A Rainbow of Orchids a big hit in Honalo

By Tad Sommers
West Hawaii Today

Sales were brisk at the 31st annual Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club Show held Sunday in Honalo.

”Cattleyas and Cymbidiums were hot potatoes,” said club member Phoenicia Zeller.

01.jpg“Most people know to come early to the sale,” she added. Half the plants were sold within the first 30 minutes. An hour in, a constant trickle of customers walked through the sale tent in the Daifukuji Mission parking lot.

Ruth Dick of Waimea has attended the show each of the past three years. Every time, she purchases a few plants. “I like the place and the information that’s given to me — not that I use it,” she joked. In Waimea, she added, some plants don’t do as well. “When I like it, I buy it,” she said. “I take it in the house. When it’s done blooming, I put it outside and hope for the best — let nature take its course.”

Club members displayed their blooming plants inside the Mission Hall.

26-orchid-show-display-and-fish-opt.jpg“Orchids are definitely fascinating,” said New Jersey resident Kevin Perrino. Though he wouldn’t necessarily call himself an “orchid person,” his family was impressed by the variety of colors and sizes on exhibit. His family’s favorite was the Pacific star. “I have three boys,” he said. “So it’s not just a girl thing.”

His wife Pat Perrino said she was “impressed by how good they look. The time it takes — I’m impressed because I don’t have that skill.”

Staging the show at the Daifukuji Mission Hall, to her, seemed appropriate. Taking care of orchids is “great meditation in itself,” she said.

27-orchid-stamps-and-badges.jpgClub historian Carol Zakahi said she’s “bought and killed so many orchids, it’s pitiful.” However, she has had success with Vandopsis lissochiloides, a landscape plant with blooms purple on the outside and yellow and purple-speckled inside, capable of reaching 8 feet tall. She brought the parent plant from Oahu in 1987 and displayed two, also offered for sale, inside the Mission Hall Sunday.

Zakahi said club members “buy a plant, try to grow a plant, try to flower a plant, then maybe you can sell the plant.”

Zakahi said she doesn’t purchase expensive jewelry or handbags, she “spends it on orchids and kids.”

In addition to a rainbow of orchids, the show also featured a display of Zakahi’s orchid badges, and for the first time, her collection of orchid-themed postage stamps. A stamp collector since childhood, Zakahi said she got into orchid stamp collecting after joining the club.

Stamps are easier to maintain than orchids, she added. And if the day comes when she is no longer able to care for the real things, she’ll still have stamps, she said, to “keep in touch with whatevers as long as I can.”

Some of the more unusual specimens on display included Joyce Hancock’s pigeon orchid, Dendrobium crumenatum, which blooms several times each year, one day at a time. Zakahi also pointed out a collection presented by the children of late club member Grace Kaiawe, known for her knack for cultivating “specie orchids grown specimen size,” which included the diminutive Dendrobium toressae.

10-orchid-sale-tent.jpgDick Kuehner — who was primarily responsible for designing the club’s recently completed, award-winning Orchid Grotto, situated between the main temple sanctuary and the columbarium — manned the question-and-answer booth.

The eight-year club member’s best advice: “Patience is one of the big things. Don’t baby your orchid. If (the) leaves are healthy, you’re doing the right thing.”

Kuehner said successful growers experiment. Sometimes a plant will grow better on one side of the house than another. “A half-day sun is different than a quarter-day,” he added. Dark green leaves are indicative of too much nitrogen or not enough sun. Medium or even yellow-green leaves are usually a good sign the plant will bloom.

At 34, Clint Zavodny is one of the youngest members of the club, mostly made up of “nice ladies,” he said. Zavodny and his wife attended the show and sale three years ago and joined the club shortly after. At the time, he was “more into bonsai,” Zavodny said, but since has learned “a lot of common sense growing stuff. Once you can grow orchids, it gives you the confidence you can grow anything.”

The Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club meets the second Wednesday of the month at Daifukuji Soto Mission Hall in Honalo.

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