Studies show that just being around orchids can lower stress levels, improve memory, promote creativity and basically make us happy. So it’s easy to see why members of the Gulf Coast Orchid Alliance are giddy.
GCOA is a non-profit organization with one goal. To gather with other orchid lovers and enhance their orchid growing experience. “We strive to teach, not just how to grow and thrive, but how to show our beauties in exhibitions. Members can win ribbons and other awards for their most outstanding blooms,” says Elaine Gates, GCOA VP of programs.
“For most of us, it starts with a gift,” says Gates. “I got my first orchid from a friend when I moved to Naples in 1980. It was an Encyclia tampensis, or Tampa butterfly orchid, and I had that plant for almost 4o years! It had over 100 spikes, and each spike produced 10 to 20 flowers. You could say, I was hooked by then.”
Membership starts at $35 and includes monthly programs featuring expert speakers and hands-on activities all to help you grow your best orchid. The group consists of beginners to American Orchid Society judges. (The AOS is internationally renowned and based in Miami.)
Safety is priority one right now. Gatherings take place in large rented spaces, giving everyone plenty of room for social distancing. Attendees are required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked before entering. The GCOA’s biggest fundraiser is its annual orchid show, which in the past has brought in over 7,000 spectators. Sadly, due to the pandemic, the event was canceled last March but they hope to be back sometime this fall and set up at the North Naples Community Park. This nationally recognized show features vendors from all over the state. And it gives orchid lovers the chance to see rare plants not always available locally.
Believe it or not, the orchid is the largest plant family. Some produce blossoms as small as a mosquito, others as large as a dinner plate. Every country in the world and every state in the United States has orchids, and Naples is famous for its orchid displays. Gates has about 400 plants on her lanai but others in the group have thousands in their collection.
It’s easy to see why Naples is considered the orchid growing capital of the world.