Feb. 8-10: Celebrate orchid ‘eye candy’ at this year’s February Follies

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NH Orchid Society member Matthew Lajoie, 17, of Hampton, NH, holds his prize orchid, a Phragmipedium Mount Fallu. Courtesy Photo

NASHUA, NH  – A perennial favorite will return to Nashua February 8 – 10 as the New Hampshire Orchid Society hosts “February Follies,” their 28th annual show and sale at Courtyard by Marriott, 220 Southwood Dr., Nashua.

NH Orchid Society President Andrea Deachman says the annual event often stimulates new interest in the Society. She’s hoping to increase the state-wide roster beyond its current 150 members following February Follies.

“For years we’ve dubbed our March meeting new member month for that reason; giving those inspired potential members an opportunity to get to know us and how the Society can enrich their appreciation for orchids regardless of their knowledge level.”

A Chichester resident whose current orchid collection numbers 60, Deachman has initiated a more hands-on, engaging approach at the Society’s monthly meetings for 2019 – held at Bedford Town Hall — to dispel misconceptions about the elusive plant many think intimidating to grow.

“We want the Society to be a fun and fascinating experience for everyone,” says Deachman who is committed to bringing in dynamic guest speakers and offering how-to sessions in repotting and planting on bark, among other things.

Ideally, Deachman would love to encourage a new generation of orchid enthusiasts; young devotees like 17-year-old Matthew Lajoie of Hampton, who joined at the age of 12 and continues to be the Society’s youngest member.

Lajoie’s interest in orchids began innocently enough when, at the age of 10, he bought a colorful specimen at Home Depot to spruce up his room.

“I was just so happy and surprised at how well it did that I decided to get a few more,” says the senior at Winnaccunnet High School.

But it was a trip to a local florist a year later that would turn Lajoie’s budding fascination into a serious fixation.

“It was there that I saw my first Paphiopedilum – or Lady Slipper – and I completely loved it. It cost $45, but I didn’t care. I had to have it,” Lajoie said.

Over the next three-years – and with the help of his parents and grandfather – Lajoie converted a small, one-table growing area in front of an east-facing window in his room to include a multi-shelve unit and hand-crafted table featuring specialized orchid drainage trays, professional grow lights, and a floor humidifier.

“Basically, my entire bedroom has become an orchid habitat.”

NH Orchid Society meets at Bedford Old Town Hall, 3 Meetinghouse Road in Bedford,  on the second Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

It’s not an inexpensive habit, Lajoie warns, what with the cost of plants, special soils and fertilizers, and those grow bulbs; but he’s been working since he was 14-years-old to afford his hobby and it’s paid off in lots of other ways too.

“While I’ve always been a good student, my interest in orchids has not only increased my understanding of science, it’s done so in a real life, real time sort of way,” says Lajoie, adding that the experience has been the basis for successful projects and research that have only added to his scientific knowledge of botany in general and orchids specifically.

Lajoie has opted to take a gap year after high school, excited he’s been offered a considerable position at a local garden design company. His reputation precedes him; he’s been teaching orchid growing classes to adults for sometime now at yet another garden center in the Hampton area.

“Yeah, when I first started, people were pretty amazed that their orchid instructor was 16-years-old,” says Lajoie modestly.

Trichoglottis pusilla, an orchid from Ecuagenera Orchid, one of this year’s exhibitors. Courtesy Photo

A member of the NH Orchid Society for five-years now, Lajoie says he is, “blown away by everything the Society strives to do,” and has found them to be completely helpful whenever he’s needed guidance or advice.

That’s music to Deachman’s ears who says Lajoie is a breath of fresh air and as rare a breed as some orchids in his care.

“Orchids are eye candy,” says Deachman, “It’s not unusual for people to get excited by the ones they see at places like Home Depot or Lowe’s, but all too often they lack thorough instructions, frequently die within a couple of months, and people give up, think they just can’t grow orchids when, in fact, they can be some of the easiest plants to care for.”

About NHOS February Follies

The annual orchid show features hundreds of colorful orchids in full bloom from all corners of the world artfully displayed by eight New England orchid societies in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont.  There will be tours and educational programs presented throughout the weekend by Society members and growers happy to share their love of one of nature’s most treasured cultivars whose varieties number over 25,000.

Vendors from Ecuador and Taiwan will offer rare varieties for purchase in the retail area along with numerous U.S. growers as well as merchants with orchid-related products and home décor accessories.

February Follies Annual NH Orchid Society Orchid show is Fri., Feb. 8-10 at the Courtyard Marriot, 220 Southwood Dr., Nashua. Hours are Friday 1- 7 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m. to 5 p.am. and Sun., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.nhorchids.org or at the door: Adults: $10, seniors (65+): $8; Children under 12 – free.Three-day daytime pass $15 (no discount).