There’s no signage outside his unassuming digs, but an urban rainforest’s worth of living treasures is tucked into Joe Ambriz’s Carpinteria greenhouses. Everything from orchids (he specializes in Laelia anceps and Cattleya) to air plants, as well as a tempting variety of succulents, flowering cacti, and caudiciforms lines the aisles of Ambriz Kingdom of Plants, many of which have been raised from seed by the man himself.
“I have a love that spreads across the whole plant world,” says Ambriz, showing off a tableful of exotic pot arrangements, some of which he’s been cultivating for almost a decade. “I try to do as much as I can from seed because a lot of the oddball, rare stuff isn’t easy to find in abundance, so by seed I’m able to create a whole bunch of rare plants.”
Ambriz got his start with orchids — a friend gifted him with a cymbidium, and when it died a year later, he was determined to learn how to keep it alive. That sent him into a deep dive into the world of horticulture: first as a hobbyist — at the time he was working as the percussion director for Santa Barbara High, his alma mater — and then working for 7 Day Nursery, with a small area for cultivation at Island View Nursery. When that property sold, his current spot became available, and he leaped at the opportunity for a kingdom of his own about five years ago.
Until the pandemic hit, Ambriz made the bulk of his sales exhibiting at orchid shows, including the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, which was shut down for the past two years. Since then, he’s pivoted his efforts toward retail sales, and that loss is a gain for local plant lovers. While there are certainly plenty of colorful orchids on hand, the oddball assortment of agaves, aloes, bromeliads, tillandsia, and multitudes more are all equally exciting.
4998 Foothill Rd., Carpinteria, open by appointment, (805) 570-5792.