Last Thursday, Captiva Civic Association members experienced a special orchid care and culture class, presented by horticulturalist Debbie Hughes of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.
Attendees were encouraged to bring in their problem plants for Hughes to diagnose, and were given a thorough overview of proper orchid care, including tips for cultivating successful orchid blooms.
"I can tell you what's wrong with them and I can tell you how to grow them and I can tell you what they are, but there are no experts on orchids," Hughes said, noting that there are approximately 150,000 species of hybrid orchids.
Pictured from left, Jan Markle, Toni Hullstrung and Sharon Brace examine orchids from the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
According to education coordinator Brandon Anderson, the reason the Estates are so well known for their orchid cultivation is because Thomas Edison, along with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone used to go camping in the Everglades and bring orchid specimens back.
Hughes also explained that the fascination with orchids, which used to be considered more of a luxury item, became somewhat of an obsession for Victorian era collectors.
Orchid hunters would brave dangerous tropical climates, scouring the jungle for any and all orchids they could find.
Orchids nowadays, according to Hughes, have become "gift plants" that are affordable, bloom frequently and are easy to take care of thanks to hybridizing and cloning methods.
Throughout the course of the presentation, Hughes did a repotting demonstration with a phalaenopsis, an orchid species that needs to be repotted about every two years.
She also explained how to transplant an orchid to an outdoor tree so that it can thrive in an outdoor environment, paying extra attention to how one can properly affix the orchid to the tree without damaging the roots of the plant.
"The roots are the most important part of an orchid. The roots are what take all the energy for the plant," Hughes said.
Among the many tips and tricks Hughes offered throughout the program, one of the most important warned potential orchid buyers to beware of plants that have been treated with growth horomone.
"And remember to fertilize weekly. Know what you have so you can tell how much light it needs. If you're not sure what you have," Hughes advised, "ask the person who sold it to you how you should care for it."
To find out more about the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, their expansive orchid collection and upcoming events, visit www.efwefla.org.