ONCE UPON A TIME

Editorial Orchids in NZ March 1994 

Once upon a time - well, at least longer ago than I really want to remember, I grew up in a small, close knit rural community in North Canterbury. While I was still at primary school, at one of those events that now have largely disappeared, the local flower show, amongst the pumpkins, petunias and plums, 1 remember one elderly lady had brought along some plants with what I thought were really amazing flowers. I did not know what they were at that time, other than that they were orchids, but the memory remained with me.

Many years later, with the memory of those flowers still fresh in my mind, a friend mentioned that she knew someone who grew those plants in the Wairarapa. Would 1 like an introduction? No second offer was necessary, and the following weekend I traveled north from Wellington to Greytown and visited the grower concerned, the late Ollie Dare. With several large glasshouses- and what seemed like then thousands of plants, several hours were spent in a realm of discovery. The size, the colours, the variety had me spellbound. On that first experience, the variety caught my eye, but it was the Cymbidiums that made the greatest mark.

At the end of the afternoon, Ollie asked "would you like to grow one?" Before I knew what happened, 1 had a handful of back bulbs with instructions what to do with them, and a large flowering plant. 1 was hooked! Another worker for the local society which I subsequently discovered, with years of great fellowship and experience to follow.

In those early years when I was learning about the plants I found many people were enthusiastically giving me bits and pieces to add to my collection to make sure 1 was hooked. It was the generosity of those growers that are amongst the greatest memories of those years. As my orchid growing interest developed, I discovered other orchids, species and other genera. This development of one's hobby, I believe, follows the experiences of many other growers.

At many of those early shows and meetings, Cymbidiums were the most prevalent orchid. In recent years fewer and fewer Cymbidiums are seen, those that are shown often described as "flax bushes" by some growers, often looked on with disdain by more established growers. I believe that Cymbidiums are still the most commonly grown orchid in this country, but I suspect that many of those growers are not members 'of the local orchid society. Herein may lie one of the reasons for the decline in orchid society membership. Societies must allow for the development of knowledge and experience by growers, imparting growing information to cater for that developing interest. But have we forgotten where it all started. Are we encouraging new growers to join and stay in the society, by providing that basic growing information? I suspect in many cases we are not.

Over the years I retained bits of plants from repotting, and struck many back bulbs. Whenever anyone showed interest in orchids they would go away with several plants. Not all of those people subsequently joined a society, but a surprising number at some stage did. I know making money by selling plants is in some cases a necessity, but very considerable pleasure can be gained by starting someone on the orchid growing path.

How many people now have Cymbidium back bulbs to give away? How about spare pieces of. plants? When did you last give something away? I for one have not sold a plant for 10 years, but have given and/or exchanged many plants. Perhaps your answer may he one reason why new orchid growers are not coming through to societies.

How extensively do we cater for new growers? I suspect in many cases new members are provided with little growing information. Wouldn't it he a great idea if all new growers were presented with several back bulbs, or even a flowering plant at the meeting - perhaps told at that first meeting that if they come to the next meeting, they will receive a gift. I am sure some of the larger growers in every society would be prepared to donate some of their back bulbs and divisions for this purpose if asked. A little bit of generosity at this stage can have many long term benefits. I know some societies have done so, and perhaps still do - but how many?

Orchid flower judging is an important part of many society activities, and validly so. But I do wonder if the emphasis given this aspect of orchid growing in some areas is an ideal thing. In the early days of my own society, a definite decision was made that no judging would be allowed, other than standard judging - i.e. Orchid Council judging. This was to allow, indeed encourage, all members to bring their plants to meetings and shows, and this certainly worked as virtually all members brought some plants, even if only one or two. Novice growers are often concerned that their piece of Epidendrum radicans will he laughed at when the discussion at the meeting revolves around the latest highly awarded mericlone, and will not continue to bring plants along where they realise they cannot compete. Judging was introduced to many societies to train judges for the 13th WOC, and has been retained without question by many societies since then. Is this a good thing? Is it another factor discouraging new growers from getting involved? I don't know, but 1 sense at times new growers are not getting involved by bringing their plants to meetings. Perhaps each year the question of competitive judging should he discussed - perhaps at the AGM. And perhaps the new growers should be asked for their opinion. While their numbers will be in the minority, perhaps all should have regard to their opinions recognising the longer term interests of orchid growing. Where competitive judging is retained, the costs as well as the benefits must he fully recognised by all concerned.


We need more members, new members. We need to retain those new members. I don't believe we are achieving this. Isn't it time we asked why? I was hooked into orchid growing through the generosity of others.

Have you shown similar generosity to someone interested in your plants recently?


Editor


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