Orchids for many years have been a staple of stagers’ arsenal. They impart instant bling better than perhaps any other single feature of a well-staged property. They also are peculiarly adapted to doing well inside a home: They require watering only once a week, and the blooms can last for months.
Less well-known, however, is that in San Diego there are a number of local growers who are hybridizing varieties not available in Home Depot, Costco, or Trader Joe’s. Most of the orchids you see in these venues come from Hawaii and Asia–and the orchids they produce thrive in their tropical climates and are mass-produced there. By contrast, local growers tend to focus on varieties that do well here and take more patience to flower. Local orchid enthusiasts bring these orchids indoors when they’re blooming and stick them outdoors in partial shade the majority of the time.
Chief among these local varieties are the Cattleyas, commonly known as the “corsage” orchid because their blooms are often the centerpieces of corsages. One local nursery that hybridizes these gorgeous creatures is Rex Foster Orchids. (The link works, but the website is currently being re-vamped). The plants you can get here are unique because the growers pollinate and cross the orchids themselves. John Walters, head nurseryman at Rex Foster, has been working for years to produce smaller plants (more convenient for inside the house) that keep their large blooms. And of course they are always working to produce new color and bloom characteristics, and the variety is spectacular. The only part of the spectrum missing is blue.
Another way to startle prospective buyers, and also hybridized at Rex Foster orchids, is to place a Tolumnia in a otherwise neglected corner. The flowers hang like jewels in the air, and almost nobody knows what they are.
Kathy McLorg, a seasoned stager working in Marin County, the county that produces more tax revenue than any other in California, has some advice on using orchids for staging: she suggests placing them on coffee or dining room tables “when clients want real.” She puts moss around the plants and uses curly willow to add to their appeal. Ms. McLorg also points out that Grape ivy combines well with orchids and has similar watering requirements. She reminds stagers to be sure to put large plastic liners in each container because you “don’t want to come back to a ruined table.”
Whether you stage with Phaelenopsis or Tolumnias or Cattleyas, they should all be watered only once a week, and for the tolumnias , always in the morning. Kathy McLorg suggests using a couple ice cubes for the Phaelenopsis, but this won’t work for the Cattleyas.
The best way to get local orchids is by emailing Billy Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him at (619)316-4331.
Some additional pics of Rex Foster Orchids: