My father, Joop “Joe” Overgaag, was born in 1943 and was raised in a family of 10 children in the Westland region of the Netherlands, an area famed for its hothouse vegetable growers. His father, Leo, was a hard-working grower with a reputation for always bringing the spring’s first tomatoes to the nearby vegetable auction. When Joe and his brother eventually took over the business, they switched to growing chrysanthemums.
In 1978, he and my mom, Lucia, immigrated to the United States with their four children. Once settled in Carpinteria, California, Joe decided to grow hybrid tea roses. He named his new company Westerlay, after the vegetable auction where his father brought those tomatoes.
Westerlay gained a reputation for lush, full-bloomed cut roses, offering more vibrant colors and a longer vase life. Over a quarter-century, our bouquets celebrated thousands of weddings, anniversaries, school dances, holidays, and other celebrations, and just as often graced simple dining tables with an elegant spray of color.
In 2003, there was a noticeable shift in the potted orchid market, which had been an expensive niche, limited to mostly hobbyists and collectors. New technology and advanced growing techniques were turning these exotic tropical blooms into an affordable luxury that nearly everyone could enjoy. My father and I saw an opportunity to refocus our company on a new product that would provide those points of inspiration in a different way.
After a massive transition, with some bumps and victories along the way, Westerlay Orchids has thrived, doubling in size. Today, we operate 21 acres of modern, efficient greenhouses with a staff of more than 80, producing over 2 million potted Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium orchids annually for florists, garden centers, and supermarkets in the western US and beyond.
Joe retired in 2009, proud to have become one of the preeminent orchid growers in the country by following the same principles of excellence he learned from his father in Holland. As the current President of our thriving family business, I remain dedicated to growing the very best floral products for Westerlay’s valued customers.
– Toine Overgaag