Phyllis Erikson’s passion for orchids began 30 years ago. As hobbyists, Erikson and her husband, Dale, filled their home with orchids. Soon, they ran out of room, moved the orchids to an outdoor shed and quickly filled it.
“That first winter, all our orchids froze,” she said. “That’s when we built the greenhouse.”
Erikson turned her hobby into an avocation, a vocation and now a business. Ironwood Estate Orchids is located behind the Eriksons’ home, nestled in the woods, with two greenhouses full of orchids in various stages of growth and bloom.
“It’s wonderful, especially in the dead of winter, to walk into the greenhouses and be greeted with splashes of color and delicate fragrances,” Erikson said. “It’s perhaps a bit of heaven on earth — certainly an amazing part of God’s creation.”
Erikson raises orchid species and hybrids from around the world. Some of these are uncommon and imported from the Philippines.
Erikson credits the popularity of orchid-growing to the fact that orchids can be grown in the home.
Some of the orchid genres at Ironwood Orchid include Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Vandas and Phalaenopsis.
“Phalaenopsis is one genus with a large number of hybrids,” Erikson said. “These are very popular orchids, and most people think they are easier to grow.”
Phalaenopsis orchids are commonly called the moth orchid because their shapes resemble a moth. There are a variety of colors and patterns in the long lasting blooms that resemble an artist’s canvas.
The genus is popular enough to have its own “society,” and that group, the International Phalaenopsis Alliance, will be in Hickory on Saturday, Jan. 28.
“We’ll be attending,” Erikson said. “In fact, I donated a miniature Phalaenopsis as one of the door prizes.
The IPA Region 13 Piedmont meeting is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Hickory Furniture Mart. The event is co-hosted by the Catawba Valley Orchid Society.
Linda Thorne, regional director of the IPA, will attend. Region 13 includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
Thorne, who lives in Seagrove, owns and operates Seagrove Orchids. She started growing orchids 18 years ago.
“One. I bought myself one orchid — that’s how it started,” she laughed. “Now I have 10,000.”
Why the allure?
“Although orchids do tend to take a long time to flower from seed, the beauty and fragrance is such a reward when you see the blooms,” Thorne said. “Orchids can be misunderstood because they come from places that are tropical, so the temperatures don’t drop below 55 degrees.”
Beginners tend to overwater orchids and keep them too wet too long, she said.
“Orchids are ephysites — they grow onto a tree and live in conjunction with that tree,” she explained, “but they’re not parasitic. The plants almost dry out.”
Thorne echoed Erikson’s explanation of Phalaenopsis.
“The are one of the quickest to flower from seed, the flowers are longlasting, and garden centers now carry the genus,” she said. “It’s a public awareness plant now and easy to bloom, easy to grow.”
Close to 100 people registered for the day of education Saturday. More are expected to “walk in.”
“It’s a day of education perfect for beginners, perfect for growers and all levels of expertise,” Thorne said.
“Admittance to the talks and lunch is $15, but there is no charge to go into the sales area.”
Catawba Valley Orchid Society will have representatives at the meeting, with opportunities for people to join that society and the IPA.
“It’s a very good day for anybody interested in orchids to come and see and just be able to talk with people about orchids,” Thorne said.
Want to go?
What: International Phalaenopsis Alliance Region 13 Piedmont meeting.
When: Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Hickory Furniture Mart, 2220 U.S. 70 S.E.
Why: Join Seagrove Orchids, Stones River Orchids, John’s Island Orchids, Mike Mims and Lester Poole for educational talks throughout the day. There is AOS judging, a fund raising auction, and an open sales area.
Cost is $15 for lunch and talks. Free entry into sales area.
About Ironwood Estate Orchids
Ironwood Estate Orchids provides many services to homeowners, collectors and businesses. Learn how to grow, care for and bloom orchids. Classes are offered for beginner and intermediate growers.
Visit Ironwood Estate Orchids at 3757 Sandy Ford Rd., Hickory. The greenhouse is open Wednesday and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by appointment. The greenhouse is open Feb. 10-14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for its anual Valentines open house and orchid sale. Visit online at www.ironwoodorchids.com  or call 828-294-3950.
Catawba Valley Orchid Society
The purpose of Catawba Valley Orchid Society is to provide a support group to those interested in orchid culture, whether beginner or experienced. The mission of the Society is to promote and support the passion for orchids through education and conservation. Current membership consists of a broad array of people from many backgrounds who have in common a love of orchids.
For information, call Mary Yoder, president, at 828-464-5117.