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a Symphony of Orchids



ORCHIDS. The very word conjures up exotic flowers and romance. At one time, every girl hoped her escort to the high school prom would give her a large orchid corsage. Ideally, the corsage should look like this.


The blossoms screamed expense, status, and an adoring boyfriend. Alas, most boys could barely afford a gardenia wrist corsage. Oh, well.

Less exotic were smaller purple vanda orchids. These flowers were a huge commercial success on the Big Island of Hawai`i in the years following World War II. The flowering fields gave the island a second name “Orchid Isle.” Sounds fanciful, even today. And the flowers were popular give-a-ways for super market openings in southern California. “The first 200 people will get an orchid from Hawaii,” screamed the advertisement. To which my mother responded: “Huh. They must grow like weeds.” Turns out her cynicism had some merit. I doubt this picture is a vanda orchid, but it does give s sense of size.


Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants with 30,000 species and at least 200,000 hybrid varieties. They can be found almost anywhere, but their natural habitat is tropical where they like to be high in the rainforest on the bark of trees. Their thick white roots prefer open air where they can absorb moisture, nutrients, and light. I’m not good at growing orchids, but have learned if I leave them alone, at least a few will flower.


Since 1952 The Hilo Orchid Society has hosted the Hilo Orchid Show & Sale, the largest and most comprehensive show in the state. Over 100 volunteers participated in the show held this past weekend. The Society devotes its efforts to “Promote, carry on, and aid in every possible way, the culture of orchids of all kinds.” It must be working. Hilo Mayor Billy Kenoi proclaimed 2014 the Year of the Orchid.


I took today’s pictures at the show. I can’t tell you the names of particular orchids, but hope you still find them beautiful. You can access a video from the 2013 Orchid Show here.


One final thought from an anonymous quotation often used in weddings

When two people are one in their inmost hearts,
They shatter even the strength of iron or bronze.
And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong
Like the fragrance of orchids.


Photos by Author. All Rights Reserved.

Hilo Orchid Society
Information on how to grow orchids from Gardener’s Supply Company website
Quotation from Search Quotes

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.

4 thoughts on “A SYMPHONY OF ORCHIDS

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve covered the show beautifully!
    Makes me proud!!!

  2. What a lovely description you posted! It is for people just like you that we do what we do! It’s all about this glorious labor of love! Eight years ago my mom, who is no longer with us, said, “Let’s just get one orchid”. And we both laughed! Look at us now!

    If you want to learn how to get all your orchids blooming again ask Susie to teach you the Teabag Trick!

  3. Mahalo Julie, Larry, and Susan for taking the time to comment. I hope that with the 62nd show wrapped up, you all have time to enjoy your own orchids and perhaps plant more.


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