I classify myself as a non-grower of orchids, because surely owning a gorgeous Phalaenopsis from the local grocer does not count as growing orchids? In my own defence I must say I have been an advocate of growing Phalaenopsis, as my grocer-shopping days of orchids (okay, and a good deal of trial and error, as well as some serious research) have taught me how to care for Phalaenopsis orchids the proper way (and yes, in such a way that they survive and flower again the next season). So I constantly tell people at my garden talks, hey, you should give orchids a chance, because they are not so difficult to grow after all.
So – to cut a long story short – I did not go to the much anticipated 21st World Orchid Conference in Sandton yesterday as an orchid groupie or plant nerd. I went there as a plant photographer, because I know that orchids are quite exquisite, especially displayed in their thousands by expert growers who know exactly how to coax the best flowers out of them!
What I discovered at the show surprised me. I learnt that South Africa has 450 indigenous orchids – wow, that many? I also got to know all the orchid societies in South Africa – I never knew we had so many! And some of them have been going for quite some time. What did not surprise me was the number of very tiny ground orchids and epiphytes we have – the smallest jewels of nature, and easily overlooked when you go for a hike. That is so typical of South Africa’s rich wild flower heritage.
The quality of the plants on display is just unbelievable – how on earth did those growers get all those different species and groups of orchids to flower just at the right time? I know that these plants do not flower all at once, because I can never just make one trip to a grower and hope to see them all flowering in order to photograph them. Many local growers were rewarded with well-deserved awards for their plants. I can just imagine those growers talking to their precious plants weeks before the show – please, darling, give daddy just one flower …
Another thing that I am wondering about, is the number of imported plants, and there was a special company with their own stand to handle the import nitty gritty, all the paper work and checks. I always thought importing or exporting plants is just about impossible. Someone, enlighten me! Because – how do you get permits in time for all those lovely orchids from other countries to be brought in on time, fresh as a daisy and ready to be sold at the show? Brownie points to the organisers for getting that right!
The imported plants on sale are just exquisite, and very different to what is available locally. BUT, having said that, I saw some pretty awesome and unusual stuff sold by local growers at the show – and I was very tempted to buy a bootload of plants! Unfortunately my camera equipment was more than a handful!
The conference started in 1954, and is held every three years. It is the second time that South Africa has the honour – it was held in 1981 in subtropical Durban. Just to see so many species and hybrids together is amazing, and you will be able to take many pictures for your albums.
Good news for experienced and novice growers – all the experts are there to answer your questions, AND you can buy lots of breath-taking plants (local as well as imported plants). Downstairs there are also displays of other plants, including cycads, as well as some beautiful sugar-craft work and stunning floral arrangements.