Tips For Preparing An Orchid Exhibit
TIPS FOR PREPARING AN EXHIBIT OF ORCHIDS
You can do quite a bit of work ahead of time so that you can enjoy the
experience rather than be overwhelmed with all the details. If
possible work with a partner to divide up or share activities to make it
easier. Either look at some pictures of previous year's shows or talk
to seasoned members to give you some idea of what is expected.
Basic Elements of an orchid exhibit
All Orchid Exhibits whether they are a 300 sq. ft. floor exhibit or a 36
X 36 tabletop incorporate the same basic elements:
to block out distracting surroundings and provide a uniform area against
which to display orchids
to display different size orchids at different heights
to provide contrast for the orchids or block out distracting elements
to cover the surface on which the exhibit is constructed
to interpret the show theme and add interest
the featured attraction
to identify the orchids
Building the back drop is one of the most important and time-
consuming activities. The frame-work can be made of a variety of
materials from PVC pipe to wood lattice. Just remember you are going to
have to tote this frame to and from the show so it should be made to
either tear apart easily or fold down to manageable proportions.
The back drop is normally covered with some kind of back cloth
preferably with a matte finish. This provides the best background to
show off the orchids and bring out the colors in the flowers as well as
in the foliage used to showcase them. Several yards of extra fabric are
also necessary to cut up and place around pots and the various
containers and stands used to provide a pleasing display. Gather a
series of multiple sizes of plastic pots, wood or plastic boxes, stands
or other sturdy containers to use for adding depth and elevation to the
exhibit. You will need to bring enough with you so that you can work
with the exhibit until it suits your flowers and your space.
Pieces of driftwood, various mosses, containers of ferns, palms, or
other foliage in containers are used to fill in around the orchid plants
in the exhibit. The point to remember is that you are showcasing the
orchid flowers, not the items around them. There are a number of ways
to set up the exhibit. One is to showcase one plant-either in the
middle or one side-and then arrange around the focal point. The focal
point plant should generally be the highest in the exhibit to give it
the most importance. Another way is to build up both sides of the
exhibit and have the middle down at table or floor level.
Many orchid shows will have a theme and you should try to produce an
exhibit that works with that theme. There are many items of choice
that can be used but be very careful not to introduce any other kind of
flower or the exhibit may be disallowed. Be aware not to overshadow
your orchids with the other items in the exhibit.
BEFORE THE SHOW
You have done all the preliminary work at home, picked out your
perfect blooming plants, prepared your back drop, and gathered all your
props, now it is time to put it all together. It is recommended that
you do a preset up at home or a designated place to set up your exhibit
and either take pictures or draw a diagram of the setup in order to
shorten the length of time it takes you at the exhibit hall.
One of the most basic things you need to think about is getting your
orchids to the show in the best shape possible. What ever works for
you is how you will do it. It is important to keep them from
falling over and breaking off any flowers. Using high sided crates will
prevent them from toppling over and provide extra support.
Orchids with delicate inflorescence such as Phals will need
protection. A great idea is to tie the Phal inflorescence with a
bending wire that follows its natural curve, but continue the wire so
that it rest against the flooring that the pot is sitting on. This will
support the whole inflorescence until you have arrived at your
destination, and then remove the wiring.
At the show you will be required to have an entry card for each of your
orchids with the name of the orchid and its parents. This can be done
before hand. This is the same thing we do at pre-registration. Look
up the orchid on Encyclopedia Orchid Wiz, or what ever reference you
You will also need to identify your orchids in a very neat manner in
your exhibit. Most people use black cardboard paper cut into 2 inch by
3 inch pieces and lettering with a gold or silver pen. These are
attached to a stake and displayed in front of each plant. If you're not
sure how it should look, just check out one of the other exhibits in the
Now you should have everything you will need to make your exhibit, and
most of it was done ahead of time. All you need o concentrate on now
is breaking up the unnatural effect of a table or floor area and
direct the eye toward the orchid you wish to high- light.
| What is Color Flow?????
Color flow in an orchid exhibit means that you shouldn't put an orange in a group of lavenders. The
colors should F~L~O~W~ from one to another gracefully like the rainbow. By sticking to this rule you
can avoid any bone-jarring clashes that might disturb judges and the public at large. By utilizing
color flow you can throw away those "please wear protective eye ware" signs you planned for your
display. Color flow will guarantee that a sense of serene well being will envelop all who view your
exhibit. But most of all, color flow makes sense and provides a useful guideline for placing orchids in
an orchid exhibit.
Where do you put the white ones?
White is a combination of all the colors in the spectrum so theoretically you could put white
orchids anywhere without a clash. Yet they are the lightest color and because of that draw attention.
Typically white orchids, especially groups of white orchids, are place to the rear of an exhibit, this
provides depth and makes them appear somewhat less bright. If you have just a few small white
flowers they can be placed coming off of yellows, pinks or greens with good effect.
"Some color flowers just don't seem to fit, should we not use them?"
Use those odd color orchids as transitional elements that can bridge between two seemingly
disparate color groups. For instance, many Paphs have color patters that allow them to fit well
between greens and lavenders providing a bridge between lavender/purple and green/yellow. Some of
the artshade Cattleya hybrids can fill the gap between reds and lavenders. Oncidium complex hybrids
such as Aliceara & Miltonidium have elaborate color patterns that make them ideal as filler between
color groups. Orchids such as B. nodosa, B. digbyana, Epc. Vienna Woods can make an excellent
transition from greens to whites and all bicolor orchids can serve as transitions between two color
groups. And finally, don't overlook species orchids to provide not only variety and interest but fill those
awkward spaces that no conventional hybrid can.
By using conservative and logical color groupings of orchids you will achieve harmonious color flow.
How Much do I need ?
Rule # 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 much 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
hall...it 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 provisions
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
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 !)
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 (if any) you have decided on. 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 athen 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
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 drop cloths 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 pin 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.