A Growing Business
Deer Park Resident Finds Her Niche Raising Beautiful Exotic Plants
Small Hill Orchids is Erin Nelson’s creation, passion and artistic expression. Businesses do not just spring into existence, so what is her story?
Erin was born in Spokane, and the Spokane area has always been her home. Time spent in Waverly, Marshal, Cheney and Deer Park has given her a warm feeling for our small towns and a great appreciation for the small town lifestyle. Armed with an Eastern Washington University degree in Fine Arts, she tackles all her efforts with flair. And it is this special drive and talent that has made her the proud owner of a successful small business that had very humble beginnings.
Lacking a silver spoon, Erin did housekeeping to earn her way through college. One day a client shoved an orchid at her and said, “Take it home or throw it away.” She took it home. The bug bit. In less than two years, her collection of orchids took over the window frames, the dressers, and the tables. Soon, a hundred plants covered every flat surface. How could this happen? Erin’s husband, Steve, an ocean going fisherman in Alaska, was gone for months at a time and was not home to say “NO!” When he returned and found his favorite recliner filled with the newest orchids, he screamed “STOP.”
Luckily, God smiled! Standing by his orchid draped chair watching TV one day, Steve saw a local news story about the owner of the Lucky Bamboo store in Spokane having to close her store because she was being deployed overseas. Later, Erin and Steve drove by the store just as the building owner was placing the FOR RENT sign in the window. An hour later, Erin had a home for her orchid collection. A week later, Steve had his favorite recliner back. A week after that, all 100 orchids and seven bonsai were gone! Erin had found her niche.
Erin’s orchid growing expertise is a boon to folks who buy orchids but are not told how to take care of them. They come seeking “Doctor Erin,” who nurses their plants back to health and teaches them how to care for them. With a little training, anyone can learn how to raise these exotic and beautiful plants.
Erin also sells a wide range of supplies for do-it-yourselfers in addition to her bonsai trees and orchids. She has many types of easy to raise and care for orchids, which may not be available elsewhere in our area. Three years ago, she and her husband started tomato seeds in Styrofoam cups and eventually sold the tall, gangly plants in a flash for $1 each. Now, they have a tried and true heirloom collection of 15 tomato varieties and 10 pepper cultivars. I bought a hot pepper plant last year, and boy was it spicy hot! Peppers and tomatoes potted in a half gallon, 6-inch container sell for $3.25 each. They also have hanging tomato baskets for $10. Erin’s tomato and pepper catalog is available by e-mail at email@example.com .
Erin also provides succulents and xeriscape plants for landscaping in half-gallon containers. These are locally acclimated, drought tolerant plants such as dianthus, ornamental grass, sedum, potentilla and forsythia. She even has some hardy bamboo.
Terrariums are the newest addition. She sells both the materials to make your own terrarium, as well as finished projects. The neatest feature of these miniature tropical wonderlands is the growing Dart Frog collection. Indigenous people still use poison from the skin of these beautifully colored South American amphibians on the tip of blow gun darts for hunting animals. The high toxicity of these frogs stems from their diet of fire ants. In captivity, the more benign diet of local bugs means these guys are beautiful, but not toxic!
Erin shares her knowledge through classes on how to grow and care for orchids, African Violets, and bonsai trees, as well as how to make your own terrarium. Just want to watch? Classes are free and observers are always welcome. Want to actually do something? Participants only pay for the materials. Except for terrariums, classes typically have a materials cost of $12 to $15. Can’t beat that!
I have known Erin and her husband Steve for five years. They are great people and I am happy to have them as neighbors in Deer Park. If you like supporting local business and getting a good deal on orchids, bonsai, tomatoes, peppers, terrarium dart frogs, and even a little bit of lucky bamboo, check out Small Hill Orchids. You will be amazed at all the wonderful things you will find.