Cheekwood Orchids

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A blooming orchid is an elegant way to brighten up your home over the winter months, yet the plants remain rather unapproachable to the average home gardener and decorator. Where to find orchids along with credible information about growing orchids is the first step to installing your first potted beauty on that empty kitchen windowsill. Find your first orchid at one of the five places described below and break down the barriers to the unnecessarily elusive plants.

Don’t be afraid to buy orchids from the grocery store, unless they’re blue. Bright blue orchids are no more exotic than your third-grader’s dyed carnations, and these inked impostors should not distract you from the often-surprising quality and selection of plants lining the sun-filled windows beyond the checkout aisles. Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, dominate the supermarket inventory, and make an appropriate selection for entry-level growers. Trial and error are important to developing any skill, and the lower commitment level to a plant from the grocery store may render the endeavor less daunting.

Ask the folks at the Middle Tennessee Orchid Society (tnorchid.org) for friendly advice when you’re ready to graduate from your grocery store grabs. The local orchid society is affiliated with the American Orchid Society, which offers a wealth of information online to help you select and grow orchids successfully in your home (aos.org). The Middle Tennessee Orchid Society also produces a display garden and presents an information table at the annual Lawn & Garden Show at the fairgrounds in March.

Trade shows, such as the Lawn & Garden Show, provide a unique opportunity to access a greater diversity of plants from specialized vendors and interface directly with the experts in the booth. Vendors arrive to display and sell only their highest-quality plants, often staged in a way as to demonstrate how to grow and display the plants in your home.

Online shopping can fulfill most all our wants and needs and should not exclude live plants. Orchids travel well and the iconic Cattleya orchids were even discovered as packing material used to ship plants back to Europe during nineteenth century plant collecting expeditions. Almost all orchids prefer soil-less growing media and can survive without additional water for several days, making them ready candidates to drop in the mail. Be wary of shipping and receiving orchids in the winter, as the mostly tropical plants will not enjoy sitting on your doorstep waiting for you to arrive home.

Cheekwood may not be the first place you think of to purchase plants, but the garden team will be eager to share the gently used inventory of orchids coming off display in early March. Orchids in the Mansion (January 30 – March 1, 2021) features a colorful and creative display of orchids and an array of tropical foliage, presenting a stylized interpretation of a classical orangery. The occasion to view and enjoy orchids in a display setting is complemented by the educational opportunity offered in our workshop series. From orchid botanical illustration to re-potting basics, dive into the tropical world of orchids this February through Cheekwood’s hands-on adult workshops! Registration and more information coming soon for orchid enthusiasts and admirers alike at cheekwood.org/calendar/.  Learn a few new tricks and pickup an orchid for sale in one of the gift shops within the two weeks of the show closing.

Written by Peter Grimaldi, VP of Gardens & Facilities, Cheekwood

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