There is a new star sure to attract a fair bit of attention at Edmonton’s annual Orchid Fair, an ever-so-vibrant end-of-winter rite that brings together hobbyists and Joe public alike.
Making its first appearance at the Orchid Society of Alberta’s 34th annual show and sale on Feb. 19 to 21 is the breathtaking phragmipedium kovachii.
“It’s a mouthful. I know. Just shorten it to phrag. Everyone will know what you’re talking about,” laughs Lynne Copeland, the Orchid Society’s past president.
Phrag is generating a lot of buzz in the orchid world since it was first discovered in the Amazon Jungle of Peru in 2001. “It is the largest and most spectacular lady’s slipper in existence. It’s absolutely enormous — about seven inches. There’s nothing that’s even close.”
There was immediate pressure to start collecting it, however export was heavily controlled. “It’s only recently that a few growers have the first hybrids coming to bloom.”
Whether phrag will be on sale or just showing her finery is still under debate. Last year there were 800 plant entries from among 25,000 species. This year the society estimates there will be the same amount along with orchid artwork, photography, floral arrangements and free public workshops.
“Orchids are really the king of plants. They are the most evolved, the most beautiful. There’s no other plant that has their long flowering season and it’s easy to get addicted to them.”
Another fair highlight is a visit by EcuaGenera, a major vendor from Ecuador.
“It’s run by a family that learned to grow orchids from a local priest. They bought a large rainforest reserve and are now a major exporter of orchids. They use some of their funds to fund a school where they teach children horticulture.”
This year’s speaker series of one-hour workshops is keyed to gardeners eager to learn more about orchid growing basics. In fact, Copeland is giving a talk on Orchids 101 on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
And St. Albert’s own orchid grower Brian Grant, a show committee volunteer, would like to remind photographers the event is a great opportunity to shoot new and different varieties. “They can bring their tripods on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m.”
Public displays run Friday, Feb. 19 from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The fair is at MacEwan College South Campus, 7319 – 29 Ave. Admission is $8 at the door. Children under 12 are admitted free.
For more information visit www.orchidsalberta.com.