Guest Author - Susan Taylor
One of the best places to learn more about orchids is to visit your local orchid society. Not only is this a great source of information on orchids, but the members are experts on local conditions and what does well in your area. Most societies welcome guests. To find a local society check the American Orchid Society site. The meeting times, contact information and location of the societies is listed. If the society has a web page, then that too is indicated.
Our society has monthly meetings with a speaker on a specific subject with a question and answer period afterwards. These speakers are very often experts in their field. An auction and raffle of plants provided by members is held each month—these are plants that have been growing in your area already. They are usually affordable and there is no shipping or handling. You can talk to the person who had been g rowing the plant to find out exactly what kind of growing conditions worked, when the plant flowers, etc.
We also have a display of flowering orchids each month. Each plant is reviewed and described for the audience with a commentary on whether it is usual for our area. This is done by one of the members who is a judge if there is one available. The plant is described by name, a history of the genus is given, and the particular plant as well as its cultural requirements are reviewed. I find this of particular interest—both to see plants I’ve only read about and to find out what is needed to grow them locally. A tag giving the plant name and the grower is provided with each plant. This allows you to speak personally with the person who grew it. A vote is taken of best plant by genus of either species or hybrid.
Another great idea used by many societies is to have a “beginners series” of meetings where a small group will meet and tour facilities of more experienced members. Normally done at a meeting time different than the regular society meetings, the group is smaller, there is more time for individual questions, reviews of specific plants, and of course the host member shows off the plants he/she is particularly interested in growing.
This is important not only from the perspective of how the plants themselves are taken care of, but to allow beginners to see what environments work for others, both inside and outside.