Stories like Gary’s are what our Neighbor of the Week is all about. Before the holidays hit, we wandered away from our post at the MARC House Christmas tree sale, and stumbled upon Gary Gethen. He was stationed unsuspectingly inside the store, ringing up wreaths and poinsettias. The Lighted Boat Parade was underway, city employees were partying at the Westin, and Ed Swift was hosting his holiday party for his employees. The Key West Weekly started adhering price tags to the bottom of plant saucers since sales had slowed, and received the glimpse into how Gary got here, and how he assumed the name of “The Cadi Gardener.” A man with such extraordinary talents, he was just featured on Better Homes and Gardens! With cupid drawing back his bow, ready for a score this Sunday, we thought, why not feature the flower which makes most women swoon, and introduce you to the man who knows how to care for the beautiful species.
“I started gardening 15 years ago in my Cadillac, so when I applied for a business license with the county and the city my name had already been given to me.”
A Wisconsin lad and sheep farmer, Gary Gethen now answers to “the bug man, “the plant man,” and “the orchid man.”
“I work seven days a week,” he says without a hint of tiredness. “I garden and since I’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge in horticulture I have the experience of sharing it with others.”
Client seeking some guidance as they grow their own green thumb either wander in the MARC plant store or wander onto his property. Gary’s home is home, to 1,000 orchids!
“Growing them in Wisconsin is definitely more of a challenge,” he states the obvious “because you have to have greenhouses and create humidity there. The winters are so dry.”
According to “the orchid man,” there are over 25,000 species which have spawned in the wild. Those you see in a pot are man messing with nature. They’re happiest and will thrive tied to a slab of cork in the shade with water twice a week and a “little fertilizer” once in awhile.
“Each location has different growing conditions depending on shade, wind, sun. Believe me, it makes a big difference,” Gary is convincing.
Married “Key West Style” to his partner of 32 years, Bill Hazelton, Gethen’s only regret is he didn’t trade in the Wisconsin tundra years ago for the Florida tropics.
“You know, we were here on one of our many vacations and I said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice…’ one day over breakfast and we just decided to do it!”
The Cadi Gardner can be reached at the MARC House plant store… He was just featured on Homes and Gardens TV (HGTV) the Outdoor Rooms series!
Gary Gethen, otherwise known as “the orchid man,” stands amidst the array of orchids for sale at the MARC House on Key West’s Seminary Street. When roses just aren’t right, you can find the nation’s Orchid man right on our island!
Gary Gethen with volunteer Bobby Schrom at the MARC House. When you’re trying to find foliage for your friends and loved ones this Valentine’s Day, Gary knows just the right one to choose and can instruct proper care.