A Convenient Way to Transport Display Supplies to the Show
I KEEP SUPPLIES THAT ARE USEFUL for preparing my exhibits at orchid shows together in a cardboard box. But before I list those items, I should first describe my typical orchid exhibit. Our Denver Orchid Society shows consist primarily of tabletop exhibits created by individual members. I am pleased when I have a sufficiency of flowering orchids at show time to be able to mount a small exhibit of my own plants that will fill an 8-foot (2.4-m) table — perhaps one to two dozen plants.
Although some exhibitors create elaborate backdrops and settings for their plants, I have found that “basic black” is hard to beat. Our show tables are draped with black cloths, so I use a black backdrop and usually cover all the orchid pots with yardage of black fabric draped about them. All you have to do is add an accessory or two to tie in with the show theme. I’ve found that these ebony exhibits guarantee a tabletop display in which the orchids stand out.
THE BOX The cardboard box is 16 inches (40 cm) square, a size that seems about right for the gear that fills it, and I stash it under my exhibit table during the run of the show. Among the bulkier contents is the fabric I use to drape the pots in the exhibit. I purchased several yards of the black polyester fabric and have cut it several times when the need arose. I try to drape the fabric in and around the pots rather than to individually wrap each pot. Between shows I keep the fabric folded in the box, and even after several years have never needed to launder it.
Another chunk of the box’s volume is occupied by an array of plastic pots and small nursery containers that are nested together for use in staging the plants in the exhibit. Most of this is done before the show, as I assemble the exhibit at home a day or two ahead of time to determine exactly which plants to take.
Staging the exhibit involves getting each plant’s flowers into a position where they are displayed to best advantage, and you sometimes need to elevate some pots behind others for this to occur. I use many things to accomplish this, from small pieces of lumber and sections of square wooden post to inverted pots of both clay and plastic. When the right arrangement is achieved, I mark each item used to elevate an orchid pot with a piece of masking tape that has the appropriate plant’s name written on it. I also make a diagram of the arrangement so I can recreate it at the show. Despite this care, it is not unusual for the effort to need a bit of tinkering at the show site. This is when these extra pots I haul along can save the day and provide an alternative when the original choice no longer seems to work.
There is also a three-quart (2.8 l) plastic watering can in the box. It has a long spout to reach between plants and into the back of the exhibit. I water all the plants at home before leaving for the show site, so I do not do much watering at the show, but sometimes it is necessary. I pack a spray bottle as well. Perhaps it is more useful than the watering can for misting and refreshing the plants and flowers during the show weekend.
I also make the plant labels before I leave for the show. To blend them into the background, I prefer to use a silver pen on black cardstock. The labels are glued or taped to bamboo skewers that have been blackened with a felt tip marker. In the orchid show box are pens, extra cardstock, and additional bamboo skewers, in case they are needed. I have found that short sections of these skewers are also useful for pinning the black fabric I use to drape and cover the pots. I push a short piece of it through the fabric and into the orchid medium in the pot to hold the fabric in place as I drape it through the exhibit. There is also a box of paper clips in the box. I use those to attach the show entry tags to my own labels for ribbon judging.
Again, I do most of my wiring and staking at home, but there is usually a need for more at the show. I have some wire, twist ties and short bamboo stakes in the box for any staking problem that arises when reassembling the exhibit.
It is a good idea to have a few tools and implements handy as well. A couple of these I purchased in duplicate. I have a pair of pruning shears in the box — not for pruning orchids, but for cutting bamboo stakes. For last-minute orchid trimming, I’ve included some single-edge razor blades, which are used only once to avoid the possibility of spreading disease. There are also a pair of wire cutters and some needle-nose pliers. I have a pair of scissors as well, in case I have to cut the fabric or label stock. A roll of black masking tape is there too, plus a box of large straight pins, which help keep fabric in a particular position.
It is important to carefully inspect, groom and clean all plants before taking them to a show. Still, a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton balls and swabs are invaluable to have along in case an unexpected mealybug should appear.
LIGHTING Finally, I include the paraphernalia necessary to illuminate my small orchid displays. Our shows, like many, are held in a facility that is not brightly lighted. Outlets are available, however, and those exhibitors who do not take advantage of them do their orchids and their displays a great disservice. I purchased several small black spotlights years ago that have served me well. They are only about 4 inches (10 cm) tall. While some are designed to sit on the tabletop, a couple have clamps that can be attached to my backdrops for side or top lighting. They take small 25-watt bulbs. It is important not to damage flowers and plants with high-wattage bulbs that can generate too much heat. A four-outlet grounded power strip and a couple of extension cords ensure that I can reach the power source and am able to share it with others.
When I began to put in my own orchid exhibits, I ran around the house and gathered all these things together at show time. The orchid show box turned out to be the right solution for me and makes orchid show time much easier to anticipate.