The fascinating flower
Orchid show this weekend at Enjoy Centre will wow everyone
By: Susan Jones
| Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am
For an explosion of colour that also promises to be a sensory delight for all, it’s going to be hard to beat the Orchid Society of Alberta’s annual show, which takes place this weekend at Hole’s Enjoy Centre.
For the $10 price of admission, visitors to the Orchid Fair will be able to see hundreds of species of orchids which breeders and vendors will display, including exotic species from Japan, Ecuador, Columbia, Florida and Taiwan as well as from across Canada. In addition, local members of the Orchid Society will have their own showiest blooms entered into the orchid show for judging.
“We have 500 orchids entered for judging. The judges are from the American Orchid Society, “ said Orchid Fair chairman Darrell Albert.
This is the 37th annual orchid fair for the Orchid Society of Alberta but it has grown considerably in size, and the move to the Enjoy Centre this year will accommodate that growth. In recent years the show took place in the Grant MacEwan University gymnasium.
“The Enjoy Centre is a quantum leap for us in terms of esthetics, especially because the entire roof is glass, but it also has shade cloth available. That will be better for those orchids that don’t like direct sunlight, ” Albert said.
Half the available space in the Enjoy Centre’s Moonflower Room will be dedicated for use by Orchid Society members. The remaining space will be allocated for international vendors and there will be thousands of plants to see, including some very rare ones, which originated in Japan.
This year the Orchid Society invited Terry Kowalczuk of Toronto to bring species from his rare Japanese orchid collection. Kowalczuk, owner of Flora Peculia, specializes in growing Fukiran neofinetia orchids.
“Some blossoms may be as small as a dime. Some have delicate, white flowers with long protrusions, as if the flowers are doing jumping jacks. Others may have massive blooms,” said Liz Lepper, of Bottom Line Productions, the firm that is helping to publicize the Orchid Society’s show.
Fukiran orchids have a long, romantic history, Lepper explained, that dates back to the 1600s to a Japanese shogun named Ienari Tokugawa.
“Fukiran is an orchid species native to Japan. It is steeped in a rich tradition of collecting, which started in Japan’s Edo era from 1603 to 1868. They were generally reserved for the extremely wealthy, and the shogunate in particular. Some of these orchids cost as much as a house,” Lepper said.
Lepper explained that members of the Japanese nobility would seek out mutated fukiran to present to the shogun as gifts.
“Appreciation of a fukiran was an interesting event. The shogun would have a gold or silver net covering the fukiran. To look at them, one would use the same procedure as looking at a samurai sword.”
Even today, these orchids are hard to come by and according to Kowalczuk’s website, www.florapeculia.ca, there can be a 10-year-long waiting list for most of the rare varieties. Perhaps for that reason, it’s unclear whether the rarest Japanese orchids will be on display this weekend, but Albert stressed at the very least, one or two local growers will have some of these exotic plants for the public to see.
“We are still hopeful that Flora Peculia will bring some plants. They are very high end – some range up to $2,500 or $3,000 – but there are also Japanese orchids in the more affordable range. I have one I paid $40 for and I’ll stick one out in my display,” Albert said.
Albert’s Japanese orchid isn’t presently in bloom, but for hobbyists who grow these strange plants, flowers aren’t everything.
“For some of these Japanese orchids, flowering is inconsequential. They are judged by the colour of their roots or the variegation of their leaves,” he said.
Japanese orchids may or may not be a rare sight this weekend at the fair, but there will be plenty of unusual varieties to see and to learn about.
Some will be as easy to grow as a windowsill violet, but others require special humidity and light conditions to make them thrive.
“In nature, some orchids live in a cloud forest and only thrive in a controlled environment. Before you try growing them, you should talk to the vendors because otherwise, you could take it home, and it might die in two days,” Albert said.
Beginners are welcomed, Albert said, and a number of hour-long free seminars are planned to take place both Saturday and Sunday starting at 11 a.m. and running through until 3 p.m. The seminars will be presented by acclaimed growers from Alberta and beyond, with topics ranging from the very basics of orchid growing to the intricate details involved in American Orchid Society judging.
The Orchid Fair takes place at Hole’s Enjoy Centre April 4, from noon to 8 p.m.; April 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 6, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a complete listing of vendors or for more information about the Orchid Society of Alberta, please visit www.orchidsalberta.com.