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A good month for orchids. March 3, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are rank amateurs when it comes to growing orchids, but we love their ease of care, length of bloom, and overall longevity. (As long as you water them occasionally, we’ve found them to be almost indestructible, which, considering their initial price, is a very good thing. Of course, the better care you take of them, the better they’ll do. And we do have a greenhouse, and we tend to stick with the basics—cymbidiums, paphiopedilums, oncidiums, phalaenopsis, and the like—while avoiding the heat- and moisture-loving tropicals that are happiest outdoors year-round in places like Florida and Hawai’i.)

We also appreciate the mottled foliage of some of the orchids, since it continues to provide a good show once the months of bloom are over, so when we choose plants, we look for good foliage as well as good bloom. We’d recommend growing orchids to anyone who could give them enough light. (Two that do well in lower-light conditions are phalaenopsis and pahiopedilums, but with orchids, “lower light” means a very bright south-facing windowsill, not fern conditions.)

But even if you can’t grow your own orchids, you can enjoy them this month—a staggering display of them, in fact—if you live within driving distance of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA (http://www.longwoodgardens.org/). Concert-sized conservatories are filled with colorful cascades of every kind and color of orchid, dazzling the eyes and stimulating winter-deadened senses like nothing else we know of (at least, until spring bulbs begin their annual display in our yard).

We like to go to Longwood at the end of their Orchid Extravaganza (which runs from late January through March), when the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society (SEPOS) joins with Longwood to hold its own orchid show and sale, held this year the weekend of March 25-27. To quote the SEPOS site (http://sepos.org/):

“SEPOS International Orchid Show and Sale at Longwood Gardens: Our annual extravaganza! You’ll be in awe of the thousands of beautiful orchids displayed by individuals, societies and growers from several countries… You can also buy orchids of your own from 20 different growers based on two continents.” 

There are also lectures all three days; check the Longwood website for show hours and a lecture schedule. Tickets to Longwood, which include the extensive grounds, gardens and greenhouses as well as the orchid show, are $18 for adults; $15 62 and over; $8 students; free 4 and under; and 25% off for the military. You can buy tickets (and get directions) on the Longwood website or at the door.

What if you’d love to see an orchid spectacular but don’t live near scenic PA? Try Orchids on Broadway, the New York Botanic Garden’s massive orchid show, with more than 5,000 blooming orchid plants, held March 5-April 25 at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in New York City. Check out times and ticket prices at http://www.nybg.org/.

On the West Coast, Santa Barbara is hosting an International Orchid Show the weekend of March 11-13 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. (For details, see http://www.sborchidshow.com/.) You’ll have to wait ’til the end of April for Portland’s 2011 Oregon Orchid Show & Sale, April 30-May 1 (details at http://www.oregonorchidsociety.org/). Down South, looks like we’ve missed the Florida orchid shows, held in February, but there’s still time to make the Atlanta Orchid Show (March 11-13); see http://www.atlantaorchidsociety.org/ for details. We’re sure there are plenty of other orchid shows coming up in the U.S. and Canada, not to mention the World Orchid Conference (November 13-20), held this year in Singapore. To find a show near you, we suggest that you contact the American Orchid Society (AOS); their website is http://www.aos.org/

We do present this post with a warning, however: If you attend an orchid show, prepare to be hooked. You may not think you even like orchids (OFB is speaking from experience here). But once you see the staggering array of plant and bloom types, you may find yourself coming home with a plant or two and the beginning of a lifetime obsession. After all, except for poinsettias*, what other plants bloom for months on end? And unlike poinsettias, your orchids will keep blooming effortlessly, year after year.

* Yes, of course we realize that the colorful part of a poinsettia is really made of bracts, specialized leaves, not the tiny globular yellow blooms hiding inside the circle of bracts. But we hope you take our point anyway.

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