19 Mar Intense Inflorescence: Day Tripping at the Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show
Sultry and complicated and scandalously expressive, the orchid has a way of bringing out bee-like behavior in even the most sensible of people. (And on the flip side, making bees act a bit like delusion-prone human beings.) And friends, did we ever swarm swarm swarm last weekend when the 70th Santa Barbara Orchid Show opened its doors. We drove the hour and a half north of Los Angeles and slid into a colorful — and goodness, fragrant — showground full of some of the most rare and spectacular members of the the Orchidaceae family, and all the people who love, grow and are driven mad (by desire, interest, frustration, you name it) them.
I read aloud from Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief the whole way up the 101.
Where to even begin? Orchidaceae is home to over 22,000 species in 880 genera. That’s four times the number of mammal species and twice the number for birds. The wild diversity and sculptural (and often quite_uncanny) shapes of many of these (often epiphytic, like air plants) plants famously gave rise to the orchid hunting culture of the Victorian Era, when expeditions would trek deep into faraway forests to bring back rare flowers for collectors to display in their Mayfair drawing rooms.
We’ve been dreaming in orchids ever since. The blooms we saw included the mind-bending “slipper” shapes of paphiopedilums in colors ranging from throbbing plum to soft yellow, luxe downpours of cymbidiums, the minimalist spaceships of masdevallias, the “dancing ladies” of the oncidium genus, and light-as-air foxtails of dendrobiums, aka rock lilies. Then there was the bloom that looked exactly like a certain emoji. Specimens came from countries around the world — Japan, India, Australia, Borneo, Colombia, Ecuador and the U.S., just to name a few.
We Snapchatted suggestive footage back to friends on the East Coast. (Just joined! Find us there at thehorticult.) The Orchid Doctor was in, and many attendees lined up for his advice.
“We are thrilled to share that for 2015, we had a record-breaking number of plant entries, as well as our highest attendance to date,” says George Hatfield, Board President for the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, via email. “We take this as a sign that more and more people are becoming fascinated with orchids, and our mutual obsession with orchids is blooming!”
The muggy climate inside wasn’t that much of a departure from the heat wave raging outside, but beyond that, we were transported to a beautiful new world. Below, take a look at the flowers that gave us all the fevered feelins…
On the hunt for more orchids from the show? Share and views yours on Instagram by tagging them #sborchidshow: