ST. PETERSBURG – Open the wood garden gate and enter a lush, tropical paradise in the midst of a busy city.
The St. Pete Orchid Farm is an oasis, awakening the senses.
Owner Doug Chenneville discovered orchids at age 19 after giving a corsage to a co-worker. He wanted to know more about “the exotic flower that he could not believe was real."
Chenneville found a veteran orchid grower in northern St. Petersburg and for 18 years learned from Bud Spence about the art of growing orchids.
“Orchids are more like pets than plants. I kind of have become attune to what they need. They tell you if you pay attention," Chenneville said.
Chenneville's mentor passed in 2009. Chenneville launched The Orchid Farm website in 2010 and welcomed customers to his garden business this year.
His orchids grow in four shade houses and on the trees of his lush, green garden. Most sell for between $25-$45, though they can run higher.
Q. What is unique about your product?
A. I grow orchids like a homeowner would under a tree or on a patio. (which makes them hardier). If I can grow them here you can grow them anywhere in the Tampa Bay area.
Q. What can customers expect from your product?
A. Healthy, well-grown plants. Many are one-of-a-kind – ones I have crossed (with other orchids).
Q. What is your specialty item?
A. Encyclia. They are long, branching sprays that are often used in corsages and floral arrangements.
Q. How else are you marketing your products?
A. Through the Web site and at orchid shows.
Q. Where do your products come from?
A. All over the world, including Hawaii, Australia, Canada. About 25 percent are native plants.
Q. What are your immediate goals as a business owner?
A. My short-term goal is to do more shows. I love to work with people who like to grow plants; they should try orchids. It’s very rewarding and therapeutic. It’s more a labor of love.
Q. What do you see for the future of your business?
A. If I am ever able to retire (Chenneville works a day job in the restaurant business) I would just like to be here to provide orchids to anyone interested in growing them.
Q. How does your business work in St. Petersburg?
A. There are quite a few orchid growers in the area. Orchids are a lot more popular than they were 20 years ago. More people of all ages are into orchids.
If you go:
The St. Pete Orchid Farm is located at 1228 15th St. North in St. Petersburg. Visitors are welcome Tuesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Just ring the garden’s bell. Phone is 727-821-7058.