Earl Warren Showgrounds Blossoms with Orchids

International Orchid Show Celebrates 66th Year

66th Santa Barbara International Orchid Show
Mary Crookston

Turning 66 years old this year, the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show celebrated with a fitting theme: Orchids 66. Capitalizing on the obvious pun, displays created by various orchid farms were very automotive in nature. Ventura Farms, this year’s “sweepstakes best display” winner, sported a display complete with a pristine Cadillac Eldorado and a vintage truck punctuated, obviously, by oodles of orchids.

“Ventura Farms is one of our greatest benefactors, without them the show would be half the size it is — but they always win,” said Bryce Augustine, Orchid Society of Santa Barbara member. “Their display is always huge. So everyone else almost comes competing for second place.”

But, even though the other displays did not involve multi-ton vintage vehicles, there were gargoyles and shrines, and a diverse allotment of orchids. The winning plants and displays sported ribbons with their titles, and hoards of people floated between the displays to admire the sights. “With over 30,000 different types of orchids, judging is not simple, but some of the things we look for are bright colors, bilateral symmetry, roundness, and flatness,” said Augustine, also a judge in the show. To break up the natural leafiness there was an art show with one unsurprising subject of artistic expression: orchids. There was also a corsage section where personalized orchid corsages can be created as their future owners look on.

That’s one tent. A covered walkway then led to the sales area tent where people could be seen juggling with boxes full of orchids, eyeing more to add to their assemblage. But for such enthusiasts there was a convenient, complimentary plant hotel where buyers could check in their purchases and return for more.

Truly international in nature, the show had one vendor that sported orchids from Australia: Down Under Native Orchids. Owner Phena Gerhard said, “We’ve done this show for about 20 years — we fly the orchids over.”

Though the vast majority of the displays are orchids themselves, there were also supply vendors. Ken Torres, CEO and president of Phytotechnology Laboratories, came all the way from Kansas City to inform people about his product: “Media supplies for hobbyists who are going to clone orchids.” He added, “Probably about 99 percent of these orchids here started in a lab. Most orchids spend one to two years in a lab, and then are transferred to a greenhouse.” Torres came prepared with informational materials and orchids (strictly for display) from labs in the area that the company supplies media to. “People keep asking if the display orchids are for sale,” Torres laughed. “It’s our first time being a vendor and we don’t really have anything to sell, so it has been interesting.”

Less technical in nature, Leyla Navab — Persian, originally from Iran — had the most artistic exhibit. A first time vendor, she displayed her silk artwork, much of it orchid themed. “I feel like the ugly duckling, I can’t compete with nature,” she laughed, “but these are forever,” she said, gesturing at her paintings. Silk in place of a conventional canvas, she paints with ink that’s specially made for the material.

Orchid enthusiasts gave the show rave reviews: Carol Portz came all the way from Palos Verdes with the Palos Verdes Orchid Society. “It was $36 round trip to take the bus, but it was worth it!” she said. “People are happy in a place like this because the flowers put everybody in a good mood.” Eyeing her box full of freshly purchased orchids, she said, “I’m not good at raising them but I love to keep buying new ones.”

The 67th Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is slated for March 16-18, 2012, at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. For information on coming as a guest, vendor, or competing with Ventura Farms for best display, visit www.sborchidshow.com.


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