Presentation is Everything

Top chefs know that the difference between an average meal and a culinary masterpiece is often as simple as the presentation. A bland bowl of mashed potatoes suddenly becomes quite intriguing when sautéed mushrooms and onions are added. Even toast comes alive when quartered diagonally.

The same is true for flowers. A garden full of wildflowers that has become invaded by weeds loses its appeal. Sure the lovely blossoms are still visible but there are too many distractions to fully appreciate their beauty. All that is needed is for someone to tidy up the space.

Orchid plants require a special form of treatment in order to look their best. Sometimes, this takes place before the blooms have even opened. Some orchid genera (Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis) should have their flower spike staked up to a month early so that the buds develop correctly. Cattleyas inflorescences often need some form of staking but usually not until the buds are mature. Dendrobium sprays are so strong and upright that they rarely need staking.

What happens when an orchid is not properly staked? Many unfortunate scenarios can arise including:
flowers pointing in difference directions.
a heavy flower stem with blossoms pointing down.
foliage covering much of the flora.
buds unable to open fully.

What materials are required to head off these unpleasantries? Common gardening items such as hand clippers (to cut the stakes), twist ties and plant clips (to attach flower stems and pseudo-bulbs to stakes), clean razor blades (for cutting away unnecessary plant pieces), and ¼” to 1/8” wide green bamboo stakes of all lengths (to provide support for flower stems and pseudo-bulbs).

Phalaenopsis care is an excellent example of what is required:
1. When the flower spike has ‘pea-sized’ buds, a thin stake should be inserted into the media and a plant clip or twist tie loosely attached near the base of the stem. The stem will continue to elongate as the buds get larger.
2. Once the first flower opens, the clip or tie can be moved higher up the stake for better support of the flowers which will increase in weight with each subsequent flower burst.
3. It is very important not to change the direction that the flower stem is pointing until after all the buds are open. Otherwise, the unopened buds will redirect towards the light and the flowers will be askew.
4. Once all buds are fully open, feel free to move the plant anywhere because now the flowers have ‘hardened off’ and will present themselves to their fullest.

The American Orchid Society uses a term called ‘arrangement’ which is similar to ‘presentation’. Their 2012 Judging handbook defines arrangement as “the manner in which flowers are placed upon a stem.” Are all the blossoms spaced adequately such that each can be viewed clearly or are they bunched up? Does each flower face in the same direction or are they off-kilter? ‘Presentation’ includes these aspects as well as the overall look of the plant and its blooms.

Whether fine food or flowers are being enjoyed, proper presentation will always enhance the experience.

Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 16:45