Cultivating Your Orchid Society


    Have you considered the rewards of cultivating your local society with the same care and energy you put into raising a specimen plant? A well- run local society is a valuable resource for both the amateur and commercial grower. But how do you ďcultivate ď an organisation? It really is a lot like growing a specimen plant.


    Before investing time and effort in just any plant, you consider what will do best under your particular growing conditions. Think of your society the same way. Itís much harder to keep a group in active growth if the focus of the group is extremely narrow. Members of a society can (and do) still specialize according to their individual inclinations.


    Letís take as an example the Five Dock Orchids Society. The society is friendly and informal, with members from many different backgrounds.


    We keep fees low so anyone can afford to join so if you're interested in orchids, we're interested in you.

    The Five Dock Orchid Society works to attract the curious individual because that curiosity is the seed from which a new orchid enthusiast grows. Educating people about orchid culture is, by our charter, a primary aim, but who ever said education had to be dull? Experienced growers are approachable, freely sharing their knowledge with newcomers. Our librarian helps each member select the book most appropriate to the needs of the member from the extensive Society collection. Our emphasis is on the enjoyment we get out of growing orchids. Over the course of a year, topics are aimed at many levels of expertise by both members and outside speakers.

   Meetings of the  Society are well known for their plant display tables. Everything from fine hybrids to bizarre species are all jumbled together. If a plant is flowering, members are encouraged to bring it to the meeting. This is an opportunity to share successes, to see what something looks like in real life instead of in a photo.


    At some of our meetings one of our veteran growers will select plants from the display tables to discuss with their owners. How much light does this like? What and when should you feed to encourage flowering? Is the plant grown in a glasshouse, greenhouse or windowsill? Once new members accept that many orchids are easier to grow than to pronounce, they're on their way.

   A good guest speaker helps all members increase their orchid expertise. Again, diversity is important, and topics shouldn't be repeated too frequently. Often, itís a matter of finding a new angle. An interesting program encourages members to put their new knowledge to work. To tap that interest, we have the drawing of the raffle plants. No one is ever pressured into buying tickets. We have a selection and have the tickets priced low enough (three for $1) so anyone can afford to participate. This is also a solid moneymaker.


Maintaining Active Roots


   Root activity in an orchid plant demonstrates health. If a plant just sits there all year, something is not right. The same is true in a local orchid society. Activity demonstrates health. The more a local society offers its members, the more likely each member will be to find something to take part in.

    The Society is not a place for empire building, something as deadly to an organization as stagnant air and broken down potting mix are to an orchid. We encourage everyone to participate in both the running of the club, and in some of our activities.

    Volunteers are the heartbeat of any local society. There are always jobs that need doing, and everyone that pitches in gets a ďthank youĒ in our monthly bulletin. If someone offers a special skill, we find a way to use it. 


    By involving as many people as possible, we spread the workload while bringing new people along into positions involving more and more responsibility.


   This works at all levels. Members able to arrive early on meeting nights set up house, arranging tables and chairs according to our needs. How well we do at shows and sales depends as much on the individual members who supply the plants we put out as it does the people who do the organizing. The Society is only as good as those members willing to get involved to make things work.


A Word On Watering


    No living thing can exist without water, so no orchid society can function without money. Fund raising isn't a dirty word. Itís part of conscientious management. Even non-profit organizations such the Five Dock Orchid Society has many bills to pay. Good times don't last forever. To ignore that reality is shortsighted and foolish.


    Our big revenue-producing events occur on our Winter and Spring shows. Our members bring their plants that they want to sell, as this is splendid opportunity to relieve crowded growing conditions. Plants are offered to the general public for sale. Not only is the sale profitable, but being a sales volunteer is fun.




   Itís imperative that constant efforts be underway to attract new members. More than simply counteracting natural attrition, new blood and new ideas are essential to the vitality of any organization. Something has to be done to restore vigor and generate new growth. The only way for any organization to achieve a goal is to get all its members involved. In this case, asking each member to recruit at least one other person to join.

    Attracting new members is one of the things never neglected these days because is the main method of fertilizing our society. Every new member is welcome with enthusiasm and friendship. Perhaps this new person will be a future  President, or become an  judge. Perhaps this newest member will only find the quiet joy of tending a handful of plants. The Society includes all types of orchid lovers.


Raising A Specimen


   You'd start your specimen plant from a tiny seedling, or maybe by making the cross yourself. Either way, it is an investment in the future. How well you care for it will be reflected in how well it grows and develops. The same applies to all our orchid societies. Todayís problems require sensible management but success demands a long-term point of view. Part of running any organisation well is planning for the future. A sense of humour helps. There isn't a single right way to do things. Our hope is that by creating a friendly, active society, we can continue to open the diverse world of orchids to as many people as possible.


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