A passion for orchids
“This is not as impressive as I hoped but I thought you might like to see it,” said Don Miller as he put his orchid on the display table at the meeting of the North Okanagan Orchid Society.
Members did want to see the beautiful plant and the other orchids, from those with tiny blue flowers to eye-catching large pink and purples. The members bring their plants to the meetings to admire them, trade, sell and ask and answer questions. It’s a small tropical paradise on a cold winter night.
Miller, who is president of the society, which has about 30 members, knew he wanted to grow orchids from the first time he saw them in the wild in Trinidad years ago. He got around to it about eight years ago and now has dozens of plants.
“It’s fascinating. There is a huge variety of orchids. It’s one of the largest plant families in the world with some variety of orchid on every continent except Antarctica. There are wild orchids in this area but they are a protected species,” he said.
“Orchids are not as difficult to grow as people think. They are environmentally specific and if you can meet their needs, they are easy to grow. It is important not to overwater them. I don’t know how many people have told me they have had an orchid and killed it but you can grow them. We welcome people who are interested to come out to the meetings and find out more.”
Miller suggests the phaleonopsis as a good orchid to start with.
The Orchid Society meets once a month with member and guest speakers, and members like to attend orchid shows in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. The members come from all backgrounds and some have three or four plants in their homes, while others have greenhouses devoted to orchids.
“You start with one or two and the next thing you know, you’re up to 10 or 12 or 20 or more,” said Miller.
Jim Poole has been growing orchids since 1999 and has a large greenhouse.
“They’re so different that it turns into an addiction very fast. You see a different one and you just have to have it. It’s an addiction,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful hobby and a challenge to learn how to grow them. You give them what they have in nature and they are happy. They bloom at different times of the year so you can always have something in bloom.”
Poole said there are more than 30,000 species (naturally occurring) orchids with at least 150,000 hybrids, and people introducing more all the time.
Elsie Gerdes first heard about growing orchids when she lived in Prince George and started growing them in 1990.
“It intrigued me. I like the tiny ones best and I like ones I can take outside in the summer. What’s great about the club is that we can learn so much from each other and divide and trade plants,” she said.
The members gather around the display table to see all the orchids before the meeting starts.
“I like the variety and the colour. They’re just spectacular. You have to persevere a little bit but in some ways they need less care than other houseplants. You can match the plants to the conditions you have,” said Heidi Ritter.
Faithe Prodanuk is another club member who is fascinated with orchids.
“They’re just so rewarding and most of them bloom for a long time. It’s a challenge to see if you can get them to re-bloom and to get more flowers,” she said. “There are some very knowledgeable people here and good resources. If we don’t know something ourselves, we know people who will know.”
The North Okanagan Orchid Society welcomes new members, including people who have never grown orchids. Meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Vernon Community Arts Centre in Polson Park. For more information call Anne Miller at 250-545-5932.