At orchid workshop, get expert advice in speed-dating style _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- One of the dozens of varieties of orchid on display during the Acadian Orchid Society's annual flower show at the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center on Sunday.

Carol Stauder knows orchids. So when a fabulous Phalaenopsis I received as a special gift went ailing, she was the first person I called.

“Can you save it?” I pleaded.

“I’ll give it a try,” she said. Then she added, “Why not bring it to our ‘Summer Workshop’ on Tuesday night? There’ll be plenty of people there who can take a look and tell you what to do.”

The New Orleans Orchid Society’s “Summer Workshop” (7 p.m., Tuesday, July 21, at the Garden Study Center in City Park’s Botanical Garden) is sort of a cross between speed dating and a horticultural clinic.

It’s something that program chairman and vice president Ian Heiler started about three years ago, and it offers members and their guests a chance to learn from one another about cultivating and growing orchids. Non-members are welcome.

“The way it works is that we set up several stations, maybe six or so, and they are staffed by experienced growers,” Stauder said. “We divide whoever comes into groups, and then the groups rotate from one station to the next over an hour or hour-and-a-half.

“That way, they get to learn from our most experienced growers and ask questions about whatever topic is being covered at that station.”

By way of example, one station might deal with potting orchids, another with mounting them for display. Others might provide information on common pests, specific varieties of orchid or the best growing medium.

Members and guests learn from one another in the process. And because there are usually no more than five or six people in a group, everyone has a chance to ask questions.

Got a problem plant? One that just won’t bloom? Or, like mine, has your orchid’s leaves turned yellow and fallen off? You can bring your problem orchid to the event and confer with group members.

Maybe it gets too little or too much light. Perchance you water it too little or (more likely) too much. Or just maybe (like me), you accidentally filled the crown with water one day when being careless and it rotted out (sigh). Whatever the issue, Stauder says, it’s likely that a group member will have had the same problem and will have ideas on how to solve it.

The last part of the event is a show-and-tell for those who have brought orchids that are especially comely or that Stauder calls “cutie pies.”

“’Cutie pie’ is a highly sophisticated term for a nice orchid,” Stauder joked. “Every now and then, one specimen just has something about it that makes it stand out.”

My orchid won’t earn that title this year, but who knows? Perhaps after a year in the infirmary, it will emerge as a “cutie pie” at next summer’s event.

The Summer Workshop is free. For more information, email Stauder at