Best in Show: WNC Orchid Society showcases world-class blooms

The Western North Carolina Orchid Society’s 2014 Orchid Show is an American Orchid Society-sanctioned event, which means the judges will compare the standout orchids with all known orchids across the country. Photo courtesy of Western North Carolina Orchid Society
The Western North Carolina Orchid Society’s 2014 Orchid Show is an American Orchid Society-sanctioned event, which means the judges will compare the standout orchids with all known orchids across the country. Photo courtesy of Western North Carolina Orchid Society

Like a prized Pekingese waiting in the wings, glamorous orchids are being primped and groomed for the Western North Carolina Orchid Society’s 2014 Orchid Show, scheduled for Saturday, March 29, and Sunday, March 30, at the N.C. Arboretum.

The orchid society’s president and show chairman Graham Ramsey compares it to gearing up for the “Best in Show” award at a prestigious dog show. But instead of canines, the stars will be vibrant orchids that range in size from a tiny pea to a hefty grapefruit.

All of the show’s orchids will compete with one another, but when the judges see something that sparks their interest, the plant could be eligible for national competition. This is an American Orchid Society-sanctioned event, which means the judges will compare the standout orchids with all known orchids across the country. WNC Orchid Society members have won coveted ribbons in the past and hope to have similar success this year.

The annual event is more than a chance for accomplished horticulturalists to show off their blooms. “The public is going to be absolutely amazed when they walk in because the first thing they’ll see is thousands of blooming orchids,” says Ramsey. This year’s theme is Trails of Orchids, a nod to the sense of discovery that comes with wandering through rows of colorful blooms. Previous shows have brought in nearly 5,000 visitors, according to the society. Ramsey estimates that about half of the visitors come from WNC and the rest travel from throughout the Southeast and sometimes even farther.

Avid collectors and anyone interested in trying the hobby can pick up a wide array of orchids at the show’s accompanying sale. Nine vendors, including some world-class breeders, will be selling plants. Educators will be on hand to teach programs on topics like repotting and other techniques. The public can join WNC Orchid Society Vice President Marc Burchette for a guided walk through the show on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.

If you’ve seen one too many sad, bloomless orchids on office windowsills, don’t assume that you can’t grow orchids yourself. Ramsey notes that there are more than 40 species of native North Carolina orchids, some of which could be poking their heads out of your backyard right now. Orchids grow on every continent on Earth (except Antarctica), so if they can survive in central Africa or northern Russia, it’s possible for even a brown thumb to grow them here.

The WNC Orchid Society offers support and camaraderie for everyone from “beginner 101 windowsillers,” as Ramsey describes them, all the way up to expert propagators. Meetings harken back to grade school show-and-tell sessions with a mix of educational presentations and live orchids on display. The society welcomes anyone with a touch of curiosity or full-blown orchid obsession to join the group.

The Western North Carolina Orchid Society 2014 Orchid Show will be held Saturday, March 29, and Sunday, March 30 at the N. C. Arboretum. Free to attend; $12 Arboretum parking fee for nonmembers. www.wncos.org

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