Stealing Away for Orchids

I stole away to the tropics of the West Side for lunch today. Orchid Escape opened this weekend and runs through March 16 at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden’s Amazonia: Forest of Riches.

The foliage of Amazonia is impressive any time of year; it’s a lovely place to spend your lunch hour in the dead of winter. Now, with the hundreds of orchids artfully mounted amid the staghorn ferns and other tropical plants, the effect is intoxicating.

I have an orchid – a white phalaenopsis on my desk – given to me by Michael Simon, executive vice president of his family’s business, Publisher’s Press, which has long printed our magazines, to mark our company’s 10th anniversary. Orchid lore suggests my type of plant thrives by adding to its pot just three ice cubes a week. That’s what I do, and it is nearly in continuous bloom.

The availability of orchids has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and today they are broadly available as houseplants. My mother carried orchids in her wedding – an exotic gift from her college friend whose family raised tropical flowers in Hawaii.

My intrigue with orchids grew with Susan Orlean’s, “The Orchid Thief” (which I listened to on audio book), based on her 1995 story in The New Yorker about the investigation of the 1994 arrest of John Laroche and a group of Seminoles in South Florida for poaching rare Ghost Orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The 2002 movie Adaptation was based on Orlean’s book. Though the film is billed as an “adaptation” of The Orchid Thief, its narrative focuses on the screenwriter’s difficulty in adapting the book to film. Most folks I know who saw it were confused.

Take a break from winter and enjoy a tropical respite at Orchid Escape.

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