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Scent of spring wafts through St. Albert Orchid Fair

The Enjoy Centre hosts the Orchid Society of Alberta's 44th Orchid Fair, featuring floral displays, competitions, vendors, art and photography exhibits

The annual Orchid Fair at the Enjoy Centre always brings the first whiff of spring to St. Albert with its stunning diversity of exotic blooms and soft, embracing fragrances.  

Now celebrating its 44th anniversary, the Orchid Fair held March 22-24 is a provincial destination, attracting orchid growers, hobbyists, photographers, visual artists and vendors.  

It will feature thousands of easily identifiable patterned blooms, growers excited to share their knowledge, potting workshops, and plants for sale to anyone who wishes to start a collection or expand one. 

However, it’s the striking orchid displays designed by both professionals and hobbyists that feature the beauty and uniqueness of orchids. It’s the mesmerizing visual appeal that encourages visitors and photographers to bring a camera or smart device that will help capture those beautiful, fleeting moments. 

“Darrel Albert’s displays are always quite spectacular and elaborate display. Monica Dewitt manages to make her displays look naturalistic. The way she puts them together has an organic look. Tien Classen grows Vanda orchids which are a challenge to grow here because they grow in Florida. And Terry Letendre grows Bulbo phyllium orchids. They’re cool to look at, and kind of weird and wonderful,” said Jennifer Atkins, a St. Albert hobby grower. 

This year, 12 growers from Taiwan, Ecuador, California, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton will make the trek, selling orchids of every shape, size and colour from the rare to the truly unusual. None of the flowers sold at the fair’s marketplace are poached from the wild. 

“Greenhouses like Ecuagenera from Ecuador are family-owned. They receive special permission to get seed to start and artificially propagate.  Ecuagenera grows the orchids outdoors as close to the wild as possible. Some of the species they grow in home have been wiped out in nature,” said Atkins. 

Atkins is also an accredited American Orchid Society judge and is involved in the fair’s AOS judging competition for best orchids. 

The medical lab technologist first received an orchid four years ago after going through major life changes. Her passion spiked rapidly. Currently the green thumb’s personal collection stands at 400 orchids. 

She houses a large portion under four grow tents in her living room. Each grow tent is specially designed with shelves and LED lights. In addition, she’s built an eight-foot plant wall in her ensuite showcasing orchids and tropical plants. 

“What piqued my interest was how they grow in bark. The flowers are beautiful, exotic and different from foliage plants we have here. I’m an academic type and I like to envision how they grow in nature and how to mimic it,” she said 

Just buying an orchid and watering isn’t enough Atkins says. The plant’s health depends on repotting it often. 

“After a period of time, the bark degrades. As the bark degrades, it becomes acidic and will kill the roots. And when it degrades it composts and can cut off the air flow to the roots." 

She also encourages visitors to investigate the library table for how-to orchid books and periodicals or by checking out a photography exhibit as well as 10 art entries from St. Albert’s Paul Kane High School. 

The Orchid Fair will be held in the Moonflower Room at the Enjoy Centre, 101 Riel Dr. Free parking. Admission is $10. Children under 12 free.   

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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