The winter Orchid Show is a respite from February in Buffalo: brightly colored flowers to offset the gray and white everywhere outside and a chance to appreciate the plants’ beauty in coat-free conditions.
The show’s second and final day on Sunday drew a steady crowd to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, eager to see the eye-catching plants up close, and perhaps collect tips or make a purchase from a vendor.
“This is a great time to have an orchid show because people are house-weary and they’re winter-weary, and they get a chance to see a lot of beautiful flowers,” said Joe DiDomenico, president of the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society, which puts on the show at the Botanical Gardens. “It kind of holds them over until they can get outside and start doing their thing.”
The show serves as the orchid society’s major fundraiser each year. This weekend, between 200 and 300 orchids were on display, “which is high for us,” DiDomenico said.
What makes orchids appealing enough to draw visitors to a show, some from a long distance?
“They come in every shape, size, color and even fragrance imaginable,” DiDomenico said. “They grow in so many different ways, it’s just fascinating to people.”
Anne Moyer and her mother-in-law, Marge, drove from Wilson. They were gathering advice about the best way to care for their plants, from the amount of moisture to the best way to cut them.
“I’m trying to learn something,” Marge Moyer said. “I have three in bloom now.”
Orchids have global appeal. There are more than 25,000 orchid species, and they are the largest family of flowering plants.
The winter Orchid Show typically attracts 1,500 to 2,000 attendees over its two days, DiDomenico said. “I can’t tell you how many people I see taking pictures.”
One of them was Walter Markowitch of Rochester, who was training his camera lens on all varieties of orchids. He and his wife, Helen, had traveled to the Botanical Gardens unaware the show was under way, but he took advantage of the opportunity. “I’m a fan of still photography, particularly flowers,” he said.
Markowitch compared the show to an orchid building he had visited at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. “They have some beautiful orchids [in Atlanta], but this is right up there with their displays. A lot of variety here, things I’ve never seen before.”
At one of the vendor stands, Jim Marlow of Marlow Orchids in Scottsville, near Rochester, was trying to keep up with all of the customers. “We almost sold out (Saturday) and had to bring more plants today. Everything has been moving nicely,” he said.
Orchids have such widespread interest because “there’s an orchid that would grow in just about anybody’s house, no matter if they have a cold house or a warm house,” he said.
Marlow said he was impressed with the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society’s commitment to maintaining the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens’ permanent orchid collection, which consists of more than 2,000 plants.
DiDomenico said for all the planning that goes into the winter Orchid Show, some things are beyond the members’ control.
“It’s one of those things where a plant was in bloom last week, and you get ready for the show, and the flower falls off, you can’t bring that in,” he said with a laugh. “You’re at the mercy of the plants.”
And while the show wrapped up on Sunday, DiDomenico was already looking a couple of months ahead, when orchids would reappear in his yard, heralding the return of spring.