The beautiful orchid plants in the grocery store call to you, right? Me too. I killed an orchid plant this summer. This fall when my aunt and uncle gave me an orchid, I panicked. I told myself I would read about it, pay special attention to it, sing to it, anything to keep this beauty alive. I panicked further when the flowers started dropping off of it and a leaf turned yellow. That’s right about the time that I learned about Hilltop Orchid Farm in Cloverdale (about 45 minutes from the west side).
If anyone can measure their life in flowers, it would be Dick Wells of Hilltop Orchid Farm. His interest in orchids bloomed when he was a teenager and from that point on he was collecting, nurturing, caring for and growing orchids. Now he and his wife Sandy own and operate their own orchid growing business that sells directly to the public AND supplies the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
During my visit there were about 45,000 plants for sale in the four connected greenhouses, soon there will be about 60,000! In between collecting orchid number 1 and orchid number 60,000, Dick married the love of his life Sandy, had three children and is now a grandfather. When orchid growing was “just a hobby,” his property was home to many a 4-H project: cattle and hogs and the crops to feed them.
Today you’ll find his greenhouses, a beautiful home with a lawn to be envied, laboratory and lots of customers throughout the week. I brought my orchid for Dick to take a look at to see if it could be saved — he took the plant from the decorative pot and found the culprit right away. It was a common mistake among plant owners like me, over-watering. He dumped the water from the pot and Cindy, an employee of 17 years, set the plastic pot on top of a few paper towels to draw out the moisture.
My girls wandered the greenhouses with instructions “do not touch” and “be careful.” Lulu snapped photos of the beautiful orchids of many colors overflowing with blooms (and her finger) and Scout gently kicked at the gravel on the ground and picked up some of the most fascinating pieces while occasionally taking interest in what Lulu and I were looking at.
Dick is a farmer, a gardener, an artist and a scientist when it comes to his orchids. We were given a very special look at his farm. We saw the laboratory, where in a sterile environment, the future greenhouse orchids get their start…their nearly three year start. The plants we saw in the laboratory are in their infancy and have until their toddler years to make it to the greenhouse. It’s an incredible process!
The Wells family invites everyone to come see the farm with their own eyes, as the photos just don’t do the experience justice. You’ll want to bring your wallet because these beauties belong in YOUR home. Dick and his small family staff will teach you how to care for your plant and what to do when you come upon trouble. Plants are $25 and up. The greenhouses are open from 9am-5pm Monday through Saturday and by appointment on Sunday. If you would like to visit outside of those hours, please call ahead to make an appointment. It’s probably a good idea to call ahead and get directions, the GPS lead me to the wrong place. 1151 East County Road 800 South, Cloverdale, Indiana 46120. Phone: 765.795.6016
1151 East County Road 800 South