Once upon a time someone gave Terry Kowalczuk a tiny orchid, about one- and-a half inches long. That was more than 20 years ago. Since then, that little plant has since grown into a collection of more than 1,000 orchids.
A landscaper by trade, Terry has a greenhouse in back of his Toronto home and is looking to build something bigger to house his orchid collection. Japanese orchids are his specialty. Most are miniatures with many growing in pots hanging in the air.
“Welcome to the wonderful world of Neofinetia falcata!” says Terry, who will be selling his tiny treasures, which he calls “neos” as well as other orchid varieties he finds interesting at the Southern Ontario Orchid Society (SOOS) Orchid Show & Sale at the TBG Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11 and 12.
What is remarkable about the miniature species, native to Japan, is that it has transformed itself into thousands of variations and is virtually one species with more than 2,300 distinct varieties. “These varieties have evolved from the regular or ‘wild’ form that we have for years seen for sale in North America. In the wild, the roots grow firmly attached to trees and rocks and the flowers appear to fly in the wind. The plants are small and produce extremely graceful white flowers that have a fantastic scent, which incidentally is one of the most complex in the orchid world.”
For Terry, collecting and selling orchids is both a hobby and a business. “I collect miniatures and everything else that I find odd including a lot from South America, especially Ecuador.” He travels to Japan frequently to purchase orchids and meet with other collectors and vendors. He often gives orchid talks and says that the biggest question is always “How not to kill them.”
The secret, he says, is to make sure the centre is dry before watering. “I market windowsill orchids. The best place to keep them is in a southwest window. In summer the ideal place is outside under a tree but they don’t overwinter here and will go dormant at under 10 C.
“I actually sell dreams,” says Terry, because his neos mainly bloom in July. “Sometimes there is not a single bloom at my table at the SOOS show.”
Japanese orchids are generally four to five inches wide, with leaves as hard as a succulent. The flowers are mostly white and come in different shapes. “They can cost anywhere from $15 to $300,000. Until just a few yes ago it was not unheard of to pay as much as $20,000 for a pink or green one that now costs about $25.” The most Terry has paid for a single plant is $1,500. He prefers them under five or six inches, “the smaller the better,” he says. “They are so cute.”
There are said to be more than 25,000 species of orchids growing in the wild plus more than 100,000 cultivated hybrids. Some, known as epiphytes, grow on trees, shrubs or rocks while terrestrials grow in soil or humus. Many can be grown in Toronto houses and apartments. “Some of the best collections I’ve seen are in condos,” says Terry, who has a fascinating website at www.florapeculia.ca
There will be some 30,000 blooms on display at the SOOS show which is expected to draw more than 2,500 people. There will be guided tours of the many exhibits and lectures both days, all free with admission, as well as a special exhibit by the SOOS Conservation Committee on native orchids, their conservation and that of their native habitat.
Bring all your questions to find out everything you have ever wanted to know about orchids and more…There will be orchid art and photography as well orchids and orchid-related items for sale and a draw for an orchid plant.
General admission is $12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days and limited admission for photographers using tripods from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday. This is an American Orchid Society (AOS) judged show.
Photos: Jay Norris, SOOS, Terry Kowalczuk, Saleen Boksh,