It’s a ‘Wild World’: Our Recap of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show

Bulbophyllum longifolrum

Flower show season is in full swing, and we are here for it. Ryan and I recently attended the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show like we did last year, but this time as invited guests and guided by the show’s plant registrar Heidi Kirkpatrick.

Ryan and I met the amazing Heidi Kirkpatrick, who knows EVERYTHING about orchids.

Ryan and I met the amazing Heidi Kirkpatrick, who knows EVERYTHING about orchids.

The 71st annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show was held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. The theme? “Wild World of Orchids,” a dive into the diversity of this family of plants 25,000 species strong.

Special attention was paid to the vanilla orchid. That’s right—those flavorful pods actually come from an orchid, a vine called Vanilla planifolia. We saw flowers we never could have imagined, like a Pleurothallis whose flower resembles a colorful clam floating on a flat wide leaf. We wondered where the jewel orchid, with its pinstriped black foliage and minimal light requirements, had been all our life. We even did our first Periscope broadcast. Then we went shopping! Wait until you see the beauties we brought home.

Cal Orchid display. Cymbidiums and Epidendrums in foreground

A vintage truck is overtaken by blooms in the Cal Orchid display. Cymbidiums and Epidendrums are in foreground.

Dendrobium speciosum, Best in show. Also known as Tar-Beri, Rock Lily or King Orchid. Very fragrant. Won Best in Show. Presented by Santa Barbara Orchid Estate.

Dendrobium speciosum won Best in Show, presented by the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate. Also known as Rock Lily or King Orchid, this fragrant flower is known for its showy foxtail racemes. Interestingly, the King Orchid can thrive in poor conditions with drought, near frost and high heat.

Display by Sunset Valley Orchids. Check out the Darwin orchids at the top.

Display by Sunset Valley Orchids. Check out the Darwin orchids at the top!

For us, this year’s show had one very special enhancement: our friend Warren Keller was along for the wild, wonderful ride.

Warren, you might remember, is one of the best gardeners on Instagram (@warrensgarden), and he’s become a friend of ours in real life. He’s made several appearances on The Horticult—like in this post where he shares his preferred soil mix for succulents, and our agave hijinks here. Warren lives in Lompoc, a little less than an hour north of Santa Barbara, and offers generous advice to plant lovers around the world.

Dendrobium linguiforme.

Dendrobium linguiforme, a snowball of divine delicate flowers. The scent is giving us…Creamsicle? Lemon Pledge? That’s me on the left and Warren Keller, Insta-famous gardener, on the right.

So we were thrilled to attend the show with a fellow avid gardener with whom we could also take goofy plant selfies. As relative newbies to the orchid world, we also loved this chance to get up close and personal with the Orchidaceae family. After all, that’s what shows like this are all about.

We’ll let the plants do the rest of the talking. (The only thing these photos can’t do is recreate the perfumed air that hits you the second you walk in.) Read on to check out the day’s most showboating orchids…

—TH

Oncidium Hula Halau 'Volcano Queen'

Oncidium Hula Halau ‘Volcano Queen.’

Cattleya Melody Fair 'Mishima' x anceps 'Santa Barbara Oaxaguena'

Cattleya Melody Fair ‘Mishima’ x anceps ‘Santa Barbara Oaxaguena.’

Get name

We’re digging the mix of gem and earth tones on this Zygopetalum orchid.

Dendrobium 'Adora Nishii'

Dendrobium ‘Adora Nishii.’

Dendrobium 'Adora Nishii'

Dendrobium ‘Adora Nishii’ is quite curly and possibly gravity-defying.

Laelia

Laelia orchid.

Paphiopedilum Michael Koopowitz 'June's Gift' x Paul Parks 'Dark'

Paphiopedilum Michael Koopowitz ‘June’s Gift’ x Paul Parks ‘Dark’. Also known as paphs and slipper orchids, this genus is beloved for its jaw-dropping pouches.

Paphiopedilum 'Veiled Dreams'

Paphiopedilum ‘Veiled Dreams.’

Lycaste athanacia

Lycaste athanacia. A minimalist’s dream.

The Masdevallia here is pint-sized but attention-catching. You’ll find this genus growing in mountainous regions of Mexico and South America.

Bulbophyllum longifolrum

Bulbophyllum longifolrum.

Pleurothallis Bev Debrincant (teagui x gargantua)

Pleurothallis Bev Debrincat (teagui x gargantua).

Pleurothallis Bev Debrincant (teagui x gargantua)

Pleurothallis Bev Debrincat (teagui x gargantua), or bonnet orchid.

Small wonders.

Andy's Orchids display.

Andy’s Orchids display. We think the Spanish moss tillandsia around the frame, and the way it catches the light, is a nice touch.

Oncidium 'Burgandy Glow'

Oncidium ‘Burgundy Glow.’

Vanilla planifolia. Vanilla bean is the cured seed pod of the vanilla orchid.

Vanilla planifolia. Vanilla bean is the cured seed pod of the vanilla orchid.

Vanilla planifolia. Vanilla bean is the cured seed pod of the vanilla orchid.

A display of Vanilla planifolia seed pods.

Oncidium

Oncidium.

Colmanara Wildcat 'Rainbow'

Colmanara Wildcat ‘Rainbow.’

Zygopedalum 'Red Vale'

Zygopedalum ‘Red Vale.’

Paphiopedilum 'Crazy Bell'

Show honoree Paphiopedilum ‘Crazy Bell’ has our attention.

Phragmidedium 'Hanna Popow'

Phragmidedium ‘Hanna Popow.’

At the show we fell in love jewel orchids, whose richly colored foliage offers interest year-round. (Not always the case with orchids.) These plants can thrive in low light conditions with high humidity. They can also be difficult to find!

Epidendrum Orchid

An Epidendrum orchid similar to what we grow at the base of our loquat tree.

Epidendrum Orchid

Epidendrum.

Epidendrum orchid

Epidendrum.

Best amatuer floral display.

Best amatuer floral display. The Santa Barbara Orchid show is unique in that it is one of the only major shows to have a floral arrangement competition alongside planting displays.

Dendrochilum tenellum 'Phillipines'

Dendrochilum tenellum ‘Phillipines’: grassy foliage and fine flower spikes would be an excellent fit for a meadowy garden. Just keep in mind this species grows in cloud forests in Southeast Asia, so humidity is a must.

Huntington Botanical Gardens display featuring all Paphiopedilums.

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens installed an all-Paphiopedilum display.

Paph lowii

Paph lowii.

Dendrobium linguiforme.

Dendrobium linguiforme. According to the grower, the plant had only a third of its usual blooms.

Dendrobium linguiforme.

Dendrobium linguiforme.

Laelia anceps 'SanBar Pink Parade'

Laelia anceps ‘SanBar Pink Parade.’

Sitting in front of Best in Show winner Dendrobium speciosum.

Orchid shopping.

Then we shopped. At the market, orchids were for sale (of course) alongside many, many other kinds of plants — like the stapelias above. Stapelias are a stinky favorite of ours.

The haul.

The haul. Yes, those are paphs in our midst!

The Paphiopedilum orchids are now on our kitchen’s north-facing windowsill.

We’re also part-time catalog models.

Paphiopedilum Pacific Sunset 'Colorul' x Emerald Lake 'Big Hands'

A closer look at our Paphiopedilum Pacific Sunset ‘Colorful’ x Emerald Lake ‘Big Hands.’

See you next year, beautiful babies.