In Praise of My Orchidist

You crossword puzzlers know the word for a man who’s excessively fond of his wife is uxorious, right? But what about me, a wife who really digs and is proud of her wonderful husband? Says Oxford dictionary: “the only candidate is the invented word maritorious, from the Latin word for a husband, maritus. But it’s extremely rare: the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary has only two examples, one from 1607 and one from 1978.”

Anyway, that’s me – all maritorious for my husband George, and wanting to boast about his latest accomplishment – getting elected as president of the San Francisco Orchid Society.  In honor of the new Prez, take a look at some of the fantastic orchids he’s been growing.

Epipactis orchid

Stream orchid (Epipactis gigantea) is a California native that George planted near our pond so it gets plenty of water. This is a close-up; I’m always amazed at how complicated the tiny half-inch flowers are.

Thunia orchidFrom tiny to, well, large! This Thunia began blooming a few weeks ago and it’s still going strong. The flowers are each about four inches long, and they dangle from a sturdy bamboo-like stalk that stands more than a foot high. Thunias are from the Himalayas, and they grow quickly.

Dracula orchid

And a stunning Dracula (meaning little dragon) orchid. Dracs like it cool, so they’re well-suited for the micro-climate of our shady front garden. This Dracula chimera is one of the largest Dracs; the top of the flower is a bit larger than an inch and the sepals hang down nearly five inches. George won an Award of Merit in 2011 for one of his Dracula orchids. Click here to read my blog post about it. 

Masdevallia caesia

This dramatic flower is a Masdevallia caesia that George dubbed “Mr Stinky” because, well, use your imagination. It’s pollinated by flies, and a smart little spider settled in this plant last year to catch some.

Want to see more of George’s orchids? Here are a few of my posts:

Euchile Citrina orchid. 

Cymbidiums in the Winter Garden.

Orchids in Autumn. 

George Cultivates Vanilla. 

Are you an orchid lover, or are you lucky enough to be married to one? What’s blooming in your garden right now?

 

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Orchids and All That Jazz: Pacific Orchid Exposition 2014

The Pacific Orchid Exposition, hosted by the San Francisco Orchid Society, is the largest orchid show in the United States. This year POE takes place at Fort Mason from February 20 to 23rd. Click here to see complete details and for directions.

Pacific Orchid Exposition

POE is an opportunity for orchid societies and vendors from all over the world to exhibit and sell wonderful plants and growing supplies, and for orchid and nature-lovers from beginners to experts to see and purchase an extraordinary array of orchids. Here’s George at the 2012 Diablo View Orchid Society display.

George at the DVOS orchid display at POE

Throughout the weekend there are several lectures and culturing demonstrations. Experts lead docent tours that are regularly scheduled during the show.

SFOS

SFOS Vice President Steve Beckendorf leads a docent tour

To make it all happen, the San Francisco Orchid Society (SFOS) depends on the gracious work of many volunteers.

DSC_3227b small

This year George is helping recruit and organize volunteers for the Plant Hotel and Security. The Plant Hotel is where we store purchased plants so attendees can walk through the exhibits. Security volunteers take tickets at the front doors, stamp hands of folks coming and going, and check on plants leaving the show to make sure they have been properly purchased. Security volunteers also roam about to make sure no plants are stolen.

POE Plant Hotel

Each shift is short, most last only two to three hours. So – what do you get for your time? Volunteers have unlimited entry to the Show from Friday through Sunday. Volunteers only have to pay for their own parking. If you’re interested in volunteering for Security please contact George at Elegans@aol.com; to volunteer for Plant hotel, email Mary Gerritsen at meg570@comcast.net

You can also sign up to volunteer through the POE website by clicking here.

George's Best in Show

This is George at the 2008 POE, when his Pleurothallis restrepioides ‘Dragonstone’ won “Best in show” and “Best in class”.

Hope to see you there!

An Orchid Day in the Garden

Lots of George’s orchids are blooming madly right now. Here are three of my favorite wonders in the garden. First up, Mormodes tuxtlensis x sib. The saturated yellow glows in the morning and evening sunlight and it has a pleasant light scent.

Mormodes tuxtlensis x sib

Just beginning to open, several spikes of the Spiranthe Cernua orchid, also known as Nodding ladies’ tresses. George won a trophy for Best Species Orchid Flower a few years ago for the parent of this plant.

Spiranthes orchid

And finally, another yellow treasure: Oncidium Gower Ransey. This orchid has multiple flowers along the spike, and as they gracefully bob in the air it’s obvious why it’s known as the Dancing Lady Orchid. For this photo I focused on a single bloom.

Oncidium Gower RanseyWhat’s blooming in your garden?

Orchid happiness

Orchid

The Pacific Orchid Exposition in San Francisco (at Fort Mason this weekend) is the largest orchid show in the United States.  George and I have gone nearly every year since he started growing orchids. He also volunteers and, most years, he displays his orchids with one of the several local groups of which he is a member. This year he’s the president of the Diablo View Orchid Society (DVOS), so he’s showing at their display, which he and a few other people from the group put together.  Here he is in front of the booth.

George at the DVOS display at POE

Check out the glorious orchid at the right, it’s a Pleurothallis restrepioides ‘Dragonstone’ – one of George’s orchids that grows best outside, at least in our climate. It usually lives on our front porch – which is sadly empty while the orchid is at the show. In 2008 it won a “Best in show” and “Best in class”.  It has since been through a hail storm and snail attack, but this year it still won a second place ribbon.

There were so many amazing things to photograph, and almost as many photographers. It thinned out later in the day and I managed to get some photos that I liked. Composition can be difficult at these shows because a lot of the displays have the flowers jammed in. I look for a plain background. Here’s one:

Orchi

I love ladyslipper orchids – they’re so ‘designerly’ with their lines and spots. This is one of my favorites.

Ladyslipper orchid

George loves to preach the gospel of orchids and and let people know how to take care of them. We met a couple who flew out from back East just to see the show. They used to live near the town in Massachusetts where George grew up!

George at DVOS display

This is another one of my favorite orchids of George’s, a Scaphosepalum antenniferum. I like it because it’s kind of strange. The photo is a closeup, it grows on a long stalk, and this part of the flower is less than 2 inches across. I wrote a blog post about it last August.

Orchid

One of the best displays at the Show was of pleurothallid orchids. I loved this one, another closeup – the widest part of the flower is less than half an inch.

Pleurothallid orchid

Finally, another ladyslipper that George grew:

Ladyslipper orchid

The show is open today, Saturday February 25th, from 9 to 6, and tomorrow from 10 to 5. If you missed the show, or live far away, look for a local orchid group – they often have shows or meetings where you can learn about growing these amazing flowers.

Big name, tiny flower

A wonderful new orchid just bloomed in George’s garden.

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Small  flowers, less than a half inch tall and wide, on a long stem, more than a foot high, and a long name: Scaphosepalum antenniferum. George is the first to admit that spelling is not one of his strong points, but he always gets these complicated orchid names right.  This is a closeup front view of one of the flowers.

And this is a side view.

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

Scaphosepalum antenniferum orchid

The name antenniferum is from the Latin antennifer, “antenna-bearing”, referring to the appearance of the tails.

It’s a species orchid that’s native to South America, found in the cloud forest where it’s always cool — which may be why it’s so happy in El Cerrito this summer, where we’re having much lower than normal temperatures!