How much do I need ?

R U L E # 1

When putting in an orchid exhibit you are
always better off having too much than too little.

Of course this does not mean that you must USE it all. When you are at the exhibit hall it is a real luxury to have MORE foliage than you really need, plenty of mulch to cover all of your staging and enough of an orchid selection that you have just the right orchid for a particular spot. After spending hours planning your exhibit, gathering materials, creating your prop, collecting plants, and transporting all of your stuff to the exhibit is only frustrating to have to compromise at this point. Don't allow it. The guidelines offered below are conservative. If you can exceed them then by all means do so. You will appreciate it on set-up day.



Plan on having at least 100 blooming orchids per 100 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Plants should be groomed for exhibition and flowers should be fully opened but not on their way out. A few days in an air-conditioned exhibition hall can be hard on flowers, only those in their prime will last. Be sure that plants have been fully watered before putting them in an exhibit. If the show will last more than a few days make provisoions to water the plants at some point during the show.

For naturalized exhibits, that is landscaped exhibits, figure that about 20% - 30% of the total area will be foliage plants. You will need a variety of sizes and heights. Actual needs will depend on the show staging, exhibit design and location of your space. Corners will require less foliage. Often show committees will provide a minimum amount of foliage with the exhibit space, inquire the show chairman about this. Provide at least a row of tall foliage (up to 8') for creating a barrier between your space and the exhibit you back up to. For a 100 sq. ft. space that would be about 8-10, 5-gallon ficus benjamina, areca or queen palms depending on how full they are. Stocky two-gallon arbicola, philodendron or boston fern can be used between and in front of the background material as well as for the sides of the exhibit area. 15-20 of these two-gallon plants would be a good number to have on hand. Finally, two dozen or more small maidenhair or fluffy ruffles ferns work well as contrast and relief between orchid plants. Philodendrons and other foliage plants as well as some bromeliads also work well for this however, avoid strongly variegated foliage (important !), it competes with the orchids. Finally, an interesting specimen foliage plant such as a citrus trained to a standard can provide a focal point for an exhibit as well as a great place to display that special orchid.
DO NOT use any other flowering plant material in your exhibit (important !).
And finally, Do not use any artificial plant material in your exhibit (important !).

The word "groundcover" refers to any material used to cover the floor or tabletop that the exhibit space encompasses. This material is also used to cover any staging that is used to create levels within the exhibit area as well as the orchid pots in most cases. Groundcover can be almost any material that serves this purpose without distracting from the orchids themselves. For naturalized exhibits groundcover is typically a bagged material such as cypress mulch, peat or pine bark "deco nuggets'. Sheet moss was and still is extremely popular giving a nice woodland look to any orchid exhibit. It must be moistened before use however and today many exhibitors are looking for easier to use materials. Tabletop exhibitors generally use yard goods to cover tables, with black or dark green fabric being favorites.Yard goods have also begun showing up in floor exhibits; large dropcloths dyed or painted a dark color provide a quick effective way to cover large areas of staging and foliage pots. Camouflage cloth such as used by hunters has been recently seen at orchid shows and makes a fast, easy groundcover especially when combined with a bag or two of dried leaves. Any groundcover material you decide on should be of a neutral color that does not detract from the orchids and should be readily available and inexpensive enough that a large enough quantity can be obtained for your exhibit space. A 2-cu. ft. bag of cypress mulch or pine bark should cover about 10-15 sq. ft. of space depending on how thick it is applied and whether or not the space is flat or contoured. Five bags would be minimum for 100 sq. ft exhibit taking into account the space taken up by foliage and orchids. . Allow 3-4 boxes of sheet moss per 100 sq. ft. exhibit space and be sure to bring buckets and tubs to soak it in. Two or three bags of dark peat or top soil will make a nice path in a 100 sq. ft. exhibit.

A successful exhibit has different levels on which to display orchids. Foliage plants are also more attractive when they are not all on the same horizontal plane. Whatever you use to achieve these levels will in part depend on the groundcover you have decided on. If you are using sheet moss your staging will need to be waterproof. Plastic milk crates, fern stands, plastic pots, wooden vegetable crates and crumpled newspaper in plastic garbage bags all work well and are equally suitable for dry groundcover. The newspaper does not need to be in garbage bags if you are using dry groundcover. Whatever materials you use should light in weight and easy to transport to the exhibit hall. They also must be sturdy enough to support orchids without compromise throughout the duration of the show. I remember one exhibit I worked on where the committee chairman had devised staging using chicken wire and lumber. It collapsed and destroyed our two best Cattleyas. If using crumpled newspaper be sure that any orchids are seated firmly before finishing the exhibit. Six or so milk crates can be used to carry materials to the exhibit hall and then pressed into duty to gain height for background foliage. An assortment of plastic pots are light in weight and can be used upturned to provide elevation to an orchid or foliage plant .

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