Eastfork Orchids owner Kimberly Romer and employee Paula Humphrey at the company's greenhouse in Bonita Springs. / Lindsay Downey/Special to Coastal Life
Few would guess that quiet Rodas Drive, off Old 41 Road, is home to such an expansive horticultural operation, Eastfork Orchids co-owner Kimberly Romer said.
Getting word out has been challenging since Romer, a Guam native who grew up gardening, and her husband, B.J., purchased the orchid company from their neighbor, Ted Wuschke, in January 2011.
At its new storefront on Old 41, Eastfork hopes to host garden club meetings and soon will offer classes on the complex world of orchid cultivation.
“If somebody says they know everything about orchids, they’re lying,” Romer said.
Eastfork carries hundreds of orchid varieties — too many to count — but Romer estimates it has at least 1,100 square feet of mature vandas and 600 square feet dedicated to baby vandas. They dangle from an archway in the greenhouse and are among the most coveted orchid species.
In addition to flowers it gets from locales such as Brazil, Hawaii and Thailand, Eastfork sells fertilizer, pots, bamboo sticks and more. The company offers repotting, orchid leasing for homes and businesses, arrangements for parties and boarding — caring for finicky orchids while their owners are away.
Each orchid species has own growing requirements. But often, too much water or over-care from owners can cause them to fail.
“I killed mine with kindness a few times,” said Paula Humphrey, an employee who’s planted eight orchids at her home.
On a recent morning at the greenhouse, Wuschke, still involved with the company, walked up and down rows of sunlit flowers. He began buying orchids shortly after moving to Naples in 1985, and got “hooked” on the exotic plants.
“Every single one is different,” he said, admiring orchids in deep purple and bright coral. “How could you not like something like that?”
Meanwhile, employee Glenn Key tended to pumps and ensured the greenhouse stayed in the low 80s, a comfortable temperature for the tropical flowers.
“The less stressed our orchids are, the better the chance they’ll do good when you take them home,” Romer said.