The Tacoma Orchid Society has been in existence since 1954 by Dr. Phillip Fehlandt, chemistry teacher at the University of Puget Sound. The goal of the Tacoma Orchid Society is to expand their knowledge and appreciation of orchids and have fun. Jeff Parham, president of the Tacoma Orchid Society, commented: “We have members that are beginner growers and professional growers; we have about 50 members currently. Yearly dues are $20 for an individual and $25 for a couple. A member can be any age.”
The Tacoma Orchid Society meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 pm at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Tacoma located at: 101 E 38th Street Tacoma, WA 98404. Members and prospective members can attend at 6:30 pm and talk to other plant growers to ask questions. From 7 pm to 9 pm is the Tacoma Orchid Society’s formal meeting. Jeff explained that a speaker normally discusses some aspect of orchids, for example, their culture, diversity, pollination, light requirements, or about a specific type of orchid in general. The speaker will talk for 45 minutes to an hour and then a “show and tell” takes place, in which members bring their orchids and show and tell how they grow it and the rest of the members judge them. Jeff explained, “Members get little incentives at the Christmas meeting as the person who gets the most votes gets a prize. The “show and tell” is kinda fun.” The meeting ends with a plant raffle. Jeff discussed the plant raffle, “We have a plant raffle to raffle off plants and orchid related things. You buy a ticket and draw; it’s a really fun way to increase your orchid collection really cheaply. It is 5 tickets for $5 and I walked out with 2 or 3 plants that were worth a heck of a lot more. Sometimes there are dahlias, orchids, or something related to orchids, for example, an orchid pin or a porcelain cup with an orchid. There have been other items that have been raffled off, such as: greenhouse thermometers, culture media, and plant pots…different things such as orchid calendars, books, and we have a fairly extensive orchid library. Members can check out books from our library. Raffles are always fun.”
Jeff discussed more aspects of the Tacoma Orchid Society, “We just had an orchid show and sale at Watson’s nursery on June 30th and 31st. We have an orchid show and sale at least once a year. People from all over, including non-members that are growers can bring orchids and have them judged. We had five different orchid nurseries come into the show and sell their orchids. It’s a great way to get orchids for your collection that you can’t buy locally. You can buy a lot at Fred Meyer and Lowe’s. It’s a lot of the more fascinating to find varieties that you normally may not find.
We also do a lot of talks, such as the library talk at the DuPont and the Orting library; other members do talks, too. Fred Shelton, our trustee board of directors, is also a master gardener that gives a lot of talks at the Metropolitan Market in Proctor District.”
Jeff commented on what he thought of the Tacoma Orchid Society, “I find it to be a fun time and something I look forward to every month. I look forward to learning more about plants and different types of orchids and how to grow them. There really are some fascinating people that grow orchids.” When asked what the best thing about the Tacoma Orchid Society, Jeff replied, “It probably really is the people. Orchid people who have addictions for orchids are really interesting and talk about it in detail on how they get these things to live and bloom again and are really patient and really fun to be around.”
Jeff revealed what many people may not know about the Tacoma Orchid Society, “I don’t know that people really understand how much orchids are a part of the American culture. When orchids were discovered, they were originally known as a wealthy man’s hobby to grow orchids and only a certain class of people who grew them. Orchids are really available for anybody to collect and enjoy. Our Orchid Society from 1954 has a lot of history and people for all these years have spent countless hours of their life to support the Orchid Society. There are known secrets when going into a green house and we will tour green houses and see the roots hanging from the ceiling like a jungle. The part of the roots hidden in the orchid flower makes you feel like you discovered something that very few people have seen or appreciated. There’s that feeling of gratitude with nature when you get a plant to bloom and the feeling you get from taking care of it. The orchid blooms and the reward is beautiful flowers and fragrance. It’s a really nice accomplishment and it’s a way to make accomplishments in your life that seem like they’re major. You want the orchid to bloom and when it does, you call your friend to come and see it at the “show and tell” at our meetings.”
When asked how the Tacoma Orchid Society was unique compared to other flower societies, Jeff replied, “I don’t belong to other societies, but some of our members are part of other flower societies. I’m not sure what they do, but the fact that orchids are fairly unique makes our society unique. The seeds of an orchid are the smallest of any flowering plant in the world. You can find orchids all around the world, except the North and South Pole and pretty much every country. Orchids can distribute around the world and attach to things and float in the air. A lot of orchids have grown epiphytic; grow on other plants, for example in rainforests.
Orchids are fascinating as they have adapted to getting water and nutrients. They have this special tissue on their root system that’s called “velamen,” a special covering on the roots that are very efficient at taking water and nutrients.”
Je ff mentioned an orchid growing tip: “Most people who kill orchids have overwatered or fertilized too heavily. A lot of orchids like certain types of light, such as dappled light where there is light and shadow.”
When asked who he recommended attend the Tacoma Orchid Society meetings, Jeff replied, “Anybody that has a green thumb or wants their thumb to turn green, or anybody that has an enthusiasm for life and learning about nature because that’s really what it is. You’re learning more about how these plants have adapted and how they grow in nature and since they grow all over the world: Costa Rica, Peru, New Zealand, and Australia, you can learn about nature, science, and geography while meeting some really neat people.”
For more information about the Tacoma Orchid Society, please visit: tacomaorchidsociety.com or call Jeff at: 360-271-3971. “I think being around orchids gives you a connection with nature and the earth and it’s calming and peaceful. It’s a really neat way to combat stress,” Jeff concluded.
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com