The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park will be offering a visual and olfactory feast with the 15th edition of the Orchid Show this weekend.
Colorful, beautifully patterned and sweetly scented orchids of numerous species will be on display in the Visitors Centre, and hundreds of imported orchids will also be available for purchase between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
For those interested in learning more about these stunning plants, and even for those who simply like to marvel at the beauty of nature, the Orchid Show is an event not to be missed.
The annual show and fundraiser is hosted by the botanic park and the Cayman Islands Orchid Society, and proceeds go toward the continued development of the orchid boardwalk in the botanic park.
Admire and acquire
This year, Sticks & Stones will be staging an extravagant orchid display in the Visitors Centre, using wood and stone items from their store, including an antique, salvaged Balinese door to create a secret garden scene.
It will be an ideal chance for orchid novices to both admire and acquire: privately owned rare and beautiful species grown by local horticulturists and members of the Orchid Society will be showcased, and hundreds of orchids imported from Jamaica, Hawaii and the U.S. will also be on sale.
The variety of species on sale will range from more economical varieties priced at just $10 all the way up to rare, premium species.
“This year we have secured a small number of plants from Carter and Holmes Orchids, who are noted as one of the best providers of Cattleya type orchids,” said John Lawrus, general manager of the botanic park. “Many of the orchids that are supplied from Carter and Holmes are American Orchid Society winners and have not previously been available for purchase locally. These orchids represent a premium orchid that will delight all when in bloom.”
To help keep costs down, many orchids are sold bare root, which allows the buyer to choose their own pot or mounting.
An orchid education
The show also aims to be informative. Two educational demonstrations will take place each day at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., provided by local orchid enthusiasts to help share knowledge on how to maintain and grow orchids in our local environment.
For those who are unable to attend the talks, Lawrus offers some basic pointers for orchid novices on caring for their plants once they get home.
“Acclimatizing your orchid is very important” he said. “Ideally, the first few days should be gentle ones. Do not expose your orchid to direct sunlight, cold drafts or down vents, or get carried away with watering. This is counter-intuitive to most people, but it is usually better to let an orchid dry out. Most orchids like high humidity and regular moisture but have a very limited tolerance for constant exposure to water, which will kill most plants.”
Specific care and maintenance tips will vary according to the species, so be sure to ask at the time of purchase.
Choosing your bloom
When purchasing an orchid, be sure to choose a healthy plant. This doesn’t simply mean selecting the plant with the prettiest flowers. There are other factors to consider, Lawrus said.
“With potted orchids, it is always a good practice to gently grab the plant near the potting media and wiggle it a bit. If the roots are not fixed to the pot, you can gently inspect the roots of the plant looking for healthy, light green colouration when dry, and dark green when wet. Dead orchid roots are shrivelled and tan in color,” Lawrus explained.
“When looking at leaves, it is a bit harder to determine the state of health as there is so much variation. Some have thin, pencil-like leaves and others have fleshy, flat leaves. In general, you should look for leaves that are light green to dark green in color. Leaves should also be free from blemishes and soft spots, and the growing point should be intact.”
Common, but never dull
With more than 25,000 species recorded, orchids are the most common flowering plants on earth. They are found in almost all environments, apart from the very coldest tundras, and the driest of deserts. Orchids are particularly prolific in warm, humid environments like rainforests, and the Cayman Islands are home to 28 species of orchid – four of which are unique to the islands.
Some orchids are terrestrial with deep root systems below ground, while others are epiphytes, meaning their root systems are exposed above ground, and they often grow on other plants in the wild. These orchids cannot therefore be potted in soil.
Common certainly does not mean unremarkable: Orchid flowers are some of the most visually stunning blooms in nature. Because many orchids require one specific type of insect to pollinate them, their reproductive parts have evolved to resemble the insect they seek to attract – hence orchid species that look like bees, moths and more. Some even exhibit an uncanny resemblance to human faces.
Ranging in color from pure white to bright yellow, shocking pink, deep purple and more, with flowers up to three inches across, many of which are highly fragrant and intricately patterned, orchids are exotic and fascinating plants.
While collecting wild orchids is forbidden, cultivating orchids (which can survive both indoors and outdoors in a tropical climate) and creating one’s own hybrids can become an addictive and rewarding hobby.
As the Orchid Show is a fundraiser, regular admission rates to the botanic park will apply to all visitors – even those going only to buy, although all visitors are encouraged to enjoy a trip around the park as well as the orchids.
Admission to the park, which includes admission to the Orchid Show, is $8. Children 12 and younger can enter free with parent.