Orchid Fever

Ok, I confess: Ever since John Marcotte announced his giant orchid liquidation sale, I have been caught up in the frenzy known as orchid fever. I’ve made two visits to his greenhouse, both times returning home with a car jammed packed full of plants, garnering bemused looks from bystanders at the sight of my travelling orchid side-show. In fact, the car was so camouflaged by the greenery inside that on the way home from the second trip, a white-tailed deer thought my car was actually a bush. It leapt right into my driver’s side door, much like a confused bird flying into a picture window. I caught a glimpse in my peripheral vision of a deer’s wide-eyed face plastered up against the side-window, before it followed the rest of the body up and over the roof. Fortunately, the damage was limited to bodywork on the car, even though the dog did land on top of a specimen-sized and much-prized Phal. Orchid World “Joe”. The tow-truck driver and the cop seemed very pre-occupied with finding the carcass, and rather less interested in my cargo. They were disappointed to learn that the deer had recovered and bounded away, out of reach of their freezers – at least for the time being.

On both visits I prowled the aisles of the greenhouse for hours, and the more seasoned orchid fanciers watched me with knowing smiles, small sympathetic shakes of the head and raised eyebrows that clearly said, “oooo, she’s a newby and she’s got it bad”. A number of those present seemed less interested in shopping than they were in watching the spectacle from the sidelines, as otherwise reasonable people elbowed and jostled for position in the narrow aisles. Every 20 minutes John would yell and people would scurry out of the one open aisle, looking longingly back at what they might have missed while others slyly moved into position to get first crack at the next aisle to open up. John was peppered with questions from every side, for hours on end, and I was amazed at his patience and unflappability as he spoke knowledgeably on the particular name, culture, and history of every single one of the seemingly thousands of orchids that were held up in front of his face for pricing.
I must say that for the most part, the more experienced growers who were there to hunt down additions to their own collections were generous with advice and encouragement when it came to adding to mine. Reluctant to bother John (or wait for the melee surrounding him to clear up) I would hold up a pot and say, “what’s this”, and someone nearby always stopped to look, describe it in detail and say, “oh that’s a good one”, or “hmmm, better take the other one, I don’t like the look of that crown”. I remember one fellow’s eyes lighting up when I showed him the paph. rothschildianum x primulum ‘Blondie” I had picked up. He looked it over carefully and said, “are you going to take that?”. It was apparently a good “find”, and, thinking something special was probably better off in an experienced grower’s hands, I replied, “if you really want it please take it”. He looked so torn, so tempted, but in the end he gallantly refused.

Then there was the fellow who helped me free a specimen Cattleya Portia var. coerulea from the tangle of roots of nearby monster-sized ferns, cattleyas and vandas, as he described the flowers to me. I swelled with pride as everyone stopped to watch me claim my prize, ooohing and ahhing over the number of spikes on the plant.
After a while I become more efficient at the hunt by following other people around who seemed to know what to look for. Two fellows in particular were determined to locate a catt. gaskelliana var. semi-alba from among the tangle of roots and vegetation over our heads. They scoured the greenhouse, until finally, they found what they were looking for. Once they were satisfied, I moved in to paw over the remains, and claimed a very nice sized piece for myself.

Then of course Wendy was never far away, pointing out something I may have missed, waving a tantalizingly large and healthy paph. Susan Booth around in front of my face. I scolded her with “bad enabler! bad enabler!” but she was not to be discouraged and I did in fact leave with the paph. Susan Booth AND a large paph. Lady Isabel, which John informed me had a 5% chance of being a misnamed species paph. rothschildianum, in which case I’ve just made the all-time deal of the century from my $30 purchase.

The list of orchids that I came home with is very long, and I’ve just now finished buffing and polishing and repotting and spraying and tucking my new purchases into various corners of my grow room and light stand.

I’m like a drunk coming off a bender. I’ll never buy another orchid. I swear.