Orchids made easy

Local growers say there's no reason to be intimidated by these 'Timeless Treasures'
Phil Weiss, past president of the Rogue Valley Orchid Society, shows off the orchids in his Ashland greenhouse. Weiss will be among those displaying flowers at next weekend’s 48th annual Orchid Show and Sale at the Jackson County Expo.Julia Moore

Orchids hold timeless appeal, but they bloom in their own sweet time, regardless of growers' efforts and expectations.

"It just depends on the year, and you never know," says George Brown, treasurer of Rogue Valley Orchid Society and chairman of the society's annual show and sale.

If you go

What: Rogue Valley Orchid Society's 48th annual Orchid Show and Sale, featuring competitions, exhibitions, demonstrations and vendors; admission costs $4; free for children under 12.

When: From 12:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 21, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22; entries for judging must be submitted between 3 and 8 p.m. Friday, April 20.

Where: Padgham Pavilion, Jackson County Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

More information: See www.roguevalleyorchidsociety.org.

While orchid enthusiasts optimistically tend plants for show, the society expects entries will vary widely year to year, which keeps interest fresh. Subject to the caprice of late-spring sunlight and a monthlong window for putting on the annual event — this year, dubbed "Timeless Treasures" — experienced growers know they can't count on the readiness of certain specimens.

"You don't really know until a day or two before," says Phil Weiss, longtime grower and past society president. "The weather through the winter has something to do with it."

Harboring high hopes for a particularly robust Pholidota chinensis, which won the American Orchid Society's Certificate of Cultural Merit in 2008, Weiss witnessed the plant's myriad cascades of tiny, white flowers fade a week before the show. But the Ashland resident, who designed his hillside home around a 250-square-foot, second-story greenhouse, says he has plenty of unusual plants yet to blossom.

"I have a number of miniatures I'm going to be showing," says Weiss, honored as "best experienced grower" at last year's show.

Orchid admirers who attend the weekend event will see plenty of quintessential flowers: lady-slipper species, tropical types from the genus Cattleya and the so-called "moth orchids" native to Asia. Growers enter their best plants — in bloom — for judging by an AOS panel. Winners at last year's event included Jim and Eleanor Brady of Medford, Terri Budesa of Jacksonville, Bev Fuller of Phoenix, Phil Newman of Ashland, Gary Palmer of Medford and Beth Stathos of Eagle Point.

After earning ribbons, trophies and certificates for best orchids in the country, plants remain on display throughout the weekend. Last year, more than 200 plants were entered, says Brown, and about 500 people toured the show in the Jackson County Expo's Padgham Pavilion in Central Point.

"People come to see these things they think they can't grow, but they can," says Brown. "Some people make them more difficult than they really are."

Orchid growers insist on the plants' resilience. Most types need little more than reliable exposure to light — preferably in east-facing windows — 70-degree air and enough water to keep their potting medium moist without immersing their roots. Unlike plants that take nutrients from soil, orchids thrive in loose, fast-draining material: fir bark mixed with pearlite, shredded coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, clay pellets or even pure charcoal (not briquettes). Myriad house plants, says Weiss, are great company for orchids, which revel in the respiration from other types of foliage.

Trading with other growers is a common approach for obtaining new orchids. But the hobbyist community is shrinking locally as orchid aficionados age. So the society, comprising about 30 members, makes a point of encouraging younger people to join.

Inroads to orchid growing abound at the event, which boasts hundreds of plants for sale, a half-dozen vendors and free potting demonstrations at 1:30 p.m. each day. An exhibit of orchid-related artworks also is mounted for judging. There is no cost to enter competitions, with the exception of AOS certificates.

The orchid society meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Anna Maria Creekside in Medford. Annual dues cost $15 per member or $18 per couple.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.

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