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Vol. 7(6), pp. 11-12The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalJune 2006

One Firm--Going and Growing With Orchids

R J Ferry

The previous several pages of this issue have been dismal! They have provided ready examples of poor managerial planning, mismanagement, poor culture, and a general lack of knowledge about orchids and marketing. Indeed, one might cite a host of reasons for their individual and combined failures. With such disasters fresh in one's mind, it might be well to review another firm's activities, and obtain a somewhat refreshed perspective.

Fig. 1. The company sign at 1207 Salem Road, Victoria, Texas 77904. Photo: DSCN1307.jpg, 31 May, 2005.

Mike Zeplin has owned and operated Gulf Coast Floral in Victoria (Fig. 1) since the 1970's. He and John Ramos work with four greenhouses which are not new, but are nevertheless are kept in good shape, with repairs made as needed. The business does well with certain periodic products (e.g. Easter lily plants, holiday poinsettias, etc.). It also offers an array of hanging baskets and garden plants and shrubs. Adding to the marketing mix, the firm also does landscape planting, and a limited quantity of cut flowers are available to local retail florists. For Mike, orchids have provided minimal revenue. For the most part, Mike likes orchids and John is a bonsai specialist, so each has had a few certain plants for personal enjoyment while running the plant nursery and landscaping business.

Each year, however, has seen the addition of "just a few more seedlings" for the orchid collection, and the occasional addition of a few plants as this or that individual closed an orchid collection or discarded a plant. Thus, the orchid collection has continued to grow,...and grow,...and grow! Finally, Mike has had to break down and decide to do some dividing and repotting! In the past, several orchid plants have been marked "not for sale," but when his current flurry of depotting, dividing, and repotting is past, there will be quite a selection of good orchid divisions available at decent prices to orchidists!

Of course the orchid dividing-and-repotting work has to be a "spare time" activity, because this season is the time the Pointsettia cuttings need to be potted in order to be on schedule for the December holiday season (in the plant nursery business, one needs to think months ahead!). Likewise, the normal business of selling hanging baskets, foliage plants, and other plant nursery products demands the operator's time, and when repairs have to be made, they too are demanding of time. In short, there's never "nothing to do" in a greenhouse business, and this is particularly so if one has a healthy "marketing mix" of products and offerings.

Fig. 2. Sign & greenhouse, 1207 Salem Road, Victoria, TX 77904. Photo: DSCN1308a.jpg, 31 May, 2005.

The current word is that Mike is going through dividing and repotting the Cattleya-types, and looks to wade into the dendrobiums next. One can only wonder when he'll find the time to get into the encyclias, oncidiums, vandas, and other genera! However, the operation's underway, and space is beginning to show in the #1 greenhouse while an expanding array of newly repotted plants are showing in another one (Fig. 2).

To be sure, few plants are currently available, but later this fall as they begin to put on flowers, one expects the bulk of them to begin to be available. The sum total is that while orchid sales are not the firm's driving force, they appear to be developing into a useful addition to what has been described above as a healthy "marketing mix!"

Mike is currently one of these rare individuals who has fought the tide of "progress" and avoided obtaining, owning, or learning how to use a computer. Hence, one shouldn't expect to see a flurry of orchid offerings from Gulf Coast Floral via the internet anytime soon. However, as plant divisions prosper, there will be some very good buys available for orchidists willing to make the trip to his Victoria greenhouses, and--who knows--he might even be persuaded to make up an inventory list for individuals interested in buying via snail-mail. In short, as other orchid-oriented firms look to close, the orchid facet of this floral business is apparently on the upswing, and several local individuals have begun to suggest that a Victoria Orchid Society might be somewhat popular.

On a side note, your editor has had some interesting moments searching for the correct name for this or that hybrid, and--occasionally--delving into the hybrid's ancestry. It's been good occupational therapy equipping a few of the Gulf Coast Floral plants with corrected name tags, and such digging has--from time to time--also provided grist for readers of this publication in addition to photographs of particular species and hybrids. When Mike decides to make plants available, it may well be possible to provide a selection of photographs to go along with the named plants offered for sale.

For now, new plant divisions are taking root and more are soon to be potted, and the future looks promising for sales of orchid flowers and plants.

Copyright © 2006 R J Ferry