Those with a passion for orchids, for the newest cultivated creations of this endlessly variable flower, stopped in at the Greenwich Garden Education Center recently to enjoy the twice-yearly visit of The Orchidphile -- also known as Carol Raven -- and her Orchid Trunk Show.
Each year, Raven, who lives in Stamford, journeys across the world to southwestern Taiwan, the site of the International Orchid Show (where she is a judge), and brings home the newest beauties for her customers from Washington D.C. to Boston to Pennsylvania -- and to Connecticut.
"You see cutting-edge breeding you won't see here for three years," said Raven, who named the Taiwanese as the most exceptional breeders of orchids. Taiwanese businessmen, she said, have fully embraced orchid breeding as a hobby. "They can go and buy the best plants, and the government backs up their efforts."
Taiwanese orchids are also a big money business -- a "single, unique hybrid," said Raven, can command $5,000 at a nursery. Raven's orchids, in all sizes, colors, hues, and splotches, were a lot more reasonable and ranged in price from $45 to $85.
An orchid fancier quickly chose a tall specimen called Harlequin with red splotches on white. Why had she chosen that variety? "The pattern is extremely strong," she said. She also liked the intensity of color. "I don't like them when they get too uniform."
The Harlequin orchid, splotchy variety, is fairly new, explained Raven, who was happy to report that, "The breeders have stabilized the markings."
Raven was asked by a customer how to keep her cats from attacking her orchids. "They go after the grassy foliage. It will sway in a room and a cat will bat it," Raven said, so she recommended buying the new miniature orchids that are growing in popularity. They don't have the big leaves that blow in the wind attracting the cats, Raven explained.
The miniature orchids are also becoming popular for another reason -- space. "The Japanese love the miniatures as they have no space," she said. "Five or ten of these can fit into the space of large orchid."
Another interesting item on sale was a curious ceramic container that was actually a wall-hanging orchid container. "You just tuck in one of the small orchids into some moss," she said.
Raven also talked about the time it takes to set up her Orchid Trunk Show. First, obviously, is the travel to Taiwan. Then, orchids bought in Taiwan are sent by air freight to California where they pass through plant quarantine. "A broker collects the plant and makes sure it gets forwarded on by Federal Express," she said.
Next, Raven said, her new purchases must sit and get acclimated for a month or two before she sells them.