In many ways, Brunham Farm Greenhouse is exactly what you’d expect. It has annuals. It has perennials. It has vegetables. And, sure, you can even find some friendly advice.
But Brunham Farm Greenhouse offers something not found at any other Creston Valley greenhouse — a bird’s-eye view of the valley.
“It’s the greenhouse with a view,” said Isabel Brunham, who started the greenhouse more than 30 years ago with her husband, Albert.
Now in its 33rd season, the greenhouse is a busy place, bustling with customers during the few months each year that Brunham sells to the public. A large part of its popularity, she said, stems from the selection she offers, which is generally comprised of her favourites.
“I grow what I like, and I try to grow as much variety as possible,” she said. “To me, it doesn’t seem different because I’ve always grown them.”
The variety can sometimes be ahead of the curve, with some plants going unnoticed for years.
“Then I’d stop growing it, and it would become all the rage,” she said.
Brunham, who grew up in Calgary, met her husband, a second-generation Crestonite, in Vancouver, and in 1975 the couple moved to Erickson, where they purchased 7.5 acres. A few years later, they sold 1.8 acres to the Regional District of Central Kootenay for the proposed Arrow Mountain bypass.
“The sale of the land provided the capital to build the greenhouse,” said Brunham.
Their first greenhouse was a small pit dug in 1979, followed by a full-sized greenhouse in 1982. Their initial goal was to grow for themselves, but that soon changed.
“We just had excess peppers, and Sunset Seed needed peppers,” Brunham said. “This was not our business plan. We wanted to be self-sufficient. We came back to live off the land.”
They soon started selling wholesale to other Creston Valley businesses, which piqued the curiosity of local gardeners.
“ ‘If you’re supplying plants here, what are you not supplying?’ If you don’t have it in their face, they think you’re hiding something,” Brunham said with a chuckle.
That led to the couple to expand their business, and they began selling retail in 1991.
“People kept coming,” Brunham said. “We weren’t set up for retail.”
The property now boasts three greenhouses and one coldframe (the original pit greenhouse is now Albert’s workshop). The greenhouses are warmed with natural gas heat — far less work than the 10 cords of wood that the couple went through each year.
Although customers only see the business in operation in the late spring and early summer, Brunham keeps busy year-round — taking cuttings from some plants in the fall, and turning on grow lights in January and planting seeds in time for spring sales.
“The best part for me is propagating,” she said. “I like seeing things start out.”
She’s found in recent years that more people are turning to gardening, either as a hobby or a means of sustaining themselves, thanks to the popularity of the 100 Mile Diet.
“There was a lull where people weren’t into gardening,” she said.
But that lull is long gone, as beginners and longtime gardeners discover what Brunham already knows about the valley her home and business look over.
“That’s the blessing of this valley: things will grow,” she said.