Behind the scenes of the Orchid Festival

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Melana Davison sorts the plants that have come to be show-offs.

It starts with a jumble of vibrant jungle flowers waiting to become an exhibition. Wednesday, volunteers from Orchid Society of Coral Gables welcomed members’ show plants, sorted them by color or by need for a particular size or a shape, and gradually from the chaos assembled a living tableau of beauty.

Behind the scenes at Fairchild's 11th International Orchid Festival are months of exacting horticulture, culminating with the final hours of labor, dedication and attention to detail. Many plants had flowers staked to be seen at their best advantage. The leaves of each plant were cleaned with lemon juice or milk, and their names double checked for accuracy. Now it was up to the experts to work some magic.

Melana Davison, a veteran orchid grower as well as exhibit builder, was more or less directing the Gables’ display. Jill Sidran, the show chair, was the go-to woman for such questions as “where are the ferns for my display?” Vendors brought boxes of perfectly grown plants, each a marvel of breeding and horticulture.

When you see the results, it will take your breath away. The show runs for three days beginning Friday and includes lectures (this year to be held in the Science Village classroom), orchid sales, orchid teas in the Visitors Center, and orchid walks in the rainforest. It’s a festival celebrating the most complex and alluring family of plants on the planet. How could you stay away?