Orchidelerium - Is there a cure?

 Larry Desiano/Deep Cut Orchid Society

Larry Desiano/Deep Cut Orchid Society

There’s something about orchids that gets the pulse racing and brings out the acquisitive streak in plant lovers. Back in the 19th century at the peak of “orchidelerium,” fortunes and lives were risked for the sake of these exotic beauties.

Today, when orchids have become both affordable and popular, even among common folk, there’s another reason to think of them with special fondness: A great many of them are at their peak of bloom during the cold, dark, dreary days of mid-winter.

For the orchid “haves,” it’s time to reap the rewards of year-long care lavished on the most spectacular of their houseplants or greenhouse specimens. For the “have nots,” it’s time to bask in borrowed glory at the annual orchid shows.

There are two hazards in slinking around these shows, gazing at display after boundless display. One is the danger of becoming punch-drunk on the sight of orchids tiny as a fingernail and as large as a grapefruit, always richly colored and sometimes intoxicatingly fragrant. It happens, this malady, which is akin to visual overload in fine art museums. The other pitfall is the temptation to bring home more orchids than your spouse or children are likely to think wise.

But, let’s not live timidly. New Jersey’s largest orchid exhibit, the 19th Annual Deep Cut Orchid Show, is presented free Feb. 11 through 14 at the Dearborn Market greenhouse in Holmdel, located on Route 35 in Monmouth County. This is not a working greenhouse, but a two-story, 10,000-square-foot glasshouse that offers a perfect setting for tender plants in winter’s chill.

A dozen vendors are participating to tempt show-goers to take an orchid home, perhaps as a special little gift for Valentine Day. Several species of orchids are considered easy enough for rank beginners and advice on getting started is available free at the show. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 11-13 and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 14.

Deep Cut is the largest of six orchid societies active in New Jersey – you can find an affiliated club by visiting the web site of the American Orchid Society. For more information on the show, call Dearborn Farms at 732-264-0256 or visit Deep Cut's website.

An even bigger orchid blow-out awaits at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx Feb. 27 through April 14. The 14th annual show will fill the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory with orchids, emphasizing the “Orchidelerium” that drove 19th century plant hunters around the world in pursuit of new species.

The botanical garden is committed to providing sanctuary for orchids threatened by poaching, illegal trade and habitat loss. There’s a full roster of performances, films, tours and even cocktail parties among the orchid displays (How very civilized!). Call 718-817-8700 or see the website for details.

If you’re closer to Philadelphia than the Bronx, the Orchid Extravaganza already is underway at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. The enormous East Conservatory is filled with dazzling orchids of every kind through March 27. The exhibition culminates with Longwood’s extravagant sale of orchids from the displays March 30 through April 2. Learn more by calling 800-737-5500 or visiting the website.

Notice how all of these shows dangle in front of you the prospect of spending time with the most diverse and intriguing genus of plants in the world. Bet you’ll see something you’ll wish was yours.

Orchidelerium, they say, is a very catchy disease.