The 73rd Santa Barbara International Orchid Show brings floral beauties to Earl Warren Showgrounds this weekend.
Mary Crookston

People will gather from all over the world to marvel at the world’s finest and most rare flowers at the 73rd Santa Barbara International Orchid Show from March 9-11 at Santa Barbara’s Earl Warren Showgrounds.

The show is not just for growers and aficionados — each exhibit has a unique quality that could catch anyone’s interest, said Wayne Ferrell, president of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. Ventura Farms’ exhibit, which boasts three roaring waterfalls to walk under, and Cal-Orchids’ prehistoric-themed display are both expected to be loved by children and adults alike.

Ferrell said that people who do not know much about orchids will learn about the diversity of the flower.

“From cymbidiums with huge colorful seven-inch flowers to African orchids, which attract their night-pollinating moths with their sweet nocturnal fragrance, they will see why prchids are the most diverse plant family,” Ferrell said. “On a more practical level, they will learn how vanilla (an orchid) is used to make extract.”

It is not just the anxiously awaited arrival of springtime that makes the timing of this show so special. The show signifies change for the Santa Barbara community, which has been struck with immense tragedy the last three months. The show will also bring necessary tourism to the area and demonstrate Santa Barbara’s resilience to people all over the world, which will be a key component to Santa Barbara’s recovery.

Ferrell added that this year’s show will differ from past years’ in that the show is much earlier in the year, which means there will be new specimens of orchids on display. The event will also double as the American Orchid Society Member’s Meeting, which brings a lot more visitors will come from outside California, and exhibitors will be going “all-out” on their displays.

In addition to the premier growers in California, including the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate, Cal-Orchid, and Huntington Gardens, there will be an “A-team” of international cultivators bringing species rarely seen in the U.S. from Taiwan, Malaysia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and Columbia.

The first Santa Barbara Orchid show took place in 1945 in Montecito. It was considered an ideal showcase for the world’s top orchids, and by 1946, more than $200,000 worth of orchids were competing. They were once considered a luxury for the wealthy, and stud plants sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Today, orchids are significantly more affordable and accessible due to laboratory cloning and technological advances in cultivation. However, one-of-a-kind collector’s plants still bring a high value, and cultivators come to showcase the flowers at the festival every year.

The exhibit is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. General daily admission tickets are $14 and $12 for students and seniors. Three-day general admission passes are $22 and $18 for seniors and students. Children under 12 who come with an adult are free.


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