master class withWoody Robbins

putting in an orchid exhibit

click pix for a larger view

If you are the type of person that needs to pre-visualize then by all means do a sketch of what you would like your exhibit to look like. This can help determine where the major features go. Try not to be a slave to a drawing though...the reality of the exhibit hall may require adjustments.
Before show set-up you should have inquired about the availability of electricity or water if you intend to use either. Once you know your exhibit space you can begin putting your prop in. Here we are working with 100 sq. ft. area. Be sure that your space is clearly indicated by masking tape or a sheet of plastic. It is no fun to have to adjust exhibit boundaries at the last moment.
This particular prop is of a modular design and can be adjusted for different size exhibits. The prop should reflect the show theme as well as your exhibit title and always be subordinate to the flowers themselves. Whenever possible use it to provide additional staging levels for orchids . A prop can be as simple as a path or water feature or more complex such as shown here. Small props can work well when used with a path or other natural feature.
Any spare hands are enlisted to lend support. Always be sure that anything that is intended for displaying orchids is of sturdy enough construction to support them. A good exhibit can be diminished by collapsed staging that damages an important orchid.
This prop was made from bamboo and old pallet wood. Notice how it provides several platforms for displaying orchids as well as the posts themselves. The basic elements of orchid exhibits that are covered here can be easily downsized to fit smaller exhibits and even tabletop exhibits.
A "door" made of some grass screen and a few palm fronds complete the prop. Now we can begin blocking in our foliage. Start by putting your tallest plants along the back of the exhibit to act as a "screen" that will hide any distracting background elements. This will also serve to provide a uniform background to display your orchids against. Some exhibitors use a painted background scene which eliminates the need for most tall foliage.
Here we are placing a second prop; an old dugout canoe. This will provide another level for orchid display and give us less floor area to have to cover up later. The canoe will also serve as a diagonal line leading the eye into the exhibit.
Once we start placing orchids it will be difficult to place any additional background foliage so we'll do that now. These 5-gal. philodendrons fill in nicely. Although our prop provides a variety of levels you will notice foliage plants set on milk crates. It is important to have different levels so the exhibit is not flat. There are many ways to acheive this multi-level staging.
Here's a high view of how the exhibit looks before any orchids are placed. Notice that our props provide many good places and different levels to feature special orchids.
All the exhibit skills in the world will not make an award-winning exhibit without quality plants. Select your best plants to display in the most prominent areas of the exhibit. ALL plants should be groomed for exhibition and showing their finest. Staking should be done before set-up day whenever possible.
Normally we might start with a grouping of white flowers somewhere to the rear of the display area and work forward from there. The group of plants we have available includes only a few white flowers so we decide to put our rather large group of tall blue Vandas in the featured spot in front of the doorway.
Our Vanda selection is varied enough that we can easily lead our color flow into the lavenders and pinks form these blue vandas and in doing so work our way toward the shorter plants that will go up front.
There are no set rules for placing orchids and much of it is subjective. You can use orchids of mixed colors as transitional elements to bridge gaps between other color goups. The Onc. lanceanum in the foreground can work well with either lavender or artshade flowers.
Labeling counts for ten points and there is no excuse to not get all ten points. Having a list of orchids and a person familiar with orchid names makes the job go smoothly. Good penmanship is a must. It's a good idea to place labels as you place orchids. You may not be able to reach them all if you wait until the end.
We have decided to work the lavenders down the platforms and the reds + oranges over to the canoe. This exhibit we have very few yellows and whites to work with. The black plastic on the floor will eventually be trimmed or tucked under the platform to provide a free-form front edge rather than straight-cut. This will add additional interest and we'll only lose a few square feet of space.
The last few plants are often the most difficult to place and may require careful consideration. For this exhibit we will be using lichen as a groundcover. Being a dry material we can use crumpled newspaper to give an orchid a slight elevation or tilt it a certain way.
Finally we will use the equitant Oncidium's pale pink lip with darker center as transition between the lavender Cattleyas and our only white flower, B. perrinii. Now it's just a matter of placing groundcover and the last few labels. Although the point scale makes no specific provision for groundcover you cannot have a finished exhibit without it.
There are many different materials suitable for groundcover. The primary purpose is to cover unsightly pots and staging materials used to provide elevation. Sheet moss has been the standard for many years but using it is messy (it needs to be soaked). Other materials are now being used by imaginitive individuals...anything that harmonizes with the natural look and provides coverage will do.
If the exhibit hall does not have ample light you may need to provide auxilliary lighting for your exhibit. A lightstand with floodlight placed on either side of the exhibit should suffice. Be sure that any stands are placed out of the traffic flow to comply with insurance requirements. Plan on three people spending 4 or 5 hours putting in this exhibit.

"First and foremost, exhibiting should be fun. Most of us do the orchid thing as a hobby, if a hobby is not fun, you are doing it wrong.".............M. Gerber __________________________________________

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