The Orchid Man’s Son

Son of the Orchid Man

Although not obvious, it’s really only since moving to Jacksonville that I’ve had much luck with orchids. Previously, this would have been obvious from the trail of dead orchids that has followed me for the past 35+ years. Look for the dead orchids and nearby you would have found me killing them with kindness, er, paying too much attention to them, er, well, you get the picture.

Actually, it should have been different – much different. I am the son of the Orchid Man. You see, I come by my love of orchids naturally. I grew up with them.  My father started growing them when I was two years old, and except for 3 years in Germany during the late ‘60s, we’ve always had at least a few around.

It was after our return from Germany and our settling in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, that my father became known as “the Orchid Man,” or at least that was how he was titled in the local paper. After we’d been there a few years and my father retired, he acquired the reputation as being the choice of last resort if you wanted to save a dying orchid in Fort Walton Beach. The orchid is dying or dead? No problem, give it to my dad; he’ll save it.

Unfortunately, at the time, my greatest talent was to take a perfectly healthy orchid and make it commit suicide once it dawned upon it who its new owner was. It’s not an enviable talent, I’ll grant, but it was mine.  Of course the rest of the story bears telling as well. I joined the Army in 1975 and spent the next 20 years in the field in such tropical orchid friendly places as Germany, Colorado, Washington state, and of course, Alaska!

Truth to tell, the multiple deployments with no one at home to care for the orchids, and a succession of unsuitable environments, would have given pause to even the most talented orchidist, but not the Orchid Man’s Son. I tried to grow orchids, but they just weren’t up to the task. Darwinian orchid culture at its finest!

Fast forward past retirement from the Army, graduate school, and a fortunate move to Jacksonville, and surprise upon surprise, I am the Orchid Man’s Son; and I Can grow orchids.  At present I have 2 to 3 hundred in two small ‘pop-up’ green houses and under the trees at home on Fleming Island, south of Orange Park, Florida. Winter remains a challenge as it remains a constant struggle to get them appropriately watered and given enough sunshine during the cooler months. However, with the first blossoms of spring, I’m amply reminded that it’s worth every bit of effort.

I’m currently a member of the Jacksonville Orchid Society where I’m a fixture taking pictures of the winning orchids on our monthly show table.  I’m also a member of the Saint Augustine Orchid Society and the American Orchid Society as well.

Art Russell

The Orchid Man’s Son