Like any other living thing, orchid plants have to be well treated to grow well.
If they are neglected they may survive but they will never thrive. The basic requirements
can be summarized under the headings of temperature, humidity, light, water and feeding
- for optimum growth each of these factors must be within a range suitable for the
particular plant, usually similar to those conditions in the location where the original
plant grew as a native. In addition to these basic factors plants have other more
subtle needs - air movement, rate of temperature change, purity of water, colour
of the light and so on which all affect the plant's quality and rate of growth. And
of course it is essential to minimize any effects from insects or diseases and treat
them promptly and effectively.
To grow an orchid into a specimen plant such as you see on many of the displays at
our Show takes many years, and to get the best out of a plant the proper growing
conditions must be maintained continuously over the whole time. Good growers have
a natural rapport with their plants (sometimes called a "green thumb") and know almost
instinctively when they need water or fertilizer, when they have the right amount
of light or when they are a little sickly so they can take action quickly before
the plant suffers.
SOME PLANTS COULD NEVER WIN A PRIZE
Not all plants are equal - in many cases their genetic makeup is such that they would
never win any prizes no matter how well they were grown. An important part of growing
prize-winning plants is learning to recognize those qualities which separate a good
plant from a less good one. In a poorer plant the shape or the colouring of the flowers
may not be outstanding, and even the most expert culture cannot change these factors.
TIMING OF FLOWERING TO SUIT THE SHOW
Only plants in flower can be judged, and the flowers should be fully open but not
yet starting to fade, so the timing of flowering can be quite critical. Orchid plants
flower in response to environmental stimuli (usually changes in water, light or temperature),
but the flower spike may take many weeks or months to develop and open fully. It
is sometimes possible to encourage the plant to flower at the exact time of an upcoming
show, but this obviously requires an in-depth knowledge of the particular plant's
habits and wants, as well as a degree of luck. Some orchid plants have flowers which
remain open for many weeks or months, but for those plants which only open for a
few days, luck plays a big part in the success or otherwise of the timing.
CREATIVE, ARTISTIC THEME FOR EXHIBIT
A successful exhibit requires more than just excellent plants with high quality flowers.
An overall theme is needed to allow the creation of an integrated appearance. This
may represent a natural setting such as a portion of forest floor with perhaps a
waterfall or pond, a more formal arrangement such as a table with place setting,
or an artistic concept such as a "menu" based on orchids. The arrangement of the
plants within the display, the choice of supporting materials, and even the selection
of plants with coordinating colours all play an important part in producing an eye-catching
and pleasing overall effect.
PREPARE PLANTS FOR SHOWING
Most plants have some natural "defects" such as possibly dead leaves, discoloured
foliage or old flower spikes, and there may also be other cosmetic defects such as
weeds growing in the medium or a cracked pot. Successful exhibitors clean up this
kind of defect before the show, and ensure their plants are looking their best. They
also make sure the flower spikes are properly supported if necessary using a suitable
stake, one which blends artistically with the plant and the rest of the display.
Even the labels used to identify the plant are important - a well-written discreet
label improves the appearance of the display, and all labels in a display should
match in style.
SUPPORTING MATERIALS FOR THE EXHIBIT
Depending on the theme of the display, different types of supporting materials can
be used but in general the objective is to display the flowers to their best advantage
while covering the less desirable parts of the plant such as the roots, medium or
pot. For a natural setting, moss is normally added around the plants after they have
been arranged, possibly combined with some other natural materials such as driftwood,
ferns or ivy. For a more formal setting, a sheet of cloth is often used to hide the
pots while giving a "finished" look to the display. However there is no "formula
for success" and some displays are very creative - it is up to the imagination of
ATTENTION TO DETAILS
After the display is set up, the successful exhibitors will take a final check to
see that all the details are right. No stray piece of moss on the clean black cloth
background, no leaf out of place, no flowers accidentally hidden by foliage. All
labels are correctly in place, right way up and facing the front. No pots are accidentally
showing through the moss. The lights are shining in the best place, and are not so
close that the plants could be burned. After setting up and from time to time during
the show, mist the plants lightly with water to stop the flowers from fading and
keep them fresh looking.
As in most endeavours, luck is always a factor in a successful exhibit. Perhaps a
mouse gets into your growing area and treats your flowers as a salad bar, or a plant
falls over while you are setting up the display and breaks off the spike. Or on the
positive side, perhaps a plant whose flowers only open for a day or two just happens
to bloom at the exact time of the show. But good growers use their skills to minimize
the effects of luck, and it is not by chance that the same experts win awards year