Jewels of Winter orchid experience at Fellows




Fellows Riverside Gardens is blossoming with a variety of ways to enjoy orchids in the Jewels of Winter experience through March 17.

Visitors can view the vibrant colors of white, yellow, pink, red, purple, green, orange and even blue in some 150 blooming plants of 75 varieties. They might also catch a whiff of chocolate, lemon, pepper and floral scents.

Have a repast at the Garden Cafe to eat an orchid — the vanilla bean is a seed pod of an orchid.

Admire silk paintings and unique lamp shades depicting orchids in dazzling colors in the Weller Gallery. The artwork of Gunter Schwegler of Cleveland Heights will be shown through March 10.

Leaf through books and magazines highlighting orchids in the Maxcine Antonucci Library, where a fairy garden will be set up.

Any or all of the above may picque your interest in growing orchids.

Dave Miller of Niles, a Fellows volunteer, master gardener and vice president of the Greater Akron Orchid Society, will lead a guided tour of the display March 5. He was among volunteers at Fellows last week arranging the orchids. Miller, who grew up in a flower gardening family, became interested in orchids a decade ago and has been nurturing them ever since.

Beth Molvin, a Fellows staff gardener, credited Keith Kaiser, horticulture director, with the orchid display idea. He thought it would be uplifting for people to see orchids during the winter, she said. The exhibit is in its third year. “The response was positive,” she said.

“There’s such a variety and they’re so unique,” Molvin said of the plants that intrigue admirers.

Miller said there was a time when orchid enthusiasts “had to go to an orchid grower or skilled greenhouse” for an orchid plant. He noted the speed of transport has changed that. Orchids from Florida, California and even China can be in Ohio in two days, alive and well. Phalaenopsis , a common orchid variety that’s easy to grow, is being sold at many stores.

Some gardeners were intimidated by orchids, thinking they required highly specialized care. Some do, but other varieties aren’t so demanding. Miller said research and talking to seasoned orchid enthusiasts would help novices. Miller said many orchids “like people temperatures of 65-70 degrees and 30-40 percent humidity. Care depends on the orchid,” Molvin said.

Miller said some orchids grow in the wild in Ohio. Among them are cypripedium and spiranthes.

Other volunteers, Glady Burnett and Marilyn Africa, master gardeners, helped set up the orchid display. Africa said she “babysat” a neighbor’s orchid when she was away and “just fell in love” with it. “I like gardening and I like a challenge,” she said.

Burnett said she was drawn to orchids after last year’s show. “I can’t resist them,” she said of the small-flower variety. “They take time but it’s well spent.”

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