Orchids delight

KOLOA — Al Sugano of Koloa only does business at the Koloa Farmers Market.

Sugano, who retired from the forestry industry in Corvalis, Ore., returned home to Koloa where he and his wife Ami started growing orchids as a hobby.

On Monday, Sugano’s offerings included a wide variety of phalaenopsis, or “Moth Orchids” because this is the time of the year that a lot of them go into bloom.

“This is just right for us,” Ami said. “It goes fast. Most of the time we’re done in about an hour.”

Phalaenopsis orchids are probably the most widely produced genus of orchid in the world today, said Ada Keones, one of the organizers for their upcoming Garden Island Orchid Society Spring Fantasy Show and Sale. That event is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on March 17, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 18, at the Hanapepe United Church of Christ social hall.

Keones said there are so many phalaenopsis hybrids that it is hard to believe they have been produced from around 50 wild species centered around the Philippines.

This type of influence on orchids led Keones and other leaders of the GIOS to dedicate this year’s show and sale to “Orchids of Asia and the Pacific Rim.” The dedication is in recognition of the contributions these countries have made to the orchid industry of Hawai’i and the multitude of Hawaiian hobbyists.

Sugano, who has done several presentations to the public via the GIOS, noted that in a neighboring vendor’s booth, there was a phalaenopsis hybrid that had double chromosomes. That blossom was identified by large splotches of bold coloring against a lighter hue, and grown by local grower Wayne Ajimura who has collected his share of awards at the annual show.

“There are a lot more of the exotic plants at the show,” Sugano said. “Here (at the farmer’s market), we tend to work with the ‘consumer’ types.”

Koenes said that when the word “orchid” is mentioned in the context of tropical flowers, many think of Hawai’i, but are surprised to learn that due to its remote location, is home only to three small endemic, terrestrial orchids.

The numerous species grown in Hawai’i today were initially brought in by seamen and plantation owners traveling to and from, or through, Hawai’i from other parts of the Pacific starting in the mid-1800’s. This type of trade continues today, and many of the orchid species that are found in the cooler highlands of Asia do well in Hawai’i’s friendly climate.

“They like to be abused,” Sugano laughingly told a lady who queried about the care of dendrobium orchids. Among the variety of phalaenopsis, Sugano had an isolated one, or two plants which were quickly snatched up by shoppers because of its sturdy nature.

Koenes said that dendrobiums are island favorites because of sturdiness, and the flowers are adaptable for use in lei, flower decorations, and wedding bouquets.

There are over 1,500 species of dendrobium, but to the layman, members of the species are often difficult to detect.

However, Koenes said “They are so complex that botanists have dissected them into smaller genera that produce new plants from the pseudobulbs. One member of this family, the nobile dendrobium that originally came from a large area stretching from India to Southern China, is now primarily bred in Hawai’i and Japan and sold around the world.

The vanda flower is referred to in Indian Vedic scriptures, and at one time, was the most prolific orchid in Hawai’i where it was known as “the lei orchid.” Vanda Miss Joaquim, as it is known in orchid circles, is the state flower of Singapore, and is only one member of the large vandaceous family which is also related to ascondentum and aerides. These plants are widely grown in outdoor beds in homes today.

Sugano’s background in the Oregon forestry industry makes him a natural in the orchid arena, and Koenes is quick to acknowledge his wide range of knowledge and personable presentation due to his teacher-like approach to people.

Sugano said that one of the areas he worked on in Oregon was coming up with the parents of Christmas trees that are grown commercially on farms.

Branch Harmony, the coordinator for the Koloa Farmers Market, added that Sugano not only sells the potted plants, but also supplements his offerings with bunches of cut orchids.

“It works really well for this area,” Sugano said. “Most of the time people just want to enjoy the blooms, and not worry about how to get the plant home.”

The GIOS Spring Fantasy Show and Sale is one of three orchid events on Kaua’i where growers, both professional and hobbyists, can submit specimens for judging according to American Orchid Society (AOS) criteria.

Once judged by the specially trained panel of AOS judges, the specimens are put on display for the public to enjoy.

For those wishing to enjoy Sugano’s orchids to add to their personal collection, he said he only does business at the Koloa Farmer’s Market, or through his greenhouse. But, the best way is to visit the Koloa marketplace on Mondays starting at noon.

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