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You should begin preparing an orchid for exhibition before the blooms are actually open. By doing so the flowers are encouraged to open to their fullest potential and present themselves in the best way possible. The first step is to remove any distracting hardware such as hangers, old stakes, ring stakes etc.
Rhizome clips may be left in place, however, if the plant is established you may remove them.
Using a pair of clean shears cut off any old bloom spikes or remnants. If the plant has any unsightly leaves use sterilized shears or a razor blade to cut the damaged part off. Dress all cuts to healthy plant tissue with fungicide powder to discourage infection. Be discreet and remove only the dead part of a leaf. If most of the plant looks unhealthy you are better off not showing it.
Carefully remove any dried sheaths from the pseudobulbs. An old toothbrush moistened with a little water or rubbing alcohol works well for this purpose.
Insert a stake into the potting media close to the bottom of the flowering growth. The idea is that the media will firmly anchor the base of the stake while the top is anchored to the pseudobulb. Stakes are available in different materials with bamboo and galvanized wire probably being the most popular. Here we're using 10-gauge galvanized wire because it can be easily bent.
Do not try to rush at this stage. Consider what you are doing. Although orchids are resilient plants, a broken flower spike can be heartbreaking. Here you can see that the spike has developed at an angle to the pseudobulb. Trying to force the spike to the stake will probably break it. Instead we will move the stake to the inflorescence
Fasten the stake to the top of the pseudobulb, where the leaf meets it, with a piece of twist-tie or bell wire.
Every plant presents its unique challenge and ingenuity will always succeed. Sometimes the stake can be located on a different side of the pesudobulb where it makes a better line with the inflorescence. Other times such as here, the bendability of wire solves the problem. Holding the pseudobulb and stake firmly we will give it a slight bend to meet the flower spike. Be careful and deliberate. We don't want to slip and break the flowers.
At this point the stake can be cut to a level just below the buds. Lineman's pliers work well for cutting both wire and bamboo.
Now we can fasten the inflorescence to the stake using twist-tie or bell wire. A short, thick spike like this Cattleya does not neccessarily need to be in actual contact with stake. A twist around the stake and a loop around the spike will suffice. The objective here is to support the inflorescence as the buds develop and become heavy allowing them to open naturally. Staking also protects the flowers while transporting the plant, especially long spikes like Phals and Oncidiums.
Next we will clean any unsightly chemical residue off the leaves using a mixture of milk and water mixed half and half. By using whole milk rather than skim we can impart a nice natural sheen to the orchid's leaves as well as clean them. Avoid commercial leaf shine products which often produce an exaggerated effect.
Although the AOS scoring system does not provide for baskets they seem to be showing up at judging more and more. An attractive basket does hide an algae-covered pot. Keeping a few on hand ensures a proper fit for most any orchid pot.
A little spanish moss adds a nice finishing touch to the presentation. Grooming your orchids for exhibition indicates to the judges that you care as much about them as you would like them to.

Ready for Display

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