Orchids … exotic, beautiful, mesmerizing … and thriving in Salt Lake City. Although far removed from the tropics where they bloom in thousands of varieties, orchids are abundant here in the high desert of Utah.
Both the flowers and those who fancy them were at the recent spring showing of the Orchid Club of Utah held at Red Butte Gardens.
“Orchids are so varied no matter what your situation that there is one that will grow,” says club president Angie Schneider. There are few plants that have created such a devotion. During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, explorers risked their lives to find new varieties in malarial jungles.
What is it about orchids that create a fascination bordering on addiction?
“Orchids teach us patience,” says Shawn Quealy. “They can take forever to flower, grow or die. It’s a spiritual connection that sucks you in by creating rewards on different levels. It’s the shamanic idea of a power plant.”
Quealy is Utah’s only recognized judge for the American Orchid Society (AOS), a position that takes six years to get fully accredited. This degree of expertise is necessary because big money is at stake with orchid breeding. If a breeder’s orchid receives the highest of marks from the AOS, that plant can be sold for a tidy sum of six figures. “As long as there are addicts, there will be a market,” he says.
Bruce Hugo knows the power of orchids. He started off with one plant and now has over 120. “My wife still hasn’t kicked me out of the house yet,” he says. He has parlayed his orchid love with photography since the plants are natural show stoppers.
This beauty is apparent when visiting Orchid Dynasty at 365 West 900 South in Salt Lake. Owners Clint and Shelly Lewis have over 5,000 orchids at their business which caters both to customers and designing arrangements for special events. Clint says that the phalaenopsis variety is best for newcomers. It is the workhorse of the industry with showy, long-lasting flowers that can stay in a window and only need watering once a week.
Orchid Dynasty provides advice to plant lovers, but Clint suggests that the 50-year-old Utah club can be of great help since the best information comes from fellow growers. Perhaps one suggestion is that after a person gets their first orchid, they should always leave space for another.
The Utah Orchid Society can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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