National Orchid Day
Following is my interview with Carol de Biase, the orchid curator.
1. How long have you worked at Vizcaya?
I’ve been at Vizcaya about 15 years.
2. How do you see the orchid collection in broader scheme of the gardens?
The orchids are an important part of our horticulture operations in a few ways. We have one of the largest orchid collections in the country, and certainly the largest collection of warm growing orchids in the United States, which has been assembled over the past 15 years by myself. We have partnered with the North American Plant Collections Consortium to register our collection and once that is complete, we will be an important repository of species and hybrid DNA for conservation purposes. We also use our collection to illustrate the amazing variety to be found in these plants, and why it’s important to protect them in the wild. Finally, James Deering, the patron of Vizcaya, loved orchids and wanted them displayed throughout the gardens and the Main House.
3. What is your background?
I have been growing orchids for over 40 years. I have been an American Orchid Society Judge for the last thirty-eight odd years, traveling extensively throughout the world, and served on many Committees of the American Orchid Society. A member of many orchid societies, I have also served as Editor of the South Florida Orchid Society “The Orchidist” Magazine/Newsletter for twelve years. When not growing or judging orchids, I am heavily involved in volunteering, especially with Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, and have been a member of this organization for the past 21 years. I am the recipient of many AOS awards and enjoy growing and showing my many species and hybrids.
4. How many orchids are on property?
We have about 12,000 individual plants. roughly 2,000 of those are permanently installed in the trees throughout the gardens.
5. How many different kinds (Genus) are represented?
We have over 2,000 species and hybrids in our permanent collections.
6. Where and how are they displayed?
Most of them are in our greenhouses. We will hold them there until they flower and then put them out for display. The exceptionally rare or desirable orchids don’t go on public view for their protection. We have quite a few installed on the trees throughout the gardens. In our collection we have many extremely large, old specimens. Most of those won’t fit in the greenhouses so we hang those from the large trees. We also have the largest collection of Staghorn fern in the US, and many of those are extremely large. Those are hung from tree limbs also.
7. Are they always all on display or rotated as they bloom?
We rotate them as they flower. Our standards for floral display are quite strict and if the flowers aren’t perfect or close to it, the plant doesn’t go on display.
8. Do the orchids ever have to go into a greenhouse?
We have several greenhouses where are orchids are kept.
I sure wish we could have seen the orchid greenhouses the day we were there. I can’t wait to go back to Vizcaya and I know a tour will be on my agenda!
Thank you Carol for this interview and for sharing the beautiful orchids you are curating at this wonderful garden. Happy National Orchid Day!