A family tradition started across the pond has blossomed into a generations-long passion spanning more than a century.
By Candice Graham | Photos by Rich Smith
Joan’s father John Lines and grandfather Oliver Lines, ca. 1959
From England to New England
While Lines Orchids has been a Signal Mountain staple since the 1940s, its history dates all the way back to the late 19th century. The story begins in Birmingham, England, in 1898 – the year Oliver Lines finished eighth grade. “That’s when he began working in the greenhouses of an English estate,” says current owner Joan McCandless, who is also Lines’s granddaughter.
As fortune would have it, young Oliver was charged with caring for the greenhouse orchids. He was a natural, and in the years following his reputation as a horticulturist grew. Then in 1911, he was offered a position growing orchids at the Wyndhurst Estate in Lenox, Massachusetts. There he started a family of his own and began passing on his knowledge to his son, John. “He taught my father all the tricks of the trade,” says Joan.
Putting Roots Down on Signal
In the 1940s, 26-year-old John Lines moved to Signal Mountain to begin working at another greenhouse called Rivermont Orchids. Meanwhile, Oliver had retired and was looking for a new venture. You can guess what happened next: the father-son team joined forces to start a business of their own. They opened a greenhouse on Signal Mountain, and Lines Orchids was born.
Joan says she grew up playing among the orchids in the family greenhouse, but didn’t begin working there until after college. Today, she runs Lines Orchids with her son Scott, who oversees the majority of the greenhouse work. Representing the fourth generation of family horticulturists, Scott tends to thousands of orchids on the property, making sure the conditions stay perfect for the flowers to flourish.
The Move to Warehouse Row
Wanting a convenient and accessible downtown retail shop in addition to the Signal Mountain greenhouse, Joan opened Lines Orchids in Warehouse Row in 2011. The store sells orchid plants and succulents grown at the greenhouse, as well as gifts and trinkets such as flower pots, books, picture frames, vases, and candles.
A calming, airy aesthetic makes the store not only a great place to find a gift, but a quiet respite in a busy downtown area. “Our inspiration was a European conservatory,” says Joan. Drenched in sunshine, the store’s white walls and eclectic gatherings highlight the stunning orchids that grace each shelf and surface.
As for Lines’ offerings, the Warehouse Row shop is open to customers six days a week. Orchids and succulents can also be purchased directly from the greenhouse on Signal Mountain. More recently, the family has begun growing vanilla planifolia, an orchid variety commonly grown for its vanilla pods. As the only orchid that produces an edible fruit, it’s the source of nearly all commercial vanilla. “We hope to begin selling our own vanilla soon,” Joan says.
Joan’s Expert Tips:
“Don’t baby them! People tend to overwater orchids, but they only need water once every two weeks. We pot ours in chopped-up coconut husks, which makes a barky mixture and retains moisture. Then we place them in good light, but not direct sun.”