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The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is back!

The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is back!

Like a plant coming out of dormancy, the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show has returned after a three-year hiatus. This weekend — Friday March 10, Saturday March 11, and Sunday, March 12 — at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, wander through the thrills of the Orchidaceae family, from classic cymbidiums to full-bodied sprays of epidendrums to weird, wild (and unexpectedly easy?) paphiopedilums.

It’s an exciting comeback. And not a smooth one — the show has been battling its way back into existence ever since it had to abruptly cancel in March 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19. (Watching this time-lapse video of the setup and seeing the date posted, March 17, 2020, kind of pierces the heart.) The theme of the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show 2023 couldn’t be more apt: “The Adventure Returns.”

One-day general admission is $20 but you can get a three-day pass for $30. Kids 12 and under get in free. Order your tix in advance to skip the line.

Y’all remember how much fun we had at the show in 2016. This year, we caught up with Lauris Rose, president of Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, to learn what to look forward to this weekend (terrarium heads, pay attention), orchid myths we need to put to bed, and the best species for beginners.

Photo credits:

Top: 2018 Clowenoches Rebecca Northern ‘Jeff’s Baby,’ CCE owner Gold Country Orchids, photo by Ramon de los Santos; 2014 Phragmipedium Jerry Lee Fischer ‘The Old Man,’ CSA owner Orchids Ltd, photo by Arthur Pinkers; 2019 Phragmipedium Tall Tails ‘Huntington’s Gateway,’ CSA owner The Huntington, photo by Ramon de los Santos.

Welcome back, after three years! What are you most excited about for the show this year?

The enthusiasm is snowballing!

Just the fact that this huge undertaking is finally going to happen! The snowball effect is really rolling; new vendors from the US and out of the country want to join in. It’s so encouraging to work on the show and have such validation.

We are going to feature what may be the world’s largest Wardian case too! [The] giant glass enclosure is like a terrarium on steroids. [And] mists, orchids hanging on branches for people to walk around and view from the outside.

Back in 2020, the show faced an abrupt cancellation due to Covid-19. Were the flowers already in the hall? How did the cancellation effect SBIOS over the next few years? You mentioned rebuilding from the ground up.

The entire show had been set up and paid for. Lighting, foliage, sod and all of the exhibits, which are not tabletop style, but rather, expansive floor exhibits. The judges were there and ready to spend the day judging plants and displays. But a mandate from the state said no more than 250 in any room at any time. We got 8,000+ people so had to comply and that meant canceling the show. It was a major financial hit as we had to pay all our bills to put on the show. We are still actively fundraising and appreciate all donations, large and small. Go to SBOrchidShow.com and hit the donate button to support us this year and sustain us for the future.

Plants to expect at the Santa Barbara Orchid Show 2023

A scene from the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show 2016. Photo by Ryan Benoit.

Plants to expect at the Santa Barbara Orchid Show 2023

Cattlianthe Sandra Laura ‘Reina Oaxaquena’

What do you love about orchids?

The variety is without parallel in the plant kingdom, and the people who grow them are wonderful. We travel worldwide and have for over 50 years. Eighty percent of our friends are orchid growers.

What do non-orchid people get wrong about orchids? And generally what are the myths surrounding orchids?

#1 error is over-watering. Generally, a plant potted in bark needs water every five to seven days, a plant in moss perhaps every two weeks.

#2 is burning them up in the direct sun coming in from the windows in the afternoon.

#3 is fear of re-potting. The media grows old, and holds too much water so the roots rot.

Myths:

– That all orchids are tropical growers. Many are native to high mountainous regions around the world, and enjoy temps that go as low as 28 degrees!

-They are too hard to grow. Not if you don’t over or under water them, or burn them up in direct sunshine. Shop at the nurseries and learn what will do best in your setting. Maybe you will kill a few before you get the hang of things, but talk to people who are succeeding with their plants and keep learning.

– It is hard to believe, but many people think orchids don’t have a scent! Some attract flies to assist in pollination and so smell like a dead seal at low tide. Most have pleasant scents or even strong perfumes that will fill a space in your home.

What’s a good orchid for someone who, say, is great at growing houseplants like philodendrons and monsteras, but has stayed away from the Orchidaceae family?

I don’t grow those as they tend to be static and uninspiring to me. The orchid has many more dimensions to enjoy and be challenged by. Low-light orchids would be the phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and paphiopedilum (lady slipper) and are readily accessible.

Plants to expect at the Santa Barbara Orchid Show 2023

Paphiopedilum ‘Vogue Wonder.’ Photo Ramon de los Santos.

What are your tips for keeping these orchids alive?

See above. Watering needs vary by media used to grow them in. Don’t let them stand in water.

What types of orchids do you grow in your home and why?

My husband and I have a nursery in Santa Barbara (CalOrchid, Inc.) and so grow and enjoy thousands each day. The only orchids we have at our house are ones I tied onto palm trees and a big magnolia 45 years ago and they are doing great with just a nice lacy shading by the tree canopies. They all flower. Many are laelias that are native to the mountains in Mexico, and their hybrids. I see spike after spike of flowers starting in November! Neofinetia falcata from Japan is another one that can grow outdoors or inside along our coast in California. But I do like to bring home potted unusual cymbidiums once in a while as they last so long!

Anything we missed that you’d like to add?

Just don’t be afraid to try these plants so steeped in history and tradition. They will reward you with stunning intricacies of color patterns and shades of colors you will be entranced by. When you plan a vacation abroad, dig around online and see when the orchid shows are held. You won’t be sorry.

Or visit the annual events held at Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland etc, etc. Remember that your best source of information is from a commercial orchid nursery or the American Orchid Society’s website. Random orchid info online is very often full of misinformation at best, and comic relief at worst.

Also remember that growing orchids to flowering in a flat in London or Portland is going to be much different than for people in Miami or Los Angeles. Don’t be a hermit! Go out and shop for these plants in person, and talk to the vendor. Don’t be embarrassed to ask how long they have been growing plants, either. Experienced growers are your best source.

—TH

Santa Barbara Orchid Estate display in 2013. Photo by Arthur Pinkers. Plants to expect at the Santa Barbara Orchid Show 2023

Santa Barbara Orchid Estate display in 2013. Photo by Arthur Pinkers.

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