Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Trip Report: R.F. Orchids

R.F. Orchids is one of those places of plant legend.  If you're much of an orchid enthusiast, you have probably read "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orleans.  In it, she mentions a well known orchid heist, in which a prize-winning orchid breeder, Robert Fuchs, had hundreds of thousands of dollars of prime orchids stolen from his property.  That crime was committed at R.F. Orchids, where Robert "Bob" Fuchs houses his breeding material, as well as his vast stock of orchids for sale to the public.

Sign at entrance to R.F. Orchids.  It reads "Where Quality is as Traditional as the Orchid Itself" and "Purveyors of Fine Orchids Since 1970"
I read "The Orchid Thief" a couple of years ago and had kind of forgotten about this part of the book and the name of this particular orchid grower, even though I have heard R.F. Orchids mentioned from time to time since then.  However, I talked Christie into reading the book just before our trip so she could better appreciate the area we were visiting, as well as the obsession of these orchid-crazed (and more generally, plant-crazed) people.  When we visited Ruben in Orchids, Claudia mentioned that we should visit R.F. Orchids while we were in the area.  I had no idea this place was close by and Christie quickly recognized the name from the book that she was in the process of reading.  So we took the short drive and I'm glad we did.

Entering the gates into a beautifully shaded garden. That little red car is our rental car, which we named Fakahatchee Buttonwood.  Yes, our rental cars always have names.  This particular rental car name reminds me of a specific Saturday Night Live skit.
You can't imagine the exquisite entrance to this place.  You can look at my pictures and I'm sure it looks pretty, but being there in person is incredible.  I didn't get the rockstar treatment that Derek did, but we were given a friendly greeting by an employee when we arrived.  A couple of minutes later he came by with a tray of cups filled with passionfruit juice as a refreshment while we were browsing.  The juice was excellent, and much appreciated in the hot and humid greenhouses.

Vanda house at R.F. Orchids
A particularly pretty Vanda - Vanda Kultana Fragrance
I think I was as much taken with the entire atmosphere as I was with any one plant or group of plants.  They greenhouses had lots of breathing room and were dedicated to groups of plants.  There was an entire house for Vandas and other houses for different alliances of orchids.  There were quite a few plants I saw that I would love to have taken home, and all of the plants were really healthy.  However, my wallet had already taken a licking at Ruben in Orchids, and I hadn't even gotten to the IAS show yet! So I settled for lots of pictures, and looking at the bargain orchid tables.

I'm not sure whether this cat disapproved of the low prices of these budget orchids, or whether he just thought it looked like a comfortable place to lay.

This is the sign picturing the parents of the Vanda hybrid I purchased.
The bargain orchid tables included young plants and keikis of larger orchids that had been sliced off and marked with incredibly low prices. I picked up a couple of Dendrobium nobile keikis for very little. I also dug around in the baskets guarded by the greenhouse cat and Christie and I picked out a little hybrid Vanda, my first Vanda ever. We took a picture of the sign which shows the parent flowers. Can you guess what mine might look like whenever it blooms?

Dendrobium C.K. Ai

Okr. Scarlet Queen 'Chile Pepper'


  1. I am thinking the screenplay should be about an orchid search competition. :) Think "Buttonwood" could pull the greenhouse trailer?
    Love the last orchid...looks like the large one we saw at the San Francisco flower conservatory in the park.

  2. Your going to love your Vanda as it gets older. I love mine they are so very distinguished with their long roots they remind me of old man beards. That place looks incredible, great pictures.

  3. Great to read your writeup, Zach! I visited RF on your recommendation and it did not disappoint! And, no, it was no rockstar treatment. I just happened to arrive as Bob was giving a brief tour, and got to join the crowd. Lucky!