Although the city of San Mateo seized upon the designation of the “Floral City” some few years ago, this title could well be extended to take in practically the whole county; the rich soil, dependable rains, and equable temperature causing a growth of semitropical verdure the year around. Wild flowers and orchids, palms and hardy apple trees-all seem to do equally well, some of the larger country estates being famous for the beauties of their gardens, while nearly all of the most modest bungalows are surrounded by beds of roses or covered with clinging vines.
San Mateo County in its entirety, from northern to southern boundary; and from bay to ocean, is one extensive flower garden. As proof of this claim it may be stated that the county supplies 75% of the cut-flowers used in San Francisco. Besides this, the peninsula florists and growers are making daily shipments of cut flowers, plants and seeds to all parts of the country-especially Oregon, Washington, and the middle western states.
The rarer specimens of the nurseries; which cover the largest area under glass this side of the Rockies, are in demand in the east and abroad. Particularly is this true of the orchids raised, valuable shipments of which have been made to the King of England .and the Queen of Holland.
It is estimated that the public nurseries, with their stock equipment, represent an investment of $1,000,000, with an area of thirty acres under glass. There are at least fifty large private nurseries on the various country estates, and the total sale from this business aggregates $750,000 a year.
This is shown to be a comparatively large amount when compared to the total output of nursery products in the State of California, which in 1909 were valued at $3,601,301. From these figures, San Mateo County is shown to produce about 20% of the state’s entire floral output.
San Mateo County’s floral industry is divided into three almost distinct growing districts, each adapted to its own particular variety of flowers, plants or seeds. In the northern section of the county, fanned by the cooling ocean breezes, are the violet gardens; in the central portion roses are the principal product; while in the warmer southern district, orchids, chrysanthemums, carnations and smilax are produced. An extensive seed industry is carried on in the southeastern portion of the county near the shores of San Francisco Bay and also on the coast side.
An inspection of the county’s floral productiveness shows large areas devoted to exclusive culture, as in the northern corner between Colma and South San Francisco where 450 acres of land are used solely in the cultivation of violets, grown chiefly by Italians, and sold to the San Francisco wholesalers. That part of the output not sold directly in San Francisco is packed in cracked ice, and sold to customers as far east as Missouri and Kansas. In the violet season from August 1, to June 1, one hundred dozen bunches come to San Francisco daily. The popular variety is the Prince of Wales.
At Millbrae, a few miles south of the violet belt, there is a nursery doing a good business in flowers and potted plants. Carnations, Chrysanthemums, American Beauty roses, and other cut flowers and nursery stock are sent to the San Francisco market from the extensive conservatories of the Hillsborough Nursery on the estate of Mrs. Malcolm D. Whitman, located a little over two miles further south.
From Burlingame, adjacent to Hillsborough, large daily shipments of roses are made to San Francisco, consisting of as many as 7,000 separate flowers. Many of them are reboxed and shipped to the north and middle west. These roses come from the firm which has its hothouses in this city. This concern has more than 300,000 square feet of flower beds under glass. Few people realize that in Burlingame is located the largest rose nursery in California. The roses handled include the American Beauty, pink, and white Killarneys, Richmond, Mrs. Aaron Ward, and the Mme. Cecil Brunner.
In San Mateo City there is located a dahlia farm which grows more varieties of dahlias than any other dahlia farm in the west-with one exception. About a thousand varieties are produced here. This concern was awarded the Grand Prix at the recent Panama Pacific Exposition.
South of San Mateo near Beresford is the establishment of the MacRorie-McLaren Company which located down the peninsula six years ago, and now has an extensive area of about eighteen acres under cultivation. One of the most important branches of this company’s business is orchids. In the recent Panama-Pacific Exposition their exhibit of these rare blooms was the largest of its kind and attracted much favorable comment.
The San Mateo County climate is thus shown to be most favorable to the cultivation of these rare and exotic blooms, in fact seven eighths of all the orchids used in San Francisco are raised here.
The chrysanthemum district in San Mateo County extends all the way from the city of San Mateo to the southern extremity of the county,. emphasizing the adaptability of the county’s soil and climate for these flowers. It is interesting to know that local growers have walked away with the prizes at all the chrysanthemum shows held in Central California.
At Atherton are the elaborate conservatories of Mr. Jos. B. Coryell, whose orchids are famed throughout the country. Here are a large number of hothouses, in charge of an expert nurseryman, containing about a hundred varieties of orchids yielding daily from 200 to 300 blooms for the market during the season.
The Lynch nursery at Menlo Park, ships out daily during the height of the season, more than two thousand chrysanthemums and an equal number of carnations. This concern has the distinction of growing more smilax than any other firm in the world.
Still further south on the Dumbarton Cut-off is located a seed farm where almost a thousand acres are devoted to the growing of seeds alone. This tract belongs to the Braslan Seed Company.
The Morse Seed Company, one of the largest in the world also has a flourishing seed farm on the coast side of the county.
Many of the blooms from these nurseries found their way to the floral booth in the county’s recent exhibit at the Panama Pacific Exposition. Here the continuous and unrivaled display of flowers attracted the attention of many visitors to. the California State Building where the exhibit was located.
Before ever a hothouse or garden was located in the county, the wild flowers adorned the mountain slopes and sheltered meadows. Wild mustard was especially in evidence, growing so high that it almost obscured the view of a man on horseback. The entire county is famous for its many varieties of wild flowers as well as for its cultured blooms; and enjoys the unchallenged reputation of growing more wild varieties than any other county in the state.
In one of the school competitions which were held every year until recently, a boy entered ninety-six varieties which he had picked in one section of the county near Hillsborough. These were classified by a representative from the botanical department of the University of California. Among the specimens he secured were several kinds of wild orchids.