Visitors who walk into four and five star hotels expect to be dazzled by the decor whether it's the architecture, furniture, or flowers. Orchids, with their long lasting blossoms and wide range of colors, rarely disappoint and have long been used in interior spaces. Recently, floral designers are using a new technique to show off their orchids. They are combining blooming plants with cut flowers to make over-the-top arrangements.
Traditional displays have consisted of either all blooming potted plants or all cut flowers. The plants were numerous and had to be watered regularly so that the blossoms would not wilt. The cuts were in water tubes and were inherently short-lived.
The wide availability and near perfection of Phalaenopsis plants have given centerpieces renewed vigor. These orchids thrive on indirect light and damp media. Designers can choose from dozens of colors and expect the flowers to look fresh for months with minimal care.
Mature Phalaenopsis plants can produce two flower spikes - each capable of 8 or more 5” round blossoms. The roots are modest and are commonly raised in 4" plastic pots which tuck neatly into arrangements.
Cut stems of standard Cymbidiums can last up to 3 weeks depending on the variety. Modern hybrids have been bred for both longevity and bruise resistance and most are shipped in full bloom. (Few orchid buds will open after being removed from the plant). Once in water tubes and nestled in an exhibit, cut orchids give the appearance of being full of life.
Cymbidium blossoms can be very impressive. A typical flower is about the size of a baseball and there may be a dozen or more on a stem. Popular colors include shell pink, pistachio, mahogany, and lemon yellow.
Hobbyists rarely grow Cymbidiums in our part of the country due to their tricky culture. The combination of bright light and cool night temperatures (45 – 55 deg F) is not natural to this climate and challenging to provide. Even professional growers have trouble with this semi-terrestrial genus. The tremendous size of the foliage makes the plant unwieldy and uneconomical to raise locally so designers often purchase the sprays from the West Coast.
Other orchid genera are sometimes used as cut flowers in centerpieces as well. Dendrobiums have been synonomous with Hawaiian Leis for decades and produce lengthy sprays of 1" blossoms. Oncidiums or 'Dancing Ladies' offer branches of tiny florescent yellow blooms.
Floral designers add non-orchid plant material to their focal points: Stems of roses, tulips, and calla lilies; greenery of magnolia and philodendron; dried willow branches; assorted mosses. Whimsical touches of peacock feathers complete the masterpieces all of which are displayed in fabulous ceramic pots.
Take a close look at the spectacular floral displays located on the check-in counters and foyer tables of your next vacation hotel. The variety of orchids, both potted and cut, might surprise you.