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An enduring fascination with orchids

A childhood love of orchids develops into lifelong love of flower

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Posted: March 24, 2007 11:11 p.m.
Updated: April 9, 2007 5:00 a.m.

    Longer days and warmer weather herald the arrival of green grass and the Easter bunny, bare feet and tadpoles. The brilliant pink and purple blooms of the azalea begin to dominate the local landscape as spring approaches.
    But azaleas don’t spur memories of childhood for Statesboro resident Robert Smith. Orchids do.

        “When I was a young child, my grandmother gave gifts of orchids to friends,” Robert Smith, a lifelong orchid lover and cultivator, explained. “When she would get a plant, she would take it out and put it in the trees in the yard of her south Florida home and that’s where they would just grow. I can never remember a time when I wasn’t surrounded with them. To me, orchids are as common as azalea plants.”
    “I remember always being fascinated with them,” he said.
    His fascination with the flowers spurred his mother Rachael to build him a greenhouse and together they run a commercial orchid business — Smith Company Orchids — here in Statesboro.   
    “Currently, we provide orchid plants and blossoms to local florists,” Rachael said, “and we sell plants to individuals that stop by.”
    Not only have they enjoyed success as a business, but Robert  developed a better system for growing orchids — the Orchid Block System — and patented it.
    “For many years, orchids were grown two ways — either in pots [on chips of bark] or by slab culture,” Robert explained.  Both techniques provided an “anchor” for the orchid’s unique root system, but made the plants difficult to manage and display.
    “In order to manage orchids properly, you need to have some way of putting them in a pot so you can use wire stakes for support and so you can transport them,” Robert explained.
    He recognized the need for improvement and developed a system where the orchid plant is mounted with plastic clips to a shaped piece of styrofoam which rests in the top of a pot. This technique not only made the orchids more portable but cut labor time from 15 minutes with other techniques to about five minutes with the Orchid Block System.
    “Currently I am working to improve the technique, but I can’t talk about that,” Smith said with a grin.   
    Several different types of orchids color the interior of their greenhouse.
    “We have cattleyas, the type you see in corsages, plus phalaenopsis and dendrobiums,” Rachael said. “We sell the orchid plants for $40 a plant.
    If you wish to purchase an orchid or have questions about Smith Company Orchids, call (912) 681-3923. 

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