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Mad About Orchids

Orchid from 'Mad About Orchid' exhibit on Sept. 17th, 2011.

What: Mad About Orchids exhibit

“At the Gardens ‘Mad about Orchids’ exhibit you will encounter a dazzling display of tropical orchids.  You will learn about the most popular orchids for home or greenhouse cultivation and even a few that can be grown outdoors in Tucson.  You’ll also learn tools and tricks for growing orchids successfully – including growing media, fertilizing and watering tips.”

-Tucson Botanical Gardens Website

Orchid from the 'Mad About Orchids' exhibit on Sept. 17th, 2011.Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens in Tucson, Arizona.

When: June 16 through Sept.  25, 2011

Why: Orchid lovers, flower fans and anyone interested can witness the exotic wonder of orchids.

More information: General admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children. The Tucson Botanical Gardens is open 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Things to do nearby:  While you are checking out the exhibit, try wine tasting locally at CataVinos Wines! Sample six specialty wines that follow a new theme each week, with cheese and other gourmet goodies for only $10.

Orchid from the 'Mad About Orchids' exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.


Part One of Interview with Emily Rockey, Orchid Curator at the Tucson Botanical Gardens


Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA

Emily Rockey is very passionate and talented in the plant world. She has had the opportunity to work at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. The collection in Pennsylvania fascinated Emily and helped her grow an “enormous appreciation” for orchids. “They are fascinating, sometimes it seems to me that they have something like a personality,” said Emily Rockey. She currently is in charge of the greenhouse, and she curates all the other plants in the Tucson Botanical Gardens Collection. Emily also belongs to the Tucson Orchid Society.


Nora Merza: How did the very first “Mad About Orchids” exhibit go?

Emily Rockey: The exhibit was a great success; we got a lot of good feedback on it.  Orchids are not typically featured at gardens in our desert environment, which made it something new and special, I think.  The three beginner educational courses on orchids were extremely popular; we will be offering it again this fall.

Nora Merza: What made you give orchids their own event?

Emily Rockey: I didn’t actually decide on the exhibit, and oddly nor did horticulture department here at the gardens.  The executive director and planning committee made the choice. But I’m glad they did, and I bet we will see it again in the future.

Nora Merza: What have you noticed that interest people the most about orchids?

Emily Rockey: People seemed to “exclaim” the most about the diverse shapes and colors of the blooms.  They look so exotic. They also many grow epiphytically, perched on something (like our “tree” in the exhibit), which is different.

Nora Merza: Do you think “Orchidelirium” is just a fad, or here to stay?

Emily Rockey: It is definitely here to stay, and will only become more popular if anything. Only in recent years have beginner orchids been so available in super markets and grocery stores.  They are no longer a “specialty plant.” The term “Orchidelirium” refers to a period in the mid-19th century where people began to grow and be amazed by orchids.  They were new and different at that time. We have learned so much about care and culture, and hybridization alone is an enormous business.

Nora Merza: Which orchid at the Mad About Orchids event is your favorite?

Emily Rockey: I have a weird favorite.  It is actually a mutant plant, which is referred to as peloric. This is a Doritaenopsis, a moth orchid hybrid, a cross with a Phaleanopsis and a Doritis. This particular peloric plant has 3 lips instead of one. Look closely and you can see which one is the “proper” lip.  I have applied a special hormone to try to vegetatively reproduce this plant, or get it to grow a little clone plant on it, because collecting seed from it would most likely not produce a plant with the same mutation.

Coming soon: A video of the ‘Mad About Orchids’ exhibit and the complete interview with Orchid Curator, Emily Rockey!