To get to the very top parcels of land in Rainbow owned by Ismael “Mel” Resendiz, you have to drive up a long, narrow road, much of it paved, some — oy — not, with more hairpin curves than the Grand Corniche above Monte Carlo. If Resendiz, who owns Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers and makes this drive up and down the mountain multiple times in the course of a day, is taking you up in his pickup truck, you’ll do it at a brisk speed that will swipe your breath away. Unconsciously, you’ll be clenching the seat and armrest while averting your eyes from the steep drop just below your window.
But it’s worth it. From that height not only are you surrounded by glorious bushes of Aurea Protea filled with giant swollen buds on rose-colored stems just starting to open, but on a clear day you can see across valleys and just make out some of his additional plots of land. Altogether, Resendiz owns 14 in Rainbow, totaling approximately 180 acres, and leases another three. About half are fully planted right now with exotic protea bushes and other plants grown to accompany them in bouquets and wreaths.
Resendiz has turned an unusual, obscure flower into a high-profile, high-demand designer product that is even in Rose Parade floats. Both he and his flowers have a fascinating story I was able to tap into for The San Diego Union-Tribune.