Anatomy of an orchid show

During my visit to Canada, I spent some time as a guest at the home of my dear friends Jocelyn and Alain of Beaver Valley Orchids. My visit led into show weekend at the Southern Ontario Orchid Society in Toronto, and up until then I had only ever experienced an orchid show from a visitor’s perspective. From the public’s point of view, orchid shows are all about gorgeous displays, crushing crowds of gawkers, and scrums of excited buyers circling the vendors booths… in a word, they’re heaven. Show season is the most anticipated time of an orchid enthusiast’s social year.

This time, however, I wanted to see and experience an orchid show backstage. I offered myself up to the handsome Jocelyn as his show slave for the weekend.

What is that old saying? "Beware of what you wish for?"

I don’t know how Jocelyn, or anyone else for that matter, survives an orchid show. It’s gruelling.


Scour greenhouse and select plants to display and sell… groom plants… carefully box up plants, making sure the delicate blooms aren’t damaged… register the plants to be displayed at the show over the internet… prepare props for display table. Go to bed late.




Wake up early, and shake head wearily at 20 below zero temperatures outside… warm up cars in the driveway… refill tanks when cars run out of gas… make 20 trips between the greenhouse and cars, carefully carrying boxes of orchids while leaping over snowbanks… pack up props… drive away in convoy… stop at Tim’s for coffee at nearest town… drop off cargo at orchid show hall… drive to "God’s House" (eminent orchid guru), gratefully eat his soup for lunch, borrow plants… drive to hall. Realize with horror that important props still must be acquired… drive all over suburban hell looking for stores, and buy said props at crafts store and (?) bed linen store… drive to show hall… jump out of car and race around putting together display and sales tables, realizing that deadline is fast approaching… silently curse exhibitor at neighbouring table, who is calm and finishes her display just as we begin ours… finish… sigh with relief… inspect and take pictures of other displays… take one blurry picture of our display and make note to self to take more the next day… drive home at alarming rate of speed over icy dark country roads to the sound of heavy metal music… get home at midnight.


Saturday: Day 1 of Show

Wake up early… drive to Tim’s, pick up coffee… arrive at show and make last preparations at show booth… Enjoy quiet beauty of large room full of fragrant orchids… squeal in delight that my equitant oncidium won a ribbon and take all the credit (though said orchid has been holidaying in Jocelyn’s greenhouse for past six months)… watch in awe as doors open to public and stampede of buyers roars in… recoil as a posse of buyers peppers me simultaneously with questions… run to Jocelyn for cover… catch plants as they are knocked off table by people squeezing through narrow space between table and wall to get to exit… sell sell sell… feet hurt, sit down… refrain from throttling woman who just spent 20 minutes asking me questions and making others wait, then doesn’t buy anything… answer more questions, begin mumbling when I realize that "God" has shown up and is listening to my answers… offer to get Jocelyn water from kitchen, and disappear to hide in there for an hour… return sheepishly with water to resume duties… do it again an hour later… heave giant sigh of relief when doors finally close on retreating public… limp around now mostly vacant show hall… snap quick pictures of flowers… forget note to self from previous day… fall asleep on drive home… throw exhausted and aching body into bed.


Sunday: Day 2 of Show

Roll over and go back to sleep… leave Jocelyn to man booth all day, disassemble and pack up displays and flowers for return trip home, and unpack once home, all without my help…

Spend lazy day lounging on Jocelyn’s couch, watching Animal Planet on TV and musing on how much work orchid shows are.

I do NOT know how he does it.

2 thoughts on “Anatomy of an orchid show

  1. Hello dear!
    That was quite a story and I want to publicly thank you for putting up with me all weekend long! Can you imagine, a Pollinatrix being told what to do by an Orchidatrix!
    Well, I have to add that that was an easy one! Imagine, we only had to drive a couple of hours to destination! Hmmm, Montréal and Ottawa shows are coming. Add 5-6 hours to the drive and here we are!
    And for those who don’t know who we’re talking about here when referring to ‘God’, we’re talking about Al Bickell, my orchid friend and mentor from Whitby.
    Anyway, hope to have you again as a slave real soon! I looooooved to see you crawl achingly out of bed to go to work! 🙂
    Take care and say HI to Laird!


  2. Yeah, I was certainly a sight for sore eyes THAT morning (er… not!)
    Hmmm… Isn’t there some kind of rule that G*D’s name can’t be spoken, or is that just in Judaism? 😉
    Sell lots of orchids in Montreal and Ottawa, get a boxload of ribbons, and don’t lose that bedsheet!


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