Local Nursery Goldmine for Stagers

Gorgeous Cattleya hybrid only available at Rex Foster Orchids

Orchids for many years have been a staple of stagers’ arsenal.  They impart instant bling better than perhaps any other single feature of a well-staged property.  They also are peculiarly adapted to doing well inside a home: They require watering only once a week, and the blooms can last for months.

Less well-known, however, is that in San Diego there are a number of local growers who are hybridizing varieties not available in Home Depot, Costco, or Trader Joe’s.  Most of the orchids you see in these venues come from Hawaii and Asia–and the orchids they produce thrive in their tropical climates and are mass-produced there.  By contrast, local growers tend to focus on varieties that do well here and take more patience to flower.  Local orchid enthusiasts bring these orchids indoors when they’re blooming and stick them outdoors in partial shade the majority of the time.

John Walters with two of his hybrids, the flowers of one even blending in with his shirt!

Chief among these local varieties are the Cattleyas, commonly known as the “corsage” orchid because their blooms are often the centerpieces of corsages.  One local nursery that hybridizes these gorgeous creatures is Rex Foster Orchids.  (The link works, but the website is currently being re-vamped).  The plants you can get here are unique because the growers pollinate and cross the orchids themselves.  John Walters, head nurseryman at Rex Foster, has been working for years to produce smaller plants  (more convenient for inside the house) that keep their large blooms.  And of course they are always working to produce new color and bloom characteristics, and the variety is spectacular.  The only part of the spectrum missing is blue.

Another way to startle prospective buyers, and also hybridized at Rex Foster orchids, is to place a Tolumnia in a otherwise neglected corner.  The flowers hang like jewels in the air, and almost nobody knows what they are.

A diminutive Tolumnia on black background

Kathy McLorg, a seasoned stager working in Marin County, the county that produces more tax revenue than any other in California,  has some advice on using orchids for staging:  she suggests placing them on coffee or dining room tables “when clients want real.”  She puts moss around the plants and uses curly willow to add to their appeal.  Ms. McLorg also points out that Grape ivy combines well with orchids and has similar watering requirements.  She reminds stagers to be sure to put  large plastic liners in each container because you “don’t want to come back to a ruined table.”

Whether you stage with Phaelenopsis or Tolumnias or Cattleyas, they should all be watered only once a week, and for the tolumnias , always in the morning. Kathy McLorg suggests using a couple ice cubes for the Phaelenopsis, but this won’t work for the Cattleyas.

The best way to get local orchids is by emailing Billy Baker at  billy@rexfosterorchids.com or you can call him at (619)316-4331.

Some additional pics of Rex Foster Orchids:

Another interesting Cattleya hybrid

How to Hire a Real Estate Agent

by George Herman

Now that you have decided to hire an agent to help you sell your home, you are faced with the question of who to choose.  A competent real estate professional will help market your home and manage the sale, provide you with negotiating expertise, knowledge of your local market, and cost management.  Also—and important for us Garden Stagers—is that hopefully your agent will assist you in maximizing home value by suggesting necessary repairs and fix-ups, making your home attractive to prospective buyers.

Competent real estate agents know their business. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What is the profile of potential buyers for my home?
  • How will you protect my legal and financial interests throughout the selling process?
  • How will I obtain the maximum price for my property in the shortest time?

Hopefully, in response to this last question, the prospective real estate agent will encourage you to stage your home.  Staging increases market value and your final selling price while reducing its time on the market. A thoughtfully staged property will sell for more money and quicker than one that is sold in its “lived in” condition.

Staging goes beyond the interior of the home. In fact, buyers decide how they feel about a property as soon as they see it from the street.  On the day of the open house, many agents watch ruefully from the kitchen of the unstaged house as cars pull up along the street only to speed off again, not even setting foot inside.  This phenomena, referred to by some as “slow and go” has taught them that the exterior of the home should be inviting, or they risk missing out on a buyer. Real estate agents also know that a potential buyer who does walk through the door, willing to look at such a home,  is going to expect a discount on the price.

The good news is that any home will demonstrate perceived higher value with thoughtful improvements. In fact, the return on investment can be high. It has been determined that the landscaping of a property contributes between 5 and 11 percent of the home’s value. For example, if a property is valued at $500,000 with bad curb appeal, the landscaping contributes about 5% or $25,000. If the curb appeal is improved, then the value of that same home should be $530,000 or a 6% increase. Usually landscape staging can have good effect for less than a third of the available $30,000.

In order to maximize the full scope of service that you are paying for, it’s important to understand that you may well find that you resist the advice given by your real estate agent. Selling a home is a very emotional time, stressful, and complicated.  If you are like most of us, you probably think your house is worth more than what the market allows.  Be prepared to hear as much from your agent, if you have made a good choice.  A good agent will provide you with the data to demonstrate what you can realistically expect for your house.   Finally, a good agent will be able to speak to the reality of the situation, even when you don’t want to hear it.

Lawns and Manliness

What says more about one’s manliness than the perfect lawn?  The clean lines, the controlled height, the absence of  offending weeds.  Lawn exemplifies, it might be said, man’s pursuit of the domination of nature.   After all, you walk on it.  And then there is lawn as backdrop for macho sports such as baseball, football . . . possibly soccer.  Further, a well-maintained lawn implies a sort of technological expertise with its edgers, mowers, weed-wackers–all of them dangerous, gas-powered, and noisy.

Where is the lord of this manor?

This all came to my attention recently when I met Sylvia Kellogg at her new listing  9135 Spice Street in the Mount Helix area.  It wasn’t that this home had a lawn–it is set off by gravel–but what Sylvia told me about her experience in Indian Wells, a place from which she recently moved:

“They would tear up all the grass in October and plant new grass,” Sylvia said.  I was a little surprised to hear this, and she added some more explanation.  “The grass that grows in the summer–it can get up to 118° F you know–can’t survive in the winter when everything freezes.  And then they tear it all up again in the Spring and put the summer grass back.”

Lawn in Indian Wells, a place nature never intended it to be.  The trick for conquering Mother Nature, it turns out,  is to alternate two grass species instead of just one.  But this is such a Herculean effort that even the government has stepped in (no pun intended) .  Ordinance number 628 orders landscapers to reduce their watering in the fall to kill off the Bermuda grass that was lovely all summer, mow it down as close as possible to the soil, over-seed with winter rye, and start watering again.  In the Spring, when it gets too hot for winter rye, they are expected to do the reverse.

Beyond this, the government leaves landscapers and garden warriors up to their own devices when it comes to managing the intruders this situation naturally encourages.  I refer here to dandelions, clover, nut sedge–weeds–to which the soil is vulnerable when most of the grass is removed.  Like a military campaign, killing weeds requires know-how, timing, application of herbicide,  and measured effect all carefully strategized and executed, all of them satisfyingly macho activities.

Sylvia and I wandered over from the kitchen window and looked at the Jacaranda and an ornamental deciduous tree.  The shadows were moving across the gravel, making interesting patterns.  “You know, the gravel looks pretty good,”  I commented.  “And relaxing.”  Sylvia agreed with me.

You can reach Sylvia to discuss the listing at 858-444-5712.  Or go to her website at http://sylviakellogg.prudentialcal.com

Gravel with shadows