Neil Walker from Noosa and District Orchid and Foliage society takes in the delightful scent of his Dendrobium Dal's Elite.
Neil Walker from Noosa and District Orchid and Foliage society takes in the delightful scent of his Dendrobium Dal's Elite. Tessa Mapstone

Passionate growers talk shop at show

GARY Kilkenny has been growing orchids for 20 years and, despite snagging a major award, remains humble about his achievements.

The South Burnett Orchid Society member won Best Specimen for his vibrant, purple dendrobium.

"The best specimen is the plant with the most number of flowers," he said.

"This one was only second in its division - Australian Natives - but because it has a lot of flowers on it won best specimen."

Mr Kilkenny downplayed his win but there was no disputing his knowledge and talent when he was named Club Champion Grower.

He was also given the trophy for the pinkest orchid, a special award introduced by the South Burnett's own pink lady, Councillor Kathy Duff.

"It's not really pink ... I'd call it more of a salmon colour," he said.

With 20 years of growing experience under his belt and hundreds of orchids in his green house, Mr Kilkenny has a few tips for South Burnett growers.

The first is do your research before buying seedlings.

"Some of the orchids you get... come from down south and they're not suitable for our area," he said.

And when it comes to producing a best specimen dendrobium, it's all about knowing the plant.

"These orchids like a lot of fertiliser and sunlight and water," he said.

"They don't like frost.

"In winter you've got to cover them up so they don't get water on them."

Shape and colour are vital to judges at the Wondai Orchid Show. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times
Shape and colour are vital to judges at the Wondai Orchid Show. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times Tessa Mapstone

Perfecting pollination

For John Solway, creating the perfect orchid started with pollination.

The Bli Bli grower has been line breeding the plants for 10 years in an effort to create prize-winning flowers.

"The only reason I'm line breeding is to get the shape, the one the judges are looking for," he said.

"The flowers you get in the wild are a lot more open than that."

Mr Solway carefully planned his breeding program, crossing his line-bred plants with wild specimens.

"You pick the best and then try and cross it with one from the wild," he said.

"Every now and then you've got to go back to the wild ones to get the stronger gene back in."

He said breeding new plants required patience as well as planning.

Mr Solway used to go through the entire reproduction process himself but time restraints have seen him hand over

the task to a lab.

After pollinating the plants at home, the ripe seed capsules get sent off to be flasked.

"They put the seeds into a sterile agar and within a week the seeds will germinate," Mr Solway said.

"The seeds are about the size of talcum powder and thousands come up but then you break them down.

"Twelve months from when we send the seed capsules away to the lab we get them back - usually two or three plants."

Mr Solway said the thrill of seeing his own unique creations flower was worth the year-long wait.

"The idea is to try and grow your best," he said.

John Solway takes a final look at his Del Burbank Sweet. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times
John Solway takes a final look at his Del Burbank Sweet. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times Tessa Mapstone

Strategising for show

Wondai Orchid Show Grand Champion Russell Hopkins' strategy was as important as plant quality when it came to showing.

He and his wife Janice entered the show three times and came out grand champion three times, but he kept the winning secret under wraps.

This year the champion plant was an unusual single-petal flower orchid, BC binosa.

"It's the colour and uniqueness of it," Mr Hopkins said.

"It has one petal and the green contrasts with the spots on the lips of the flower.

"It's not new; this cross was made probably 60 years ago."

Despite the champion history the Caboolture Orchid Society member said he and Mrs Hopkins were not only in the shows to win awards.

"This here for us is not a competition," he said.

"It's just putting up a display for people and it's a journey.

"If you win a prize you're lucky."

The real joy for the pair, who had about 1500 orchids at home in the Caboolture area, was caring for the plants.

"You can do it together, it's in your backyard and it's a hobby," Mr Hopkins said.

"It doesn't matter what level you are at in life, you can do it."

Russell and Janice Hopkins take out Grand Champion orchid with their unusual BC Binosa. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times
Russell and Janice Hopkins take out Grand Champion orchid with their unusual BC Binosa. Photo Tessa Mapstone / South Burnett Times Tessa Mapstone
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