Orchid enthusiasts usually start simply–they go shopping at the discount store or grocery store and get enchanted by a huge rack of blooming Phalaenopsis. Because of the stress of life in a store environment and the potting media wholesalers use that makes orchids easy to ship and display but difficult keep alive in the home, the first few orchids a person takes home might be inadvertently killed before they get the watering just right or learn about repotting. Once the beautiful blooms have faded but our new grower has some success in keeping the plant alive and growing, the spell is cast and the search for more orchids begins.
At least that’s how it started for me and many orchid growers I know. At first I bought whatever I could find at the home improvement stores. These were quite often suffering root rot before I even took them home due to being stuffed in soggy sphagnum moss in tight undrained pots and watered haphazardly by store employees who didn’t know any better. Luckily, I didn’t keep track of how many I killed at first. I began to wonder if other kinds of orchids might be happier in my house. Then I saw dendrobiums advertised in the grocery store circular! By this time I realized it was a good idea to repot orchids right away and luckily I did–unpotting that first Dendrobium was like going on an archaeology expedition. It had never had old media removed but was simply “potted up” with new media thrown around the side, so I got to dig through 4 layers of different kinds of root-killing soggy mess.
Our local greenhouses had about the same selection of Phalaenopsis, but I kept looking. I’ll never forget spying “something different” in the orchid section at the garden center–I really wanted to take it home. It looked healthy enough but it was out of bloom, had no identification label and a $70 price tag. I had no idea what kind of orchid it was or what kind of care it needed, so I reluctantly walked away. (It’s still there, almost 18 months later. The price has come down some, but even after all the orchids I’ve seen and all the reading I’ve done I still can’t guess even what genera it is.)
I tried purchasing orchids online. Sometimes this worked ok, but many times the orchids were tiny and fragile–just barely out of the propagation flask and years away from blooming size. Others arrived with health issues that were impossible to detect when shopping because the seller didn’t show photos of the actual plant they sent me. At best, the good plants I got online were old enough for their first blooming.
But I kept trying to find a reliable way to get healthy orchids that would reward my attention with growth and blooms. And then I discovered the Sioux Falls Orchid Club Show & Sale. . .
Orchids of all kinds were huge, healthy and loaded with blooms. Different types of orchids than I had seen available anywhere in our area. Orchids so healthy they were growing right out of their pots with 6 to 10 blooming spikes–the size I had jealously watched sell online for well over $100. The selection was truly amazing. The club members were so friendly and helpful–they patiently answered my questions and helped me select. . .well . . .too many new orchids to discuss in polite company. Since then, I have walked out of each Sioux Falls Orchid Club sale with a box full of gorgeous beauties.
After my long saga of trying to find healthy, mature reasonably priced orchids I couldn’t believe my luck right here in Sioux Falls!
SPOILER ALERT: Some of the orchids at our shows are grown right here in South Dakota. Others are hand selected for us by club members who count among their friends some of the world’s finest orchid growers from Hawaii and Florida. If you think I am exaggerating about the quality of orchids we will have available, here is just a small sample of some selected during a recent buying trip for this fall’s sale: