Orchid Show thrills hundreds

Prize ribbons generate interest

More than 800 people paid admission to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park last Saturday and Sunday, when the site’s features were augmented by the annual Orchid Show hosted in conjunction with the Orchid Society.

Park general manager John Lawrus said that figure did not include attendance by society members or Friends of the Park at a preview. He said it did include busloads of tourists: “They came on Saturday and spent the day. What more can you ask?”

The sale of orchids, imported for the occasion, went well, he and nursery manager Tytia Habing agreed. Profits from sales will go toward the purchase of regional plants for the Orchid Boardwalk feature that opened last year.

The display inside the Visitors Centre evoked the boardwalk experience, with masses of plants in the centre of the floor and a walking path around it. Still more orchids filled an alcove, and there were blossoms at ground level, eye level and above viewers’ heads to give the feeling of seeing orchids in a natural habitat. Compliments were showered on the display-building team headed by Orchid Society member Anita Hartwell.

One unexpected sight was the presence of ribbons and certificates of merit attached to a few of the orchids on display. Judging has not been a feature of the show since before Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Longtime society member Kirkland Nixon said the decision to award ribbons was spontaneous. After the display was put up, he and other senior members agreed that there were eight orchids they considered worthy of consideration for special attention.

“We decided to do it just to show people the interest it could generate. We were doing this just for fun,” he said. “This is not to be construed as the kind of judging done by the America Orchid Society, which takes a scientific approach.”

Mr. Nixon said if the show were to be professionally judged, qualified people would have to be brought in. From his own experience in attending numerous shows over the years, he thought the Phalaenopsis exhibited by Eloise Seymour was well deserving of the first prize blue ribbon. “I would venture to say it would win a prize in just about any show,” he said, citing its colour and symmetry.

The second prize red ribbon went to Sue Gibb for her Dendrobium aggregatum with its profusion of very small orange flowers. Third prize white ribbon was awarded to Carla Reid for a Cattleya skinneri, now on the endangered species list but which Mrs. Reid has nurtured for the past 10 years.

Mr. Nixon said he could not conclude a conversation about the orchid show without mentioning Joyce Hylton and Andrew Guthrie. Miss Joyce, recently installed as a National Hero for her pioneer work as Cayman’s first probation and welfare officer, was the first president of the Orchid Society and driving force in organising early orchid shows, even holding them in her yard, then moving them to a hotel or church hall as Island-wide interest grew.

Mr. Guthrie was botanic park general manager and, fortuitously, a member of the Orchid Society after his arrival in Cayman in 1995. With his guidance, the annual orchid show moved to a permanent venue, the park’s Visitors Centre, in 1998.

Miss Joyce died in 2006 and Mr. Guthrie moved to London last year to work with Kew Gardens. In Mr. Nixon’s words, “Their legacy is with us.”