At Orchid Society’s show, it’s not real complicated — just real pretty

I’m still in the pre-beginner phase of my orchid education, but at the Tampa Bay Orchid Society’s annual show on Sunday, I learned you don’t have to know a whole lot to fall in love.

If 6-year-old Romina McKernan is brave enough to take on a Phalaenopsis well, darn it, so am I!

6-year-old girl holding phalaenopsis at Tampa Bay Orchid Society 2012 annual sow

Romina was among the many flower fans who turned out last weekend for the orchid society’s big annual three-day show and sale at the Egypt Shrine Center in Tampa. For the record, this beautiful young gardener readily admits she hasn’t yet mastered everything — but she’s willing to try, try again. (A good lesson for the rest of us.)

“My Grandma bought me some plants, but they died,” she told me. “I forgot to water them.”

The show was judged by official American Orchid Society officials who have very strict criteria. Basically, if you get one of their certificates, you can put your plant out to stud. Individuals, vendors and orchid clubs also competed for ribbons from the orchid society. The Tampa Orchid Club kicked butt. Its display of members’ orchids had as many colorful ribbons as blooms. AND it took the American Orchid Society’s Award for Most Outstanding Exhibit.

Tampa Orchid Club's award-winning display at Tampa Orchid Society's annual show 2012. Blue and red ribbons flutter among yellow, red, purple orchids

Disappointed (I’m betting) was Paul Phelps of Phelps Farm Orchids in Odessa. He has snagged the coveted Most Outstanding trophy the past four consecutive years, and really busted a root this year with a display featuring Mr. and Mrs. Terra Cotta Pot. (Can you spot the Mister?) I’d give this a People’s Choice Award, Paul! Too bad that wasn’t an option.

orchid display at tampa bay orchid society show, man made of terra cotta pots, surrounded by dendrobiums, cattleyas and other orchids in bloom

Eileen Hector, the society’s director of communications (as I’ve dubbed her because she communicates a lot with me!) stayed really busy helping check in shoppers and signing them up for lots of free raffles.

smiling woman checking in visitors to orchid society show But she was kind enough to take a break and give me a personal walking tour of the show, during which she very patiently allowed me to test my fledgling orchid knowledge. (“That’s a VANDA!”) We ran into her mother-in-law, Urpiana Hector, (below) who entered her pink Phalaenopsis Schilleriana (behind her to the right) in the individuals competition. (For the record, you don’t have to be a club member or even pay a dime to enter your orchid in this show. And imagine the bragging rights if you won anything!)

gardener with white hair near her pink phalaenopsis entry in the tampa bay orchid society annual show

We also ran into dentist Howell Morrison, president of the orchid society and husband of Donna Morrison, orchid painter extraordinaire. (He is SO proud of her, and rightfully so — her watercolors are gorgeous. It’s always nice to hear a hub extoll the wonders of his wonderful wife!) He was manning a booth featuring her paintings for sale. He’d also done some shopping; all those plants are to-go.

lowell howell, president of the tampa bay orchid society, with orchid paintings by artist wife donna and assorted orchids he purchased. patricia phelps cattleya hybrid

Among my favorite orchid varieties are the lady’s slippers, which have way too many Latin names and families for me to even try to get technical. When I was a little girl growing up in Vermont, finding a lady’s slipper in the woods was an exciting treat. Ours were delicate lavender blooms with big, fat lips, and we were taught never to pick them (which made me soooo want to!)  Even then, they were threatened species. Eileen showed me the difference between lady’s slippers from different parts of the world. (She also kindly advised me to stay far, far away from the cash register — apparently they’re hard to grow. And she knows me!)

slipper orchid, bright green petal with stripes, big pink lower lip

If you’re into orchids, or think you could be with some friendly guidance, this is a great club to hook up with. They meet at 6:30 p.m. the third Thursday of every month at the Tampa Garden Club, 2629 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa. Look for Eileen. She’ll make you feel welcome and not like an orchid dummy — even if you are.







  1. E M Hector says:

    Thanks so much for coming out to our show! Hope you enjoyed the personal tour. I believe all of our vendors were happy that they sold most of their beautiful orchids. The show represents a lot of hard work by a core group of people, but one member summed it up nicely at the close of the show by saying it is truly a labor of love. AND we all love our life filled with beautiful things. I’ll gladly help you find a place for your first orchid and help you nurture it to bloom once again. When that happens, you will be addicted.

    • I enjoyed the heck out of it, Eileen — especially the tour and meeting a lot of very nice people. Those shows ARE a lot of work, but it must be so gratifying to see how much the public enjoys them. You had a lot of happy shoppers, which is essentially a big round of applause. I’m taking you up on your offer, young lady! I’m overdue for a new addiction. :)

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