Zen and the Art of Orchid Maintenace

Walter Scheeren discusses how to prepare orchids for show and exhibition at the July 10 KDOC meetingWe all know that orchids are beautiful, but what really sets one show-quality orchid apart from the others?

Walter Scheeren, a judge for the American Orchid Society as well as an avid orchid grower, stopped by the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club meeting on July 10 to offer a few helpful tips on preparing orchids for exhibition.

“In general, it doesn’t matter what kind of orchid it is … worry about the roots,” Scheeren said. “If you have good roots, you will have a good plant.”

Scheeren said that orchids with small roots need a small mix medium, medium roots need a medium grade mix, course roots use a course mix of medium, and very course roots (like Vandas) don’t need any medium at all, just aerial roots.

After numerous trips to the jungle, Scheeren said he noticed that it often rained just before night. This eventually let him to the conclusion that watering at night is fine if you have well aerated roots. The roots will be wet all night and in the morning, but then dry out during the afternoon. As long as they have some period to dry out the roots will be fine and won’t be subjected to rot.

But perhaps one of the most interesting points of Scheeren’s discussion was just hearing how orchids are judged from a judges perspective.

“Most awards (such as CCM or CCE) are given to the orchid grower, not the plant itself,” Scheeren said.
This is an important distinction to make. The orchid is being judged on how well it is being taken care of; how presentable has the grower made the orchid look?

“For competition, foliage should be immaculate,” Scheeren said.

“If plant has old spike that’s not cut off, a weed in the pot, roots growing over the pot but empty space inside the pot itself … these orchids won’t get awards because the grower didn’t do the best job he/she could … and the grower is getting the award, not the plant.”

For cleaning the foliage, Scheeren suggested using 1% milk and cloth to clean the top of the leaves, but don’t touch the underside.

Even though the orchid show has come and gone, tips will still be useful in keeping show quality orchids around the house.

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