Peaceful Bliss in Pacifica at Shelldance Orchid Garden
Have you ever been to a place, from the moment you step in, you feel a wave of peaceful, happy, positive energy? Very often, this kind of places makes for memorable encounters on trips, and recently we found just the place in Pacifica: Shelldance Orchid Gardens.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Shelldance Nursery (as it's otherwise called) is a tiny detour away from Pacific Coastal Highway 1. Once you drive up the inconspicuous winding road, the reward of a breathtaking view awaits you.
Something is special about this place. The lively colors of the buildings announce that you're now in the land of the exuberant and unyieldingly positive atmosphere of Northern California. This exact location has been the house of dreams since the 1950s, when horticulturist Herb Hager first set up camp here to grow orchids. Since the 1970s, the place has been in the caring hands of Nancy Davis and Michael Rothenberg. They continue the legacy of cultivating tropical plants in the green houses on a hill in Pacifica.
Shelldance Orchid Garden is open to public on weekends free of charge. Everyone is welcome to visit, to admire the flamboyant tropical plants, or just to hang out and soak up the peaceful good vibes among other gentle souls.
The subdued patina of the natural building materials and the layers of Spanish moss walls provide the perfect canvas for the vibrant plants and accent furnitures in the garden rooms. As you walk through the interconnecting green houses, you encounter some exotic creatures... moth orchids, bromeliads, carnivorous plants, and a handsome staghorn fern that is the peaceful, "vegan" version of a mounted deer head.
At every turn, you'll find an inviting chair asking you to stay awhile. Sit down, they say, time is the luxury we'd love to offer you.
There is a back-door entrance through the gilded looking-glass that transports you to this enchanting indoor forest.
Under the veils of Spanish moss, we find some tropical beauties proudly sticking out from the lush foliage beneath.
If you fall in love with a plant, you'd ask about the price, but many are not for sale. Depending on the quality and age of each plant, the value is different. For some rarer specimens, there are even waiting lists.
Orchids remind me of my childhood. My grandmother used to keep a small green house of orchids, not only for the pleasures of gardening, but also as her subjects of Chinese brush painting. She showed me how to grind down the ink sticks with water on stone slabs, how to hold the brushes vertically, and how in one breath materialize a stroke of a single leaf, an overarching stem, or a single petal on the absorbent paper.
I didn't have the patience to practice this art, but her love for orchids was passed down to me. A few years before she passed away, she attended my wedding where we had white moth orchids for floral arrangement in her honor. Grandma passed away a few months ago this year, but memories of her always come alive whenever I see orchids.
After walking among these untamed beauties, you may be tempted to take a few of them home. Nancy is known to coach guests to pick just the right flowers for their living spaces.
Some carnivorous plants for those with larger-than-life personalities, perhaps?
And maybe some succulents for people with tender hearts?
Remember, "You are succulent too".
There are handmade pots, vases, and wind chimes of lovely colors for sale in the store, they'd complement the flowers quite well I suppose.
Just when you think you've experienced everything Shelldance Orchid Garden has to offer, you'll find hidden in a back corner, the Art Gallery.
A room with suspended paper lanterns, chairs and cushions, strings of origami birds descending from the ceiling, art works from local artists... a tranquil, meditative space.
And the woman behind this peaceful, dreamy garden?
As you can probably imagine, Ms. Nancy Victoria Davis is serene and vibrant, very much like the place that grew out of her imagination.
We left Shelldance with eyes brightened and senses soothed. It was quite a moment of peaceful bliss on the mountain.
The orchids? Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
2000 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacifica, California
Looking for more Pacifica travel inspirations? Make sure you check out my Pacifica Pinterest board: