For three generations and 120 years, Logee’s has been passionate about plants. What began in 1892 as one man’s dream in the sleepy town of Danielson, Connecticut, has grown and blossomed to become a world-famous source for fruiting, rare and tropical plants. In the process, the name Logee’s has become synonymous with the very best in horticulture.
The family business—now run by the founder’s grandson, Byron E. Martin, and his business partner Laurelynn G. Martin—specializes in tropical fruit-producing and flowering container plants for both indoor and outdoor gardens. The company’s original wooden-frame greenhouses still stand today next to a new state-of-the-art energy-efficient greenhouse. Today, Logee’s grows over 1,500 varieties of plants, of which over 100 are edible—including coffee, cacao, papaya, vanilla, black pepper, and 30 varieties of citrus.
Each year, thousands of people visit the Logee’s to buy plants and tour the greenhouses. Thousands more buy Logee’s plants from its colorful mailorder catalog and its website at www.logees.com. In 2012, Logee’s expects to sell over 150,000 potted plants, propagating over 98% of those plants. The business grows both new varieties and tried-and-true plants, some of which were first hybridized at the turn of the century.
Putting Down Roots
Logee’s Greenhouses was started by William D. Logee in 1892, when he took over an abandoned greenhouse in Danielson, Connecticut, about 75 miles from Boston. William D. Logee had previously worked in the floral industry in Boston to learn greenhouse horticulture. He put those skills to good use in his own florist business, growing and arranging cut flowers in his own greenhouse.
William D. Logee also had a passion for collecting rare and exotic plants. One of the first plants to be added to his collection was a Ponderosa Lemon tree, shipped in 1900 by train from Philadelphia and brought to the Logee’s greenhouse by horse and buggy. More than 100 years later, this lemon tree ( known as the “American Wonder Lemon” and barely contained by the old greenhouse building) is a tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors each year.
In another old greenhouse, the “Mother Orange Tree” towers overhead. Its branches produce 12 types of citrus including grapefruits, oranges and tangerines—the result of careful grafting onto the tree’s branches over the years.
“Grandfather” William D. Logee passed away in 1952. His children and grandchildren, however, continued his legacy, expanding and improving on the family business. William’s eldest son, Ernest Logee, started the Logee’s tradition of distributing tropical plants that can thrive and grow in containers, making the beauty of the tropics available for enjoyment by indoor gardeners everywhere. He had a special love for begonias, and at one point offered over 400 unique and beautiful varieties in his greenhouses, including his own begonia hybrid series called “Mother Goose.” Logee’s still periodically brings Ernest’s begonias back into production.
In a sudden, tragic accident, Ernest Logee died when he fell out of a tree that he was pruning. At the funeral, Ernest’s younger sister, Joy, met her future husband: Ernest Martin, a fellow horticulture enthusiast and member of the American Begonia Society. The couple inherited the family business as Logee’s Greenhouses’ second-generation owners. They continued to pursue begonia hybridization, and under their care, Logee’s became famous for begonias, herbs, geraniums and unique tropical plants suited to growing in containers.
The first Logee’s catalog was created at this time, when Joy’s plant collection became so extensive that she decided to index everything growing in the greenhouses. These first plant lists were later published in trade magazines, which started the Logee’s mail order business.
Joy and Ernest Martin had two sons, Geoffrey and Byron Martin. Geoffrey became a physicist and university professor, while Byron stayed in the family business of horticulture collection and propagation. He took over Logee’s Greenhouses in 1981 as the third-generation owner. As Logee’s became famous in the industry for supplying rare and exotic tropical container plants, the business grew and Byron built more greenhouses. Heating the greenhouses during the harsh Connecticut winters wasn’t easy, however, and more than once Byron had to come up with new ways to save energy and keep the plants warm, especially during the fuel crises in the 1970s.
Byron Martin married Laurelynn Glass Martin in the 1990s. Although no longer married today, the two share ownership of the family business and have co-authored the books, Logee’s Spectacular Container Plants and Growing Tasty Tropicals in Any Home, Anywhere.
In 2009, Logee’s Greenhouses was awarded over $500,000 in federal loans and grants to build their largest greenhouse yet: a state-of-the-art structure that utilizes the most recent designs and systems to maximize energy conservation.
Today, Logee’s Greenhouses continues to be a popular supplier of rare and beautiful tropical plants. Some best-sellers include the Miracle Berry Plant, featured on the Martha Stewart TV show, and the Dwarf Lady Finger banana plant, which can grow and produce tasty fruit while grown indoors in a pot.
Visitors may tour the six Logee’s public greenhouses, including the original greenhouse dating from the 19th century. These greenhouses become especially popular during the cold, grey Connecticut winters, when people from all over the region visit to soak in the warm, tropical atmosphere and breathe in the exotic fragrance of hundreds of varieties of fruits and flowers – and perhaps take some of the tropics home with them.
“Most tropical plants are easy to grow,” says Byron Martin. “The trick is to be attentive to the plant’s needs. They all want to grow and thrive.”