Lines Orchids is a fourth generational family business located in the quaint community of Signal Mountain, TN. We began bringing beautiful blooms into the lives of our customers starting in 1947 and continue today to grow and sell the highest quality orchid plants available in the southeast. We have 40,000 square feet of vintage glass greenhouses devoted to growing orchids, succulents, and various other plants. We invite you to come and experience the overwhelming beauty of the greenhouses– the same beauty that has kept us in business for the past 64 years. We also deliver to Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham on a regular basis. Please inquire HERE for florists in your area who carry our plants.
Lines Orchids has recently embarked on a new retail venture in downtown Chattanooga, TN. The store is located in the South Building of Warehouse Row located at 1110 Market Street Chattanooga, TN 37402 (next door to Public House). We are opened Monday- Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
And, as always, we welcome you to visit our greenhouses on Signal Mountain. The greenhouses are opened to the public Monday- Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
-Everyone at Lines Orchids
Joseph Chamberlain, who was Great Britian’s Secretary of State for the colonies in 1895, had a love of orchids- they provided solace from the highly public, often stressful life he lived. Mr. Chamberlain was never seen in public without an orchid in his lapel buttonhole. On a daily basis, orchids were shipped from London to his Highbury estate near Birmingham to ensure he always had the finest flowers available. Mr. Chamberlain’s son, Austen Chamberlain, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925, and Neville Chamberlain had 13 greenhouses solely devoted to growing orchids.
In 1898, at the ripe age of 14, Oliver Lines began growing orchid plants at Joseph Chamberlain’s estate. Oliver’s first job at the Chamberlain estate was to polish glass day in and day out. And, after serving in this role for some time, he was transferred to the greenhouse to serve as a water boy. After a period of apprenticeship, Oliver was promoted to be a grower assistant, a role where he found much joy and success.
The head grower at the time, Mr. Smith, was transferred from Chamberlain’s estate to R.I. Measures’ estate just outside of London. Along with Mr. Smith, Oliver Lines was invited to work for R.I. Measures’ greenhouses. For the first time, Oliver left the comfort and familiarity of his family and friends in hopes of improving his orchid growing skills.
The new job offer was full of opportunity as Mr. Measures, who manufactured steel for the construction of bridges, held one of the oldest and most respected orchid collections in England. Although it was a a good opportunity to work for the Measures family, orchid growing proved quite difficult under the industrial conditions Oliver was in outside of London. Winter fog and pollution were less than desirable conditions for growing orchids, not to mention personal satisfaction.
In a 1957 letter, Mr. Alexander wrote, “Oliver is an old and valued friend of mine. I well remember his joining the staff at Westonbirt- a position for which there was always a waiting list of ambitious young men- at a time when we were opening up and developing the collection towards its later peak of worldwide reputation. A range of new houses were erected away from the existing ones. Oliver was put in charge of this department as other houses were added to the block. It was here that he showed his aptitude and developing skills as a grower. He loved his plants and never stinted care and time on them. His intelligence and imaginative approach methods were evolving and his constant adherence to the highest standards of culture have made the sound basis of his successful career. I recall that at one of the Royal Horticultural Societies a few years ago, an American visitor remarked to me that Oliver Lines’ cattleyas were among the best, if not the best, grown in the United States.”
In 1910, Oliver was approached by a visiting American who offered him the opportunity to come to the United States to grow orchids. Oliver jumped at the opportunity and arrived at Ellis Island on February 13, 1910. He was only 25 years old.
In 1914, Oliver moved to neighboring Pittsfield, Massachusetts to become a grower for Arthur N. Cooley who had a long time interest in horticulture. Cooley had the financial means to cultivate orchids on an extended scale which brought about exciting opportunities for Oliver’s career. With Oliver’s contacts in England and Cooley’s financial backing, the Cooley collection of plants and greenhouses flourished.
It was an exciting time of growth and experimentation– Oliver had the resources he needed to make his hybridizing successful.
In 1921, the American Orchid Society was formed and Oliver was named a trustee. He was the only estate grower that was chosen as a trustee on the board. And, in September 1921, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society held its first important orchid show and Oliver was awarded a gold medal for his superior cultivation of orchids. His hard work and creativity started to pay off.
During difficult economic times, the Cooley collection of orchids were being sold off and eventually Oliver found himself without a job. Luckily, new doors opened in Larchmont, NY and Oliver moved with his wife and 2 children to serve with John J. Murdock, also an AOS (American Orchid Society) trustee, who was general manager for the B.F. Keith Vaudeville organization.
Only a year after Oliver and his family moved to Larchmont, Murdock moved from NY to Beverly Hills and his orchid holdings were sold to none other than Jospeh P. Kennedy– father of John, Bobby and Ted.
Again in need of a job, Mrs. W.K. Dupont asks Oliver to become her grower at Wilmington, but, only after six months time, Eleanor and Fitz Eugene Dixon were recruiting Oliver to rejoin his original Cooley collection which they had purchased in 1925 for their Ronaele Manor estate in Elkins Park, PA.
Oliver eagerly jumped at the opportunity because he could return to the original collection he had been so instrumental in building.
At the World’s Fair in 1939, Oliver won three golds for Mrs. Dixon. He was even referred to as “The Dean” by many growers who sought his advise and counsel.
In 1845, he was awarded the AOS gold medal of achievement for his skill in orchid culture.
Harold Patterson, a well known orchidist at the time, wrote “Many fine hybrids were produced at the Dixon estate by the hands and thinking of Oliver Lines. Many of these varieties were great and still are. They are components of countless fine new hybrids unfolding year after year.”
During WWII, Oliver began selling the Dixon orchids commercially so the collection could survive the struggling economy. And in 1946, Mrs. Dixon decided to sell her large estate and consequently her fine collection of plants were sold off.
Yet again, change was in the future for Oliver and his family.
As a thank you for all of his hard work and success at the Dixon estate, Mrs. Dixon graciously gifted Oliver with plants from the Cooley collection as well as two greenhouses to use in the future establishment of Lines Orchids, which would be located in Signal Mountain, TN.
Following in his father’s footsteps, John too had a passion for orchids and spending his days under glass- watering, potting and hybridizing orchids.
John’s first job after high school graduation was with Frank and George Off’s greenhouses of Brighton Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ. And, in 1943, Clint McDade, who was an AOS (American Orchid Society) trustee with Oliver asked him if he had any recommendations for a grower to help his expanding greenhouses on Signal Mountain, TN. Oliver recommended his son. And John got the job.
Timing was everything and John’s new job at Rivermont Orchids on Signal Mountain provided him with a great opportunity to join a new firm, helping influence its future growth and development. Many great orchid crosses were made during John’s time at Rivermont.
Due to some family conflicts at Rivermont, John approached his father, who was recently retired and living in New Jersey, to see if he would consider opening their own orchid business on Signal Mountain. Never seeming to outgrow change and opportunity, Oliver said yes. And, with a retirement check in hand, Oliver and John purchased a home with property on Signal Mountain in 1947.
Two of the original greenhouses from Mrs. Dixson’s estate were dismantled and brought down to Signal Mountain.In 1947, Lines Orchids was established. Originally, Lines Orchids began as a cut flower business supplemented by plant sales to walk-in customers. During the hard early years, the two worked closely together to ensure the companies success. There were difficult times but happily the business began to pick up and eventually it was flourishing thanks to the fashionable cattleya corsage that adorned women’s outfits to special outings, events and Sunday church. The cut cattleya was the cornerstone of the business for many years.
In 1962, John and his wife, Gladys, were given a private tour of the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri after naming an orchid for Mrs. Truman, C. Bess Truman. The orchid was originally meant to be names after President Truman but John asked if it could rather be named for Bess as President Truman had lots of things named for him. And so it was.
John and Gladys kept themselves quite busy raising four children, tending to greenhouses, traveling the world to see various orchid collections and participating in orchid shows across the country. John and his father Oliver found much success at the shows for their beautiful hybridizations. Even today, the greenhouse shelves are filled with stacks of sliver pieces– trays, candelabras, serving dishes that were awarded to Lines Orchids for their orchid crosses and hybridizations.
After serving as an active trustee on the AOS for 31 years, longer than any other member, Oliver retired and was named a honorary vice president. Until his final days, Oliver joined John in the greenhouses, continuing to faithfully tend to the orchids he loved so dearly.
Upon Oliver’s passing in 1965, John continued to run and expand the business, buying his former employer, Rivermont Orchids, in 1972.
In the early 1980’s the cut flower business began to fade and potted phaleanopsis orchid sales began to pick up dramatically. John adapted to the change in the industry, even though his true love always was for the cattleya.
John’s phalaenopsis collection was an attractive potted plant available to the general public market. As the phalaenopsis plants bloomed, he hand selected some for his own hybridizing. Although white phalaeonopsis plants account for the majority of the sales at Lines Orchids, a number of John’s hybrids of other colors have been awarded AOS awards of merit.
In the IPA (International Phalaenopsis Association) Journal, Tom Harper wrote ” John grows one of the biggest and strongest plants in the business. Many have commented on the quality of Lines Orchids plants upon visiting their greenhouses.”
One of the most important aspects in choosing your orchid is to ensure you have a quality plant from the beginning– one that has a good, healthy root structure and foliage. When choosing an orchid, be discerning making sure your plant is free from blemishes and imperfections, signs that often indicate the plant is unhealthy.
Without enough light, orchids will not thrive. Not giving orchids adequate light is the most common problem we see for orchids that do not re-bloom. We recommend you give your orchid plants good southern or eastern exposure. While your orchid is still in full bloom, feel free to place it wherever you will enjoy it the most; however, when the orchid has bloomed out and the flowers begin to fall off, place the plant back in good southern or eastern sunlight. When plants have a lighter, somewhat yellow-greenish foliage, it is often an indicator the plant is not receiving enough light.
In their natural habitat, orchids are epiphytic plants, meaning they grow on trees with their roots exposed to air and moisture. Orchids’ roots, and eventually the entire plant, will die if they do not get proper air. The orchid potting medium we recommend is a coconut husk mixture to allow the plants’ roots to receive air and moisture at the proper levels and amounts. For growing temperatures, orchids are usually comfortable in conditions where you are comfortable, anywhere from a 60-80 degree range, depending on the species.
Without question, more orchids are killed by incorrect watering than by any other reason. Proper watering consists of two separate components; quantity and frequency. Orchids should be watered just as they dry out. There are several ways you can tell if your orchid needs water: 1) the surface of the potting mix will appear dry; 2) dry pots will feel lighter; 3) clay pots feel dry; 4) a wooden stake or skewer inserted into the potting mix will come out almost dry. If in doubt, a finger inserted into the potting mix is perhaps the best tool to determine the moisture content of the potting mix.
When orchids are watered, they should be watered generously. Allow the plant to get enough water so that the water begins to run through the holes at the base of the plant. Not only does this soak the potting medium but it also flushes salts that naturally accumulate.
Note: It is important that your orchid does not sit in still water as the excessive moisture often causes the roots to rot.
We recommend a balanced fertilizer to use once a month such as 20x20x20.
Also please come visit our new retail store at Warehouse Row. Map below
For more information about Warehouse Row CLICK HERE