For centuries, people have been fascinated with the perennial herbs known as orchids, some to the point of obsession.
An article on the Smithsonian.com website called it “orchidelirium”and described how possessing an orchid was considered a sign of extreme wealth in the 1800s.
Collectors would hire orchid hunters to search the wild for new varieties which, as a result, were only accessible to the well-off.
Dianne Gillis developed her less-extreme but still considerable affection for the flowers nearly two decades ago when she was working for Brookside Orchids in Langley.
“I just fell in love with orchids,” Gillis said.
“It became a real passion.”
After her first two orchids died, Gillis visited the annual Fraser Valley Orchid Society (FVOS) show and sale held at George Preston Recreation Centre in Langley, where there was help and advice aplenty.
That was where the novice grower discovered the flowers came from places where it was dry for long stretches, followed by outbursts of rain.
She had been watering her orchids too regularly.
“They thrive better with (carefully managed) neglect,” she said.
At the height of her fascination, Gillis had about 100 varieties growing indoors in her townhouse.
“It seem to take a hold of you,” she said.
Gillis, now a long-time FVOS member, said part of the appeal is the fact orchids can be cultivated indoors, without requiring a greenhouse.
Among the many society members, she estimates perhaps three have greenhouses — all small structures.
Over the years, she has scaled back, reducing the number and size of the orchids in her townhouse.
“I’ve down-sized to 70,” she said.
“I’m growing miniatures.”
This year, the society will celebrate its 40th anniversary.
Members have decided the milestone will be the theme of this years annual two-day sale at George Preston, but the details are still being worked out, Gillis said.
“It’s a work in progress.”
The first FVOS meeting was in September 1978 at the Tynehead Community Hall, organized by Rudy Harfman.
The society website describes how people would drive in from as far away as Chilliwack to talk with other orchid aficionados and how, for some, a hobby could become a business as some fans became professional growers.
The FVOS was awarded a certificate of affiliation in 1980 from the American Orchid Society (AOS), the largest special interest horticultural organization in the world, which among other things, trains and credentials judges for orchid shows.
The October 2018 FVOS show and sale is set for Saturday, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday Oct, 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the George Preston Recreation Centre located at 20699 42 Ave.
General admission is $7 or $10 for a two-day pass.
Seniors and students pay $6 or $9 for a pass, and children under 12 get in free.
Local vendors and orchid growers present will include Forestview Gardens, Tropical Gardens Orchids and Paramount Orchids.
There will also be an FVOS members’ plant sales table and the Orchid Species Preservation Foundation (OSPF) will be on hand.
More than 20,000 species of orchids exist worldwide, including some that grow wild in Canada.
Many are endangered due to over-harvesting or deforestation that has destroyed the trees on which they depend for survival.
Part of the 40-member, Langley-based society’s mandate is to educate people about how to recognize the flowers in the wild, as well as about the threats to their natural environment.