Feb 21st, 2024

Everything You Need to Know: 2024 Virginia Orchid Society Show and Sale

The Virginia Orchid Society (VOS) is returning to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for their 2024 Show and Sale, Orchids: Let’s Celebrate! This multi-day event features hundreds of orchids on display and for sale, free lectures for both beginner and advanced growers, orchid vendors, family activities and more. Join us Friday, February 23, from 1 – 5 p.m.; Saturday, February 24, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sunday, February 25, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The show is included with regular Garden admission. There is no cost to attend the sale and lectures!

Orchids in the Conservatory. Photo by Tom Hennessy.

Orchids in the Conservatory. Photo by Tom Hennessy.

How It All Started

Taking a deep dive into learning more about the event and the Virginia Orchid Society’s history, I spoke with Ron Geraci, who has been Committee Chairman of the show since he joined in 1989. Presenting quite the historical persona, he was given the box of VOS archives and has been having a lot of fun documenting the history of the VOS through meeting minutes, photographs and newspaper articles. He begins, “Oral history says that a group of like-minded Richmond orchid growers decided to form an orchid society in 1949. Archive records indicate that the VOS was officially organized at a meeting held on June 25, 1952, with the nomination of officers, and officially became an affiliated society of the American Orchid Society in March of 1953.” Fun fact: Nowadays, the Society has summer picnics with homemade peach ice cream.

A Long-Standing Relationship

The Virginia Orchid Society has had a long-standing relationship with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as well. “I can document eight years that the VOS has been associated with the Garden,” Rob notes. “As early as 1989, the show committee and I set up a show in Bloemendaal House (pictured below). A one-day orchid show and sale was held in the Kelly Education Center (KEC) Auditorium most likely about 2009. The Garden had welcomed the VOS to hold our meetings in the Robins Room from 2012 to 2015, and after a short hiatus, continuously since 2022 in the KEC.” Click here for a full overview on VOS history written by Arthur Burke, a long-standing member since 1957.

The 1989 VOS display in the sunroom in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Bloemendaal House.

The 1989 VOS display in the sunroom in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Bloemendaal House.

What To Expect: The Show

The show portion of the event will be held in the North Wing of the Conservatory. Here, you will find one-of-a-kind orchid displays. This is Ron’s favorite part about Lewis Ginter hosting the show. He declares, “You cannot get any better than showcasing orchids in the North Wing of the Conservatory. This is about as close as one can get to the orchids’ natural habitat in terms of light and air.” Guests can also vote for their favorite to win the People’s Choice rosette awarded for Best Display. Many more prizes await exhibitors, such as the Best-of-Section rosettes and trophies awarded to individual plants and the American Orchid Society Show Trophy awarded to the best exhibit. Check out the Conservatory floor plan here to map your route.

Third place slipper orchid at the VOS Orchid Show 2023.

Third place slipper orchid at the VOS Orchid Show 2023. Photo by Will Nelson.

About the Judging

Ron also gave me insight into the judging process. Since the event is an American Orchid Society-sanctioned show, the VOS has two different judging sessions; one judges the orchids against other orchids that appear in this show – the ribbon judging. The second session judges the orchid against the best orchid in that genus worldwide, based upon standards developed for that specific genus. This judging is similar to other plant groups with national and international judging standards, such as roses or daffodils.

Ron describes the many ribbons given out at each show, sharing, “Given the fact that there are quite a lot of different orchid genera worldwide, and plant breeders continuously hybridizing orchids to develop new and improved flowers, this means that there are a lot of judging classes. For the VOS, there are about 60 different judging classes for the orchids that are typically presented in our shows.” With first, second, and third-place ribbons within each class, this results in quite a lot of ribbons! In the second type of judging, the AOS judging, the standards are quite high, so not very many AOS awards are given in any show. Fortunately, VOS exhibitors do indeed get lucky, and in recent years, there have been a couple of AOS awards received by our exhibitors and their orchids in each of the Society’s shows.

Different orchid varieties for sale on a table at the VOS Orchid Sale 2023.

Different orchid varieties for sale at the VOS Orchid Sale 2023. Photo by Will Nelson.

Orchid Sales & Free Lectures

The sale will be located in the Auditorium of the Kelly Education Center, along with an art exhibit in the Azalea Room and lectures in Classroom 1. At the sale, you can purchase both orchids and supplies to care for your new plant(s), whether it’s your first or fiftieth. For Ron, another pleasure is hosting the welcome table at VOS shows and having great conversations with visitors. He shares, “A lot of folks are proud to tell me about their first orchid when it bloomed again. All of our hosts can offer growing tips, and hand out culture sheets to beginners. Plus, our free lectures will offer advice for several specific orchid genera as well as offering several question-and-answer sessions. And all of our vendors will offer growing tips for the orchids they sell – just ask.” Vendors include Chadwick & Son Orchids, Ten Shin Gardens, Ecuagenera, Art by Karolyn Hawthorne, and more. Check out the full list here

Lectures allow attendees to learn about all facets of orchids, no matter their level of expertise. There will be hands-on demonstrations of orchid care, along with options like “Choosing the Right Orchid to Grow in Your Home” and “New Genus Hemipilia: Easy to Grow Windowsill Orchids”. Ron notes, “Perhaps the greatest takeaway for me is that I’ve received enjoyable world geography lessons learning about all of the different orchid native habits in regions and countries where the orchids grow.” Check out the complete lecture schedule here.

More Orchid Resources

As Ron continues documenting the Virginia Orchid Society’s history, year by year, he has been posting completed portions on the VOS website on the drop-down menu in the Resources tab. Describing the lengthy process, Ron adds, “I’ve only just begun, as I have only gotten to 1955!” Join the VOS on February 23-25, 2024, as they continue to make history and celebrate the captivating orchid species.

Meredith Orne is a marketing intern at the Garden. She has a bachelor's degree in Media Arts & Design with a minor in Business. She also loves photography, writing, art, and graphic design and is excited to learn more about the Garden through these channels.

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