There was snow along the highway as we headed for Echter's Garden Center in Arvada. The Denver Orchid Society Fall Show promised to inject some tropical colour into a rather dull October afternoon. The theme was 'Orchids of the World', and I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse amount of species on display. The usual suspects were of course chosen as class winners in their respective alliances: an electric blue Dendrobium victoria-reginae, a denizen of mossy oak forests in the Philippines;
a vibrant Ascocenda Su Fun Beauty, its petals the colour of overripe persimmons;
and Paphiopedilum Magic Lantern 'Memoria Elizabeth Sulzman', holding its pouch as if the plant itself had just blown it from pink bubblegum. Feed me, Seymour, indeed.
Many strange and unusual specimens were on show, to the delight of jaded orchid enthusiasts bored by saucer-sized vandas and over-hybridized cattleyas. This South American Zootrophion below is a prime example of the bizarre orchids on display. Its small cage-like flowers don't open fully, and are covered in tubercules. What sort of minute insect is brave enough to crawl inside these to pollinate them?
Cleisocentron merrillianum is an astonishing little beast from Borneo: its slate grey flowers had many visitors to the show fiddling with the macro settings on their cameras.
Easily overlooked, Eria coronaria had its flowers hidden away in lush green foliage. This fragrant species has a wide distribution and can be found from the Vietnamese coast all the way to the foothills of the Himalayas.
This sinuous monopodial with subtle chartreuse coloured blooms is called Christensonia vietnamica. It originates in Vietnam - as should be obvious from its name - but curiously was unknown to science until as recently as 1993! It was a real treat to see a newly discovered species thriving in cultivation.
As usual my favourite thing on show is a dendrobium - usually a crystalline white Formosae-type with little black hairs on the canes, or a candy coloured jewel from New Guinea. This time Dendrobium bracteosum won me over: masses of waxy flowers emerging from papery bracts on the pendulous canes. This New Guinea native positively froths over with blossoms, each dotted with a rather impudent splash of tangerine on the lip.
Although I've been awfully good since living in the States, this time around I just couldn't help myself. The lure of the sale tables was just too strong, and I bought my first (non-grocery store Phalaenopsis) orchid since moving to Colorado in 2007. I managed to get a totally sweet deal on a Psychopsis Mendenhall 'Hildos' from Oak Hill Gardens. The clone I obtained, 'Hildos, has been awarded a First Class Certificate, the highest award bestowed by the American Orchid Society. So I got a great looking plant from awesome genetic stock for less than the price of a steak dinner. Below is a photograph of a similar orchid that was on show: Psychopsis Mendenhall 'Lace' x Psychopsis Mem. Bill Carter 'Mendenhall'. Are you jealous yet?
I have many more images from the 2009 Denver Fall Show and previous orchid shows available in glorious Technicolor™ on Flickr. Check it out.