A cool Northwestern day is the perfect time to duck into a greenhouse, replete with the warmth of solar energy coming through the walls, pleasantly humid as plants exhale pure oxygen, and fragrant with the earthy perfume of rich soil. Greenhouses can be comforting places where plants and people are insulated from the harsh weather outside.
The Brothers Greenhouses is a wonderful place to enjoy that weather-defying environment but also to see nursery production in action. With most stores stocking plants shipped in by massive wholesale nurseries from out of state, it’s a treat to experience an independent nursery that still grows its own plants from seed or starts and brings them on to salable size right before your eyes.
Most nurseries that do their own production have those areas segregated from the sales floor, but at The Brothers Greenhouses, you get a behind-the-scenes look. Other benefits of local production are quality plants with reduced transportation-related stress and a smaller carbon footprint.
Starting in summer and through the holidays, The Brothers Greenhouses is a fun place to watch poinsettias go from tiny cuttings to lush decorations and to purchase winter crops like kale and broccoli raab, which you can tuck in the ground now and enjoy in the late winter or early spring. Fall is a good time to plant, so check out the selection of ornamental grasses and native plants. Since the business is open year round, a stroll through the greenhouses affords you a look at everything from houseplants, annual flowers, hanging baskets and vegetables, to perennials and native plants in various stages of production.
Not surprisingly, The Brothers Greenhouses got its start as a wholesale nursery supplying poinsettias, bedding packs, Easter lilies and spring bulbs to retailers around Southwest Washington. Lou Darmiento and his wife, Elsie (a.k.a. Sam), founded the business in 1969. After Lou’s death, Sam sold the business in 1996 to two longstanding employees, Marilyn Davis and Cheryl Pelkey, who still run the nursery.
Davis and Pelkey shortly began to transition the business from wholesale to retail and today, most of their business is to the public, though they still provide poinsettias and Easter lilies wholesale for churches and nonprofit groups to use as fundraisers. The switch was so gradual that many longtime Kitsap residents may not know that The Brothers Greenhouses is a wonderful, full-service nursery whose offerings run from a wide selection of plants to an eclectic assemblage of practical tools, seeds, books and gardening accoutrement pleasingly displayed alongside gift items like birdhouses and wind chimes.
In fact, arguably the best selection of houseplants in Western Washington can be found at The Brothers Greenhouses. Choose from gorgeous tropical foliage plants, unusual cactus and succulents, ferns and other plants for terrariums, patterned-leafed begonias and florist-grade flowering plants. The variety of houseplants is surprising and the prices are very affordable.
If you’re looking for a good hostess gift, you’ll have trouble deciding. The staff are friendly and experienced, and can help find the perfect plant, a pot that matches and the soil mix, too.
From the outside, it looks like any other nursery production facility but inside, “personality plus” is what you’ll find. The two owners are creative individuals who have a great sense of their customers and how to make them happy. Over the years, they have created a couple of signature seasonal events that allow their clients to be creative and show off their talents.
One of these events is the annual Easter egg contest. A tall, glass case in the gift area of the greenhouses is the amusing “Easter Egg Hall of Fame” featuring 15 years’ worth of clever and corny Easter eggs painstakingly made by customers and named accordingly. Winners receive a gift certificate for nursery purchases.
Another unique customer competition is the photography contest, now in its fifth year. The winning entry receives a cash prize and makes it on the cover of an annual book that Pelkey compiles as editor. The images in each year’s book are phenomenal.
“We love to celebrate the fact that many people aren’t artists by profession yet have true talent,” Pelkey says.
As you survey her creative contributions to the greenhouses, it’s clear she’s found her kin. A collector of vintage knick-knacks and ceramics, Pelkey finds unusual containers and fills them with diminutive plants, weaving them together in charming, unexpected ways. Her eye for containers extends into magical fairy gardens and bonsai adorned with tiny, ceramic fishermen in lakeside scenes beneath their trunks. You could spend a good deal of time just taking in the expansive grouping of container gardens best described as resembling castles in a cloud forest.
Davis’ main interest has always been edible plants, as is evidenced by the surprisingly broad selection of locally appropriate varieties of berries, vegetables and fruit trees. Her parents, Tom and Irene Davis, bought their Belfair farm in the early 1950s and raised 10 kids, all of whom worked on the farm. The Davis farm is still family-run and sells produce at the Port Orchard, Bremerton and Belfair farmers markets. Marilyn Davis studied forestry in college and worked for a time with the forest service before purchasing the nursery — there’s a deep connection to plants and the land in this green-thumbed family.
Knowledgeable, professional service is what sets a quality nursery apart from a retailer who just sells plants. An experienced crew of three employees works at the nursery year round, with up to eight full — or part-time employees assisting with operations during spring, the busiest season.
Sam Maupin, Davis’ son, was also raised tending the family farm and greenhouses while in high school and during college summers. With a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and in his first year as a WSU Kitsap Master Gardener, he teaches many of the great seasonal classes available to customers.
Hands-on classes offered by Maupin and Pelkey throughout the year include fall containers, leaf casting, wreath and garland making, herb planters, hanging baskets — all fun ways to get your hands dirty and come away with a personalized treasure.
Any time of the year, The Brothers Greenhouses is worth a visit, whether for a fun day of digging in the dirt, to dress up tables for holiday gatherings or to add berry bushes to the garden.
The Brothers Greenhouses
Marilyn Davis and Cheryl Pelkey, owners
360.674-2558 • firstname.lastname@example.org
3200 SW Victory Drive, Port Orchard