Did you know Naples Botanical Garden has a collection of over 5,000 individual orchids? This means you’re sure to be in the presence of one of these popular plants no matter where your Garden stroll may take you. Growing and maintaining such a large collection falls under the direction of Nick Ewy, Director of Collections.

Behind the scenes, many Garden employees jokingly know Nick as “the orchid guy” because his previous position at the Garden was almost entirely orchid-oriented. Nick knows not only the tips and tricks behind orchid care (Click to learn more about home orchid care or mounting epiphytic orchids) but also, the ins and outs of all the opulent orchid displays in the Garden. And now, like the roots of an epiphytic orchid, we are exposing his insider knowledge so you can optimize your orchid experience at Naples Botanical Garden.

Here are a few tips.

In the LaGrippe Orchid Garden:

1. Admire the rainbow of colors within this garden. Orchids attract pollinators with several methods, one of which is their bloom color. Many of the white orchids like Brassavola nodosa and species in the Angraecum genus reflect moonlight to attract moth pollinators at night. As Dean Martin would say, “That’s amore!”

2. Mindfully inhale. Orchids emit fragrances to attract pollinators. Orchids in the Gongora, Catasteum, and Stanhopeas genera have a sweet and spicy perfume to bewitch various scent-collecting bees. One of these busy buzzers is the non-native, metallic green euglossine bee (also known as the orchid bee), which mesmerizes as it hovers from flower to flower.

3. Compare what’s bare. If you can manage to peel your eyes away from their show-stopping flowers, orchid stems can reveal a thing or two about the plant. Some orchids with hollow, bulbous stems, called pseudobulbs, provide free housing for ants in exchange for protection and nutrients.

4. Unsure of the identity of an orchid? Look for a hanging, silver plant tag. This tag will have the orchid’s scientific name, and from there, you can properly compliment the orchid’s beauty. After all, it’s only polite to address such a stunning specimen by name.

Throughout the rest of the Garden:

1. Look for zip ties. Nick secures epiphytic orchids to trees via zip ties to encourage the orchid roots to firmly grasp their host plant, just as they would in the wild. After the orchids have securely attached to their hosts, the zip ties are removed. (Don’t worry, no host plants are harmed during this process.)

2. Take a stroll on the Sönne Family Ghost Orchid Boardwalk. This beautiful boardwalk is surrounded by native swamp apple (Annona glabra) and native pop ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) trees. Some of the pop ash trees are transplanted specimens from Nick’s own backyard. Affixed to these trees are — you guessed it — an array of native orchids, including the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii)!

3. Set your eyes on a vine, and follow it skyward. We have many different species of vanilla orchids, which grow as vines, on trees throughout the Garden. Our new trellises behind the Pastore House in the Kapnick Caribbean Garden display commercially grown varieties of vanilla such as Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla x Tahitensis. Nick will hand pollinate the flowers as they bloom so that visitors can admire their highly prized seed pods.

This blog is part of this year’s Roots: Power of the Unseen  theme, which celebrates the complex world beneath our feet and seeks to inspire a new appreciation for the unnoticed, yet vital parts of our ecosystem.

About the Author

Emily Kless is an Educator II for Naples Botanical Garden. Emily is always excited by the opportunity to learn. Outside of the Garden, you can find Emily and her service dog, Clementine, hiking the region’s various trails (and sometimes forging their own) to admire native plants and birds.

Questions? Email us at info@naplesgarden.org, or read the Garden FAQ.

Return to the Garden Blog