Sunday, November 8, 2009

Do's and Don'ts of Orchid Buying

Actually Do's are pretty simple -Do buy orchids! Do pay the price stated including sales tax- which brings us to our first Don't:

Don't ask: "Why are you the only people charging sales tax?"
Because I want libraries to stay open, students to have music classes, pot holes to be filled! -And I don't want to get in trouble. Who are you? A sharp customer or a sharp customer from the IRS?

Don't ask: "This orchid doesn't have a price on it-so it's free isn't it? Ha Ha!"
And ha ha to you, too.

Don't ask: "How do I grow them?"
Orchids are the largest and most diverse family of flowering plants in the world. This is like going up to someone selling cakes and asking: "How do I cook?"

Don't ask "How do I grow them?" (Part 11)
If you live in Alaska, on a yacht, down a well, are allergic to plants or just waiting around for a friend, do not ask this question so eagerly and intently that the average orchid vendor becomes convinced that with a little encouragement and explanation, some of your disposable income will soon be his.

Don't ask: "I kill orchids! Now tell me what am I doing wrong?"
You are obviously an evil person and you are proving it by standing squarely in front of me and losing me a sale- Did you see that old hand at orchid shows, that lady who actually had picked up an orchid and was advancing, purse at the ready? Did you see her drifting off when she heard your opening line?

Don't ask: "Could you put this in a basket for me?"
No. The whole point is this orchid is sold as is, it's cheaper, a bargain, "bare-root" because it is Not In A Basket. This question works only too well if you are a drop dead gorgeous female addressing a male employee who has trouble getting dates and knows where the good baskets are kept.

Don't ask: "Do you have another orchid like that one last week- the one that woman got?"
You are distraught - it is the only one you ever really wanted and there must be another one somewhere in the nursery just as perfect and beautiful -but the funny thing is when we ask sympathetically, "What was the name? What size basket was it in? What color was it?" you often can't remember.
You just remember it was the most beautiful orchid and that woman swiped it. Here we need Dr. Motes (Literature and Philosophy)to fill us in on this phenomenon. If you cut out references to Plato etc., it boils down to the fact that reality can never live up to things remembered and dreamed of.
In the orchid world this means that however much the orchid house is scoured, however many other orchids are brought forward, even when we remember exactly the color and size of the lost one mourned over, the reaction is always the same: "Oh no, the one I mean, the one that woman got was darker, fuller, just more beautifuller!"
Well,if it were that much darker, fuller, more beautifuller, then it would not have been for sale in the first place.

Don't ask: "Do you have a smaller one of that?"
Because mostly you don't mean smaller, you mean cheaper.
And after having rummaged around in the back, emerging triumphantly, with a keiki or an offshoot:("I know the big one is 75.00 but this is only twenty!") one is almost always met with:
"Oh, um... no thanks."
Because when you've taken the trouble to make a special request, when you've waited patiently for someone to go back and hunt for this specific orchid, and your friends or maybe your Mum and Aunt are waiting too, and the children are starting to have fights with hand-fulls of gravel, then somehow it's not supposed to be smaller and cost all of twenty dollars when it arrives, why would anyone wait around for that? -It's supposed to be the same but cheaper.

This has been written while Dr. Motes is away talking to orchid societies in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware - so while the President is away I was having some fun. In fact, as everyone knows, we answer all the questions above (and more!) with the patience, wit and wisdom for which Motes Orchids is justly famous.
But the little question I like best, the sweet little question that always makes me smile, is the one that often pops up as someone rounds the corner and catches sight of our orchid houses for the first time: vandas, hanging up, row upon row, sitting on benches, in baskets, on S hooks -as far as the eye can see- and they will turn to us and ask shyly:
"So - do you grow vandas?"


  1. I hate that question, "how do i grow them?" or "how often do i water it?" it drives me mad!!
    [scowl] also, i must remember to tell my mother to stop making the "is it free?" joke.

  2. Karina- Don't tell your Mum not to keep joking- it's part of the folk lore! I'm going to be writing Do's and don'ts for orchid sellers- a bit of self-criticism to come! Mary