are grown right here on the Central and South Coast?

A stone’s throw from the rumbling trucks and fast-moving traffic of the 101 freeway in Santa Barbara County, is a sight you might expect to find in a tropical forest. Thousands and thousands of orchids growing.

Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria covers 21 acres and produces over two million orchids a year.

With Mother’s Day coming up at the weekend, this is their busiest time of year. Around 200 thousand plants per week are being boxed ready for distribution, compared to their usual 40 thousand weekly, says Toine Overgaag, the Owner and President.

It’s a family business, which has been in the community for nearly 50 years and grown to be the biggest orchid farm on the West Coast.

"My parents grew flowers in the Netherlands, " explained Overgaag. "We moved here in 1978 and my parents founded this as Westerlay Roses, and we converted to orchids in the early 2000's."

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Toine Overgaag is the Owner and President of the family flower business

Overgaag explained they made the change at a time that methods for growing orchids were improving, and growing roses was becoming economically challenging with higher labor costs here than for competitors in Ecuador and Columbia who then ship their roses to the US.

"Most cut flowers are grown abroad and shipped to the United States. Potted plants cannot," he explained.

The plants are grown in large greenhouses locally.

They’re set out by weeks old, and carefully nurtured in an environment which controls the temperature, light and watering.

"Everything you see here is phalaenopsis orchids, " Overgaag explained in the vast greenhouse. "That's the only kind of orchid we grow and 95% of the consumer market.

"They last over three months AND you can get them to re-flower, " said Overgaag. "And they can be bought at a pretty reasonable price."

"And for us, we can program these things to flower whenever we want. All we have to do is drop the temperature - which is harder to do than it sounds - and we can set them to flower," he said.

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
A greenhouse with orchids plant at Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria

Eventually they’re distributed to big name supermarkets – and are a very popular Mother’s Day gift.

But what about taking care of these precious blooms, for those of us who might receive one but aren’t as green-fingered at home?

"Orchids are very hardly plants," said Overgaag. "However the flower only lasts so long. You haven't killed it, it's still green and alive even if the flower dies. With luck you can get it to flower again."

The key, apparently, is to water a small amount around once a week and place in filtered light.

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Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Orchids for sale in the store at Westerlay Orchids in Carpinteria