What’s the best orchid show to attend these days? I’m just getting into the hobby. Jennifer B.
There are few floral events more compelling than a good orchid show. Thousands of blooming plants all arranged to perfection with colors that baffle the mind. Longwood Gardens, Santa Barbara, and Miami International are commonly thought of as the best the sport has to offer.
In South Florida, however, a new kind of orchid show has emerged. While traditional events occurred in the winter and early spring, the Redland International Orchid Festival happens after Mother’s Day using the premise that commercial growers have lots of extra orchids available after the holiday rush and are eager to sell them at discounted prices.
“It was my idea!” says Martin Motes of Motes Orchids in Homestead, who proudly takes credit for starting this wildly popular festival now in its 15th year. The author of several books on Vanda hybrids and culture and an orchid judge, he observed decades of consumer behavior at other shows before launching Redlands. Hobbyists want a good selection and reasonable prices all in a pleasant atmosphere.
With any luck, you might run into some of the flamboyant personalities mentioned in Susan Orlean’s best-selling novel, The Orchid Thief. Aside from Motes, both Bob Fuchs and his nursery, R.F. Orchids, are a must see tourist attraction.
With over 60 vendors from 12 countries represented, Redlands has emerged as the show to attend. Self-billed as “America’s Favorite Orchid Festival”, this show attracts thousands to Homestead’s Fruit & Spice Park for 3 days each year – the perfect venue for everything tropical. Each commercial entity has its own colorful tent, with plants displayed in perfect rows topped with informative signage.
Perhaps you are in the market for a rare Cattleya species from its native country of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Venezuela. Or maybe the latest spotted Harlequin Phalaenopsis hybrid from Japan. Or an overgrown dusty lavender hued Vanda from Thailand. It’s all here.
After an exhausting morning of orchid shopping, and this show is all about shopping, it’s time for the lunch selections. The food vendors offer Jerk Pork, Cuban sandwiches, dessert crepes, fruit flavored ice cream, and fresh lemonade. And don’t forget the roasted corn on the cob.
Interspersed throughout the day are first rate lectures. “How to Mount Orchids”, “Orchids of Mexico”, and “Miniature Cattleyas for South Florida” are some of the weekend’s offerings. “Como Plantar Su Orquideas (en Espanol), for those who are feeling the contagious Latino vibe.
No one can leave the show without first viewing the enormous judging tent where the best specimens are evaluated by American Orchid Society experts and compared to all plants ever known. Best in Class blue ribbons and Awards of Merit bronze plaques are displayed prominently.
It is commonplace to see giddy patrons wheeling carts full of plants to their car. Vendors are often sold out by Sunday afternoon. Everyone leaves happy.
As the park closes at 5pm, there is only one place to go – Miami Beach, or more specifically, the southern part known as South Beach. A short 45 minute drive on the Florida Turnpike and walk onto a movie set. The whitest sand. The bluest water. The best people watching.
Limousines arrive at the five star Ocean Drive restaurants. Tonight we had dinner next to Kathie Lee Gifford. I bet she likes orchids. Sitting over there is Jamie Foxx. My daughter recognizes a familiar rapper. It’s business as usual in South Florida.