Lucinda Winn pauses from arranging a cluster of exotic orchids to explain what makes these botanical beings so mysterious and alluring.
It's not just physical beauty, says the co-owner of Eastons J&L Orchids , though few plants can match the blistering colors of a Red Belt or the seductive patterns of the Dracula vampira. Orchids are also extravagantly fragrant vanilla is an orchid. "There is an orchid for everybody," she said.
With Valentine's Day lurking around the corner, cut flowers seem drab compared to a spicy-scented Confetti or a sweet, tropically aromatic Maxillaria tenufolia.
Winn suggests knowing your partner when choosing the right variety. When they bloom, some varieties smell like rotten meat or a decaying carcass, leaving little room for romance after a whiff. The stench serves a purpose, however, attracting insects for pollination, Winn said.
J&L is known world-wide for its rare, high-quality orchids. Co-owner Marguerite Webb is heading to Japan soon to peruse that country's selection of gemstone plants. "Most of our clientele are eccentric hobbyists," Winn said as she and her partners unpacked a selection of Dendroblums that recently arrived from Hawaii.
Winn once received a phone call from Bela Lugosi's son requesting a hybrid orchid bearing his late father's name. When Winn refused to give him "a deal" on the expensive variety, he politely declined the purchase.
Owning an orchid business has given Winn, Webb and their other partner, Cordelia Head, an opportunity to travel to distant locales in South America and Africa in search of something new for their inventory. "We've been able to go into the jungle collecting," Winn said. "That was probably the most exciting thing I've ever done ... to see them in their natural habitat."
Many of the orchids that J&L collects are native to areas that are currently undergoing deforestation for development or farming. Part of the reason Winn became interested in the business was for preservation. J&L has successfully propagated several species that have since vanished from the wild.
While traditional Valentines Day gifts are always in vogue, local businesses such as J&L offer buyers a combination of eye and nose candy that also brings peace of mind.
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