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The white monolithic exterior of the Zuma Canyon Orchids greenhouse doesn’t prepare you for the shock of color when you enter.
Rows of redwood shelves hold a rainbow of colors--including a veritable jungle of white phalaenopsis, which make up more than half the nursery’s sales.
This huge arrangement of white phalaenopsis costs $400 and is planted in a deep-sea clamshell supplied by the client. It will greet guests in a Malibu entryway.
The orchid that Zuma Canyon Orchids owner George Vazquez’s father created in honor of his friend, the writer Joan Didion. On the table is a copy of The White Album, in which Didion describes the happy hours she spent at this family's Malibu nursery.
A later generation of orchid hybrid was named after Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo. Neither variety is available for purchase; instead they are part of the nursery’s breeding stock used to create future prize-winning specimens.
Back in 1976, Swinging Sixties chronicler Joan Didion found a calm spot in Malibu to soothe her frazzled nerves. Decades later, you can visit the same hidden locale--Zuma Canyon Orchids--to bring home a bit of Didion’s floral inspiration.
“Aqueous filtered light, the softest tropical air, the most silent clouds of flowers” was how Didion put it in her classic essay collection The White Album. That’s still the vibe today, thanks to George Vazquez, the second-generation grower who remembers the writer from her teens, when she’d babysit him.
While planning for an upcoming Santa Barbara show next month, Vazquez led us through 11,000 square feet of the elaborate white phalaenopsis prized in Beverly Hills mansions, the multicolored dendrobiums beloved by the Japanese and the odd cattleya.
Unlike big-box-store orchids, Zuma Canyon’s flowers (from $20) are elegantly staked (thanks to tips Vazquez learned in Tokyo), come in showstopping hues (including citrine or fuchsia)--and can even be potted in any of your own containers.
Maybe it was the oxygenated air, the diffuse light or the leafy silence, but after an hour at Zuma Canyon, we felt so happy, we understood why Didion immortalized this corner of California.
Zuma Canyon Orchids, 5949 Bonsall Dr., Malibu; 310-457-9771 or zumacanyonorchids.com
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