Blooming petals and green stems of orchid flowers stood out sharply against the backdrop of the black curtain. Blue and red ribbons hung from the pots of award-winning plants. Children and adults alike gazed at the orchid displays, looking closely at each leaf and flower. Outside, people strolled the trails with their friends and family, carrying newly purchased plants in their hands and bags.
The Kanapaha Botanical Garden celebrated its 35th anniversary with its annual Open House Fall Plant Sale on October 23-24. The event included an orchid show in partnership with the Gainesville Orchid Society.
The open house event at 4700 SW 58th Drive ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and brought together around 45 vendors selling plants, orchids and food.
Alex Caffrey, director of Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, said the garden has hosted the annual plant sale and open house every year since October 1984, with the exception of the 2020 hiatus due to the pandemic. It will be the garden’s first event in over a year, and she said the small staff at Kanapaha Botanical Garden have been working hard, taking on several roles to organize the event.
“I am the main person who organizes the sale of fall plants and it starts with the uploading of the request, the acceptance of the request, [then] relaying information to vendors on set-up guidelines, ”Caffrey said. “During the show [I’m] coordinating it with all staff to make sure it runs smoothly.
Caffrey said the sellers came from all over Florida: locally from Gainesville and Alachua County, and further afield, including Ocala, High Springs, Tampa and Keystone Heights. The event is free and typically attracts around 5,000 people to enjoy the gardens, see the orchid displays and buy from vendors.
“I love that it’s an opportunity for everyone to be able to go out into the gardens,” Caffrey said.
Gainesville Orchid Society President Julie Graddy helped stage the orchid show filled with 70 blooming flowers. She said putting together the exhibit was a team effort and a labor of love.
The Orchid Show featured four exhibits from different Florida orchid societies, including Gainesville, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Volusia County. The Gainesville Orchid Society exhibit came first, Graddy said.
The Gainesville Orchid Society was organized in the early 1960s by a group of about 15 orchid enthusiasts. Since then, the organization has grown to over a hundred members who share a range of orchid expertise, from hobbyists to commercial growers. The company has been involved in the open house and sale of plants at Kanapaha Botanical Garden for about 15 years, Graddy said.
“I think the members want to share their passion and their hobby so the community can enjoy their variety and beauty,” Graddy wrote in an email.
Michael Wright, president of the judges at the American Orchid Society, came from Tallahassee to be a judge at the orchid show. He has been an orchid judge for about fifteen years.
“There is always something new and interesting to see because everyone cultivates things a little differently,” Wright said.
The orchards were judged first in a ribbon judgment, where the judges assess each flower and award a first, second, or third ribbon; then the judgment of the American Orchid Society, where judges nominate plants worthy of further evaluation.
The flowers and items on display are judged on factors such as quality, general layout, balance and colors, among others, he said. There are various awards in different categories such as Best Hybrid Orchid, Best Miniature Orchid, Best in Show, and Best of Species to name a few. He said that there is a diverse mix of flowers and various orchid plants.
In addition to the beautiful plant life, the people attending the event are also a highlight for Wright.
“One thing about growing orchids is that I have met people from all over the world,” Wright said. “The friends I made here in Gainesville; they are always very welcoming.