During the early 1900’s, five acres were purchased by James A. Brown in Capitola, Ca. The land was acquired to grow and sell various crops. With his two sons, Mr. Brown cultivated the land, which at first had no water for irrigation, and expanded what he owned to over 100 acres.
Brown soon became interested in growing tuberous flower bulbs. He made a trip to Europe in 1920 and became acquainted with the methods of propagation in those countries where floriculture had been an art for over two centuries.
While in Europe, Brown purchased over 750,000 bulbs of various flower types for trial in Capitola. Tuberous begonias and calla lilies were amongst the bulbs purchased. He became the first tuberous begonia grower in the US, and by 1921 had widespread distribution.
In 1932 James died at the age of 49. His two sons, both in their 20’s, took on the arduous task of running a complex business built by their father. The eldest son, Allan, took charge of begonia hybridizing for the firm. The company soon developed the world’s largest begonia blossoms with new flower forms and colors. To this day the firm continues to hybridize for better plant and flower characteristics to improve the begonia strain.
Another crop the company had become known for in later years was the Callafornia Callas. GSBG had successfully grown callas since the 1930’s, mainly using selections from 4 species; a pink, white, yellow and gold colors. Typically callas were plagued with disease. Losses in the range 30 to 50% were not uncommon. GSBG breeding efforts and improved cultural practices developed through in house and university research were instituted to inhibit disease, increase flower production and reduce plant height, making it feasible to be profitable with the newly recognized ‘colored calla’ as a potted plant. Callafornia Callas were the first calla varieties bred specifically to be container grown.
In 1989 Golden State Bulb Growers moved its headquarters, including offices, greenhouses and warehouses from Capitola to Moss Landing, Ca. Colored calla lilies became the firm’s largest crop sold under the trade name Callafornia Callas, with about 200 acres in production. By 2007 about 1,000 acres of callas were farmed for bulb and cut flower production. There are now close to 50 varieties of Callafornia Callas. The company continues to grow tuberous begonias, known as AmeriHybrid Begonias along with other specialty bulb crops such as Aloha Lily Eucomis and Caribbean Jewels Scilla.
The company was the first and is now the last remaining grower of tuberous begonias in the US. Golden State Bulb Growers is known worldwide for its unsurpassed quality bulbs. The firm is now run by the fourth and fifth generations of the Brown Family.