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Annual San Rafael Orchid Exposition

Visually stunning flowers on show at the annual orchid exposition

Cattleya orchid arrangement

Cattleya orchid arrangement.

A single orchid that is not adorned is pretty; however, arranged orchids are much better, insists Hamilton Orchids owner, Cris Hamilton.

As opposed to your normal flower arrangement, all orchids — whether arranged or single — are a true bargain.

“The flowers in orchids are stunning to look at, give off a pleasing fragrance, and can definitely brighten up the room and entryway,” says Cris. “In addition, while cut flowers may last for a week or so, orchids often perform for as long as 3 – 8 weeks. They also have that orchid mystique.”

Cris, a resident of Mill Valley, has been leasing and boarding the plants to offices and homes throughout Marinwood and the Bay Area for almost 30 years.  His personal collection features many rare and unusual specimens.

Cris Hamilton Owner

Cris Hamilton Owner Hamilton Orchids

This will be the fifth consecutive year Hamilton Orchids will have orchids on sale; or more specifically selling orchid arrangements at the 59th annual Pacific Orchid Exposition.  This is your special opportunity to view arrangements that are normally only created under special customer request.

Anyone can try their hand at arranging orchids at home. Cris offers the following tips to help make your efforts successful.

Arrangement Tips

Choose your container: Shallow ceramic pots and neutral colored wicker baskets are a couple of Cris’ favorites. And you should make sure there’s felt or rubber on the container’s bottom so that there isn’t any scratchings left on the table.  Finally, waterproof it with a plastic liner inside.

Choose your orchids: Cattleyas will bloom in around three weeks; while phalaenopsis or dendrobiums, when positioned in the correct light, can survive for “at least a few months; this being a ridiculously long time.” If you want a pleasant fragrance, choose Oncidium Sharry Baby or cattelyas which “have many fragrances ranging from vanilla to that very familiar Johnson Wax smell.”  You can substitute natural materials like pussy willows or curly kiwi for the support stakes supplied by the nursery. Now tie the orchid stems to these stakes with paper-coated or raffia vine wires.  You may want to add decorative objects such as sliced-stem balls resembling woven wooden balls.  Cris says you should “place them off to the side or tuck them in at the base of the orchid.” He has also used larger dried mushrooms that you can get from the floral supply stores.  Always choose your plants in threes, or at least in odd numbers.

Coordinate with the room: “White normally works very well in most rooms; however, stay away from white in rooms that are totally white.  If you plan to put the orchid into a colorful room, orchids that are similar in shade are preferred.”

Harmonize: Stay with the same color if the same variety is used. If different varieties are used, you should go with different compatible colors and heights. The best effect can be achieved by placing the largest orchid in the back of the room.

Show your sense of art: “It takes a good creative eye to do arrangements.  Each orchid is unique; listen to what the plant is saying to you.”

Light: You should place your orchids in some bright light. Morning sunlight is ideal.  “If the orchid is in a dark place, you will end up losing the flowers first and then the entire plant.”

Warmth: Orchids should be kept above 60 degrees when night falls.

Maintenance: Trim the blooms when they are spent.  If the remainder of the arrangement still blooms, then replace the specific plant. It’s always best to water in the morning to let excess water captured by the orchid crown evaporate. Misting with 15 – 20 spurts of water on each portion of the bark that surrounds the orchid “evenly spreads a layer over the bark and roots,” Cris says.  And don’t forget to fertilize all your orchids regularly; even the ones in bloom.  The bark should be misted weekly for 3 weeks, until the water drips onto the roots, using a 1/4 strength solution of balanced fertilizer.  On the 4th week, mist with only water.”  Since decaying bark won’t let oxygen get to the roots, it’s a good idea to repot each year.

The exposition is the country’s largest of its kind.  More than 150,000 types of orchids will be showcased.  Attendees can take advantage of educational lectures, docent tours, wine tastings and live music.  A number of celebrities will make an appearance at the gala benefit preview.  This event is the San Francisco Orchid Society‘s largest fundraiser.

59th Annual Pacific Orchid Exposition

Where: Fort Mason Center, Buchanan Street and Marina Boulevard, San Francisco
When: 3/3: gala benefit preview 6:30 to 10pm;
3/4: 10 am to 6 pm
3/5:   9 am to 6 pm
3/6: 10 am to 5 pm
Tickets: gala – $35 to $40;
$8 to $14; children under 12 are free
Further Information: 665-2468 and www.orchidsanfrancisco.org

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