Chuck had a lifetime career in horticulture, and co-founded Ades & Gish Nursery, which ships houseplants throughout the U.S. He helped dozens of exchange students from around the world to work as interns at San Diego nurseries, often hosting them in his home, and is an active member of local community groups and an avid square dancer. Chuck was also he first Horticulturist honored with a Gala at San Diego Botanic Gardens.
We asked Chuck to share some of his experiences with us, and he graciously has written the following account of his background in horticulture.
Nurseryman and community activist with a generous nature
Chuck Ades got his first experience with plants when he was about 6 years old. A person asked him if he knew that if he broke off a geranium branch and stuck it in the ground that it would grow. He was living in Covina, California at the time. The person dug up a little plot of ground to prepare for Chuck’s first adventure into growing plants. Chuck then broke off several stems from a geranium plant that was growing in the yard and unceremoniously stuck them into the freshly turned earth. However, like most 6 year old, he promptly forgot about it. A few months later, the person asked him if he had looked at the geraniums. He excitedly ran to the area and was amazed that they had not only rooted but were now twice as big as when he planted them. Little did he know that act would determine what he would be doing not only as an avocation but also had determined his lifetime vocation. During the course of growing up he was always planting vegetables and flowers, no matter how short a time they were going to live there. One time their house burned down so they temporally moved into a new motel which had had no landscaping done. He immediately began planting things about the motel.
At one time his family lived in Ashland Oregon in a home near the mountains with streams a forest and many wild flowers. That was when he developed an appreciation of wild flowers, an interest that remains with him today. Whenever the family was driving in a forested or country road he would make his parents stop the car so that he could see the flowers up close. Chuck was able to take this interest to the extreme a few years ago. He and wife Joan spent two weeks in South Africa with a noted South African botanist. They were able to see many plants in their natural habitat that we commonly grow in our gardens or in pots here. They saw pelargoniums and oleander growing in the mountains and mesembryanthemums, gazania and African daisies in the desert. They saw areas with so many Lithops growing on the ground that one couldn’t walk without stepping on them.
Chuck always assumed he would go to college, even though his parents weren't able to supply the finances. Fortunately, he was able to put himself through college by working at home during the summer and at college on the weekends. He majored in Floriculture (commercial growing of plants and cut flowers) and chose Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) because it offered the best floriculture program in the country at the time. He recently attended his 50th college graduation. However the fraternity he lived in and his major no longer exist at OSU.
He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army at graduation, and served two years in the Army. Upon release from the Army he began to pursue his profession. His first job was with a cut flower shipper in Oakland, Ca. He stayed there only a short time. He then went to work for Rod McLellan Company (Acres of Orchids) in South San Francisco. That was when he had his first experience with exchange students (working apprentices) from other countries. The company had long had a tradition of placing exchange students. At that time in his life, all of his close friends were exchange students or foreign emigrants. He would go to the local German club and sing German songs and eat their food. Another time he would go to the Scandinavian Club and learn about their traditions and foods. At various times he shared his apartment with Germans, Poles, and a descendant of the family from England that collected the first orchids from the wild to be grown in cultivation.
Chuck recently got e-mail from the Polish student that is now a professor at the University of Warsaw. They hadn’t had any contact for over45 years – he had seen the Ades & Gish nursery name on the Internet. One German student stayed here in the USA for 2-½ years. He and Chuck became almost like brothers. He later visited Chuck and his family in Encinitas. Chuck and Joan later were able to visit him and his family in Germany. Although he died a couple of years ago, his son still keeps contact with Chuck by way of the Internet and has visited Chuck and Joan at their home in Encinitas.
Chuck continued working at the Rod McLellan Company for twelve years and rose to Manager of two departments, the potted plant department (at 138,000 square feet) and the cut rose departments (at 400,000 square feet). However, he had always wanted to retire to a sub-tropical climate like Santa Barbara or San Diego. One day he decided, “why wait for retirement?,” so he looked for and found a job in Encinitas, working for Robert Hall-Encinitas Floral Company. After a little less than three years, he joined forces with Bill Gish. Bill was a new cut flower producer in Encinitas who had just bought a carnation greenhouse in Encinitas. He asked Chuck if he would be interested in leasing and managing the greenhouses of carnations. Chucks response was, “carnations are boring, but how about potted plants?” Thus, Ades and Gish Nurseries was born in 1974.
During the years Ades & Gish grew from 128,000 square feet to 780,000 square feet (about 17 acres of greenhouse) at one time. However, it is now in the process of downsizing to 300,000 square feet (about 7 acres of greenhouse) in San Marcos. Chuck has always been interested in the challenge and experience of growing the new and unusual in plant material. The plant-cutting brokers knew that if they visited him first with something new he would almost always make a sale. Unfortunately, the crop didn’t always work out, but Chuck was always willing to give them a try. In the San Diego area, he was one of the first commercial growers to grow ferns (other than Boston ferns) including stag horn ferns, as well as pineapple plants with edible fruit, hanging basket plants such as creeping Charlie, coleus and wandering Jews. In fact he brought to Encinitas the system of growing hanging basket plants hanging from strands of wire instead of on wooden benches. The company ships plants throughout the U.S., but heavily into Texas, the mid-west, and Illinois, as well as Arizona and Nevada. Their customers range from large chains like Home Depot to individual retail nurseries, and plant brokers to interiorscapers, and to theme parks such as Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo.
Returning to his earlier experiences with exchange students... He has been housing and employing them for several years now. He and his wife have had students living with them from Uzbekistan, Czeck Republic, Ukraine, Indonesia, Brazil, Switzerland, and Romania, Honduras and others. They have had parties at their garden that had 7 countries represented.
Chuck’s present focus of attention is the specialty begonias that previously were available only through friends and clubs. The nursery now grows many varieties of begonias. They are classified as Cane (sometimes called angle wing begonias), Rex (the brightly colored foliage begonias), Rhizomatous (interestingly marked and shaped leaves), Trailing/Scandant (climbing and hanging basket types) and others. He is active in the American Begonia Society nationally as well as locally.
Chuck has been married for 43 years to Joan. They have two children: Cheryl, who is an electrical engineer, and Darrell, who now owns and runs Ades & Gish Nurseries. Each of their children has two children of their own. Chuck’s hobbies are gardening (of course), Square dancing, Singing in choirs, traveling and genealogy.
Various accomplishments, positions and offices Chuck has held are:
Instrumental in establishing the Bromeliad Society in San Mateo County, CA
President and board member of San Diego County Flower and Plant Assoc.
Board member of S.D County Farm Bureau
State horticulture representative to Farm Bureau in Sacramento
Steering Committee of Southern California Plant Tour Days
Board member of Quail Botanical Gardens
Quail Botanical Gardens Gala first Honoree
Encinitas Traffic Commission
Initiator of the Encinitas Flower Celebration (tours of local greenhouses)
Honoree Encinitas City Council
President and manager, Ades & Gish Nurseries (28 years)
Active in the American Begonia Society
Encinitas Invasive Plant ad hoc committee member