By Joseph SapiaHOLMDEL – If attending Deep Cut Orchid Society’s annual show, be careful.It could be the start of an addiction – orchid collecting. That is what happened to Joan Mesander, co-chair of this year’s show, running Thursday, Feb. 11, to Sunday, Feb. 14, at Dearborn Market in Holmdel.“I went to their (annual) show, I bought two plants, Larry (Desiano, the society’s president) talked to me and I joined,” said Mesander, 69, recalling her visit about 10 years ago.Now, she has about 500 orchids in a 225-square-foot greenhouse – with hot water and controls for heating, cooling, humidity and watering – in the backyard of her home in Middletown’s Belford section.Desiano, 66, has about 250 orchids. He’ll take them with him when he moves from his home in Middletown’s Oak Hill section to Florida, expected later this year.At this year’s show, there will be “well over 2,000” orchids, according to Diana Kleiman, a society member and an American Orchid Society-certified judge.“Why do you have an orchid show in February?” Desiano said.Because orchids raised indoors are now blooming, according to Desiano.“In general, I say November through, say, April,” said Desiano, talking about the indoor growing season. “So, February’s the middle of the season.”Helen Kroh, the show’s other co-chair, said there should be hundreds of species.The four-day show combines displaying orchids, selling them, educating people on them – a plant that has an estimated 30,000 species that grow wild on all continents except Antarctica.“We’re happy if we break even,” said Kleiman, who lives in Middletown and has about 200 orchids. “This is the way we get new members. And everybody likes to show off their plants.”The show includes displays by about a half-dozen orchid clubs from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, along with displays by nine vendors. Thousands attend annually, but there are no solid figures because the event is free and people roam freely.Founded in 1986, Deep Cut Orchid Society has about 110 members, mostly from Monmouth and Ocean counties. Its name comes from its former meeting site, Deep Cut Park in Middletown, but now it meets in Tinton Falls.Kroh, 66, of Milltown has been collecting orchids for 30 or 40 years, she said. She now has about 80 in a four-season sunroom.On Sunday, Feb. 7, Deep Cut members who were displaying orchids at the show gathered at Mesander’s home, where they categorized the plants in preparation for the show.“I like Epindendrums the best,” Kroh said. “I can get them to bloom. You grow what you can bloom. An orchid that does not bloom is taking up space.”“You find what works for you,” Mesander said.Desiano said he has been collecting orchids “for at least 30 years.” Then with a young family, Desiano was looking to switch from the stressful, time-consuming hobby of breeding tropical fish.So, Desiano’s wife bought him “one or two” orchids, because he had shown an interest in them, he said.“I think the passion comes out of the diversity (of orchids),” Desiano said.A tangle of orchids.A benefit of orchids is they bloom for long periods – “for weeks and months,” Desiano said.Connie Deren, 58, who lives in Middletown’s Port Monmouth section, has been collecting for 30 years, now keeping about 150 orchids in a sunroom-greenhouse.“I started with just a few and got more,” Deren said. “Then, I met Joan (Mesender) and got more and more. I like Vandas and Paphiopedilums.”Before Mesander got the greenhouse about eight years ago, she kept about 60 orchids in her house.“I had a rack with grow lights,” Mesander said. “When I retired, my husband was afraid I was going to be bored.”So, they got the greenhouse. In warmer weather, Mesander moves her orchids outside.“I gave her an orchid for her birthday (and), three years later, she had a greenhouse,” joked Mesander’s husband, Jerry, 76. “When I saw 200 in here (in the greenhouse), I thought it was full. I was wrong.”As for the two orchids Mesander started with, “I killed those two plants,” she said.“I’ve killed many,” Deren said.“Everybody does that,” Jerry Mesander said.“If you don’t kill a lot of orchids, you’re not a true orchid grower,” she said. “You have to kill them (to understand how) to grow them.”Perhaps, by that time, one is already hooked.“You get that first plant, put it on the windowsill,” said Kleiman, smiling. “Before you know it, you’ve got the disease. You’re hooked.”***ITALS Deep Cut Orchid Society’s annual show runs Thursday, Feb. 11, to Sunday, Feb. 14, at Dearborn Market, 2170 Route 35 South at Centerville Road, Holmdel, 732-264-0256. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.Deep Cut Orchid Society meets monthly at Monmouth Reform Temple, 332 Hance Ave., Tinton Falls.
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