Even before visitors to the 23rd annual Morongo Basin Orchid Festival got to the greenhouses, they encountered a feast for the senses.
Guests arriving at Gubler Orchids in Landers first browsed outdoor vendor and nonprofit booths and could taste wine, cheese and fruit courtesy of the Yucca Valley Sunset Rotary while the Yucca Valley High School jazz band played.
One nonprofit booth was for Rotary International, where Maria Selva told the public how the club has nearly eradicated polio worldwide by providing vaccinations.
“The only three countries where it still exists are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, and we are working on the problem there,” Selva said.
Another nonprofit booth was raising money for Mara’s Christmas Wish, the local charity making sure nobody needs to be alone on Christmas Day.
Vendors included nature photographer David McChesney, who has a new photography book coming out near the holiday season.
When visitors passed through the front door of the Gubler showroom, they were met with thousands upon thousands of plants. The greenhouses span about an acre and are stuffed to bursting with orchids in every stage of development, giant staghorn ferns on the walls and hundreds of rows of young Venus flytraps.
At the west end of the greenhouse complex, they entered the world of competitive orchid growing.
American Orchid Society judges spent hours online researching the standing of the orchids on display. The process is meticulous and complicated.
Judge Arthur Pinkers explained part of the process: “This orchid was rated as a 77 before on a scale between 1 and 100. It’s been upgraded to an 81.am now, a higher category called Award of Merit. This category is numbered between 79½ and 89½.”
Orchid Society of Arizona President Julie Rathbun and Secretary Dean Toms went to the festival to teach classes on the care and transplanting of orchids.
The Riverside-San Bernardino Counties Orchid Society Inc. was represented by Ron and Linda Lang and Micaela Solis. “We’re here to help dispel the myth that you can’t grow orchids in the desert,” Solis said. “We are working on reaching out to the west side of the LA Basin and to get more people to come out to the high desert.”
The Langs are also members of the Garden and Floral Arrangers Guild and they did many of the orchid arrangements for the contest.