Surprising nursery found down long gravel road

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who would ever think that deep in the forest of Brierfield you would find an aerospace engineer and a musician enthusiastically growing and cross–breeding orchids?

That is just what my husband and I found as we came to the end of a mile-long gravel lane leading through the woods to the ORCHIDbabies Nursery.

Earl and Phyllis Bailey welcomed us to their greenhouse and introduced us to the growing of orchids with a brief, interesting and sometimes humorous Orchids 101. The only orchid we had previously really known of was in a beautiful corsage pinned to the evening dress of a very lucky girl in the 50’s who was attending her senior class prom.

Bailey explained there are more than 30,000 species of orchids; more than of any other plant genera. In their greenhouse there are probably 30 of those species.

Orchids grown by the Baileys are mostly native to the tropics of South America and Asia. Earl Bailey showed us a variety of plants with blooms perhaps the size of a dime to those as large as a saucer. There was a range of gorgeous colors and with each an intriguing story of their growth and blooming pattern.

For example, some species bloom sequentially, adding a new bloom on the end of the stem each month. On one particular plant, there had already been 13 blooms indicating the plant had bloomed for more than a year.

ORCHIDbabies specializes in lady slippers. These are small orchids that are easy to grow in the house, like filtered light and come in many colors. All of these orchids are grown from seed and in the lab. It can take from two to six years for a plant to produce blooms, so patience is another virtue of these folks.

“We have bloomed many hybrids; named them for our children and grandchildren,” commented Bailey. Then with a smile, “And now we’re ready to name them for our dogs.”

On the nursery’s Web site there are pictures of some of these award–winning hybrids.

Prior to retirement and their move to Brierfield in 1992, Bailey taught in the engineering College of the University of Alabama, and Phyllis Bailey taught music at the Tuscaloosa Academy. Earl is the chief of the nursery and although Phyllis works with the orchids she is also the business manager, accountant and creator/maintainer of their up-to-date website:

Catherine Legg can be reached at