Orchid Photography


 How I got started growing orchids

It was June of 1986 and I went to a wonderful garden in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania known as Longwood Botanical Gardens. It was owned and operated by the DuPont family. I was ambling around the grounds and finally wound up in the large glass conservatory. Once inside with my trusty camera at my side, my eyes came across the most remarkable collection of orchids I had ever seen. I started shooting pictures immediately, and before walking out had at least six rolls of 36 exposure film (not digital) of orchids alone.

When I was leaving the gardens, I stopped at the gift shop and noticed orchids for sale. I really wanted one but I had no idea how take care of it. So I left with no orchid.

About three months later I visited Waldor Orchids in Linwood, New Jersey. After about an hour of going through the greenhouses with Walter Off the owner and being completely ignorant about growing orchids, I had collected two Cattleya’s (in bud) and one Phalaenopsis in bloom, and a Sunset book about growing orchids. That was the fall of 1986. A couple of weeks after, I happened to notice that the Cattleya orchids where in full bloom and the Phalaenopsis was as beautiful as ever. The Cattleya's stayed in bloom for about five weeks. Then I had only the Phalaenopsis left in bloom so off I went to buy 3 more orchids. Then I joined the Central New Jersey Orchid Society. After many meetings, auctions and sales I was on my way to collecting my first 150 in approximately nine years. It wasn’t easy to maintain the 150 plants because it was hard to bring them into the house from September (Labor Day) to May (Memorial Day). Every window in the house had orchids. Because of space limitations and not being able to afford a greenhouse, I was limited to the 150 that I had collected. Because of all the watering and misting I had to paint every year as well.


            The Winter Springs growing area that housed  350 Orchids

                Growing in the house in New Jersey from 1986- 1995  
In 1995 I retired and I moved to Winter Springs, Fl.  When packing the house in New Jersey, the last thing on the moving truck were the 150 orchids and plant stands that I had constructed while the plants where outside from May through September in NJ.

The first thing off the truck was - guess what - the orchids and plant stands. As you can imagine, most of the cool growing orchids began to fade away. Therefore, you guessed it, out I went replacing the ones that died.  I then joined four new orchid societies - Central Florida Orchid Society, Greater Orlando Orchid Society, West Osceola and Volusia County Orchid Society.

In July of 1995 I went to an Orchid Sale at Krull-Smith Orchids in Apopka and met Frank Smith the co-owner. I asked him if he needed some help (a job). His answer was yes, but he couldn’t afford to pay me in cash. I then told him I would work for orchids, and he agreed. That following Monday I reported for work. My first job was to get familiar with the greenhouse and then to start pulling weeds. After four days of pulling weeds, I got the job of watering the seedling plants that had just come out of compots. I became an expert at watering.

Frank would come in every morning and check on my performance. He would give me tips on what I was doing wrong. My next task was re-potting mini-cats. After about 1,000 pots of mini-cats (it sure felt like 1,000), I graduated to dividing large cats.

As time went on, my collection started to grow by leaps and bounds. I now had close to 250 orchids and winter was coming. I knew my plant stands with no protection to the cold would not do. So I constructed a lean-to structure that could house my orchid collection with heat. I worked for Frank another two months and in the middle of November had to quit. I had no more room in my orchid house as I was now up to 350 or more orchids.

I maintained the 350 orchids until I moved to Osprey, Florida just below Sarasota in 1999. First thing I did was join the Sarasota Orchid Society and the Venice Orchid Society.  I became a Life Member of the Central Florida Orchid Society because of my photography of their orchid show.  In 1999 I was appointed Show Chairman of the Sarasota Orchid Society Show and have been ever since.  I was also elected President the last 9 out of 13 years.

While constructing my new home, I made sure that I would have adequate space to grow orchids. I had a 12’ x 36’ screen room added to my pool cage and had 50% shade screening put up to protect the orchids from too much sun. I added an overhead watering and misting system and piping for hanging Vanda’s and other genera of orchids.

I am pleased to say I filled this area up quickly and had now reached my maximum at 800 orchids.

         Venice orchid house built in 2009 and hold over 1,300 orchids

        The Osprey Orchid House from 1999-2009 housed 800 Orchids

I 2009 I moved to Venice Florida where my orchid collection has grown to over 1,300 orchids in many genera.  Here I have a 24' x 36' reenforced aluminum  structure. With 3 ceiling fans that run 8 hours daily. A five zone watering and fertilization system that run once weekly for 1/2 hour each zone. There are  2 portable fans all set on timers for 8 hours.  There are well over 450 Cattleya's in clay pots hanging from a reenforced grid system overhead. Built in benches on the outside wall with 3 movable 4' x 16' benches that hold the remainder of my collection. "If I need more room for Orchids I would find it".

                This cartoon was done by the late Verona Warkentin Simmons                             This cartoon was done by the late Charlie Byrd                        friend and member of the Sarasota Orchid Society                                              of the Midllesex County Sheriff's Department