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January 01 2011

The San Francisco Orchid Society

According to Greek myth, Orchis, the son of a nymph and a satyr, was punished for the sacrilege of trying to rape a priestess and was therefore transformed into the orchid. Today, the orchid is a flower that is surrounded by even more story and myth, the most common of which is that it is a difficult plant to grow.

But myths are often born from rumors, and with regards to the orchid myth, this is most certainly the case—in fact, orchids are one of the easiest flowers for those living in apartments or small spaces to grow successfully. It is not, then, their difficulty, but their beauty, that has cultivated so many lovers of orchids.

The San Francisco Orchid Society is a non-profit organization devoted to fostering the culture of orchids. Via its website, it provides information to both beginners and seasoned orchid growers to help them with all aspects of orchid growing. The Society even offers the opportunity to ask the “Orchid Doctor” a question about orchid care via a society-sponsored Google group, as well as to browse previous answers to solve all orchid predicaments.

In addition to their Internet presence, and perhaps even more importantly, the San Francisco Orchid Society reunites members in San Francisco for several orchid-related events throughout the year. In February, a Gala benefit night allows participants to purchase award-winning orchids and raises money for orchid societies and horticultural scholarships.

Orchids in the Park allows participants to browse a selection of orchids for sale in beautiful Golden Gate Park on the cusp of foggy summer and a gorgeous San Francisco autumn.

The next San Francisco Orchid Society event will be the Pacific Orchid Expo, held in March every year. The exposition reunites orchid lovers by presenting more than 150,000 orchids.

This year's “Natural Wonders” exposition will be the 59th annual exposition of its kind. Held over the weekend of March 3rd, the event will offer explanations of several pertinant orchid characteristics, from floral structure to habitat to pollination, sale of many varieties of orchids, as well as a gala benefit including wine tastings.

The exposition is opened to all, with a $12 general admission fee if booked online ($14 at the door). Orchid vendors come from all over the world—as near as local San Francisco growers and as far as Bangkok—for this special event tailored to those who love and appreciate the beauty of orchids.

Stroll down the aisles of the Fort Mason Center, and feel free to ask questions of the professional growers present as you bask in the beauty that is the flowers that surround you. The many varieties may seem similar at first glance, but there are approximately 30,000 species of orchid, and if you're interested in learning more about what exactly makes them so different, this is the place to ask all of your questions as well as examine the intricacies side-by-side.

By taking an educated look at the shapes of the flowers and leaves, you can discern the various species of orchids; this sort of education is happily doled out by helpful vendors at the expo. Often, those marveling in the beauty of the flowers displayed at the event are more interested in how to keep them alive: orchids are a perennial plant which means that, if cared for properly, they can live for years. Depending on the variety of orchid, flowers may last for one to three months and bloom one or several times a year. Some types of orchid even bloom continuously.

To take advantage of your orchid and have it bloom to the best of its ability, ask the well-informed vendors for advice on how often your particular orchid should be watered, fertilized and repotted, how to prevent disease and where you should purchase the sphagnum moss or orchid bark mix in which to grow your orchid.

It is perhaps because of these particularities of orchid-growing that the rumor of their difficulty to grow has developed. However, it is in asking questions at an event like this one, as well as understanding where orchids come from, that you can acquire the tools to become a successful orchid grower yourself. Orchids come from tropical areas and grow naturally in the tree canopy of jungles, which is why they flourish in warm, wet environments and why they cannot be grown in soil like other flowers.

Today, orchids are grown all over the world and shipped to places like the expo to be sold: in South American countries like Brazil and Ecuador, Asian countries like India and Japan, and even in North America, in Mexico and Hawaii.

The climate of Hawaii is ideal for orchid-growing, which is why many specimens of orchids are farmed in Hawaii, more specificially, on the Island of Oahu, and then shipped back to the mainland United States and internationally to be sold. Haiku Maui Orchids is one of several companies like this, and one of the fifty vendors at this year's Pacific Orchid expo. While many people come to the Pacific Orchid expo just to look and take pictures of the flowers or to ask for advice and learn more about the orchids they already own, many come to purchase plants.

With so many varieties, it can be hard to make a decision: different types of orchids may have more or less fragrance in a range of types, from fruity to flowery to rich. Orchid flowers may have a variety of appearances and colors: creamy vanilla white, bright pinky purple, deep brown. Their shapes may vary as well: some look like stars, others like simple vessels for water.

It's no wonder that this flower has attracted so many fans, not only in San Francisco, but worldwide. Even today, the orchid retains a sort of mythology around it in many countries, such as in Sri Lanka and Singapore, where it appears on the country's money. The city of Myobamba, Peru, is so proud of its 3,500 native species of orchid that it is known as the City of Orchids.

Poachers often try to collect orchids growing in nature for sale, and the flower is now an endangered species, due in large part to its difficult natural reproduction.

It is thanks to events like the Pacific Orchid Expo that awareness can be raised, and even more fans of this gorgeous and mysterious flower can be born.

12-30-2010: ©

-by Emily Monaco, freelance, travel-writer



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December 01 2010

Museums of San Francisco, CA: A Magical Mood in a Special Place

A museum, no matter how intricately planned its exhibits or how beautiful its architecture, can only go so far as reaches its scope; a museum is only a building until it has people inside it, taking advantage of everything it has to offer. A museum can become a part of the city it calls its home or simply exist within it, never integrating with everything else that the city has to offer its citizens.

Luckily, the citizens of San Francisco have nothing to worry about.

San Francisco is home to several museums, each devoted to a different theme or art form, but two in particular, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and the SFMOMA, have discovered unique ways to bring art to the people on a daily basis, to integrate their collections with their surroundings.

The FAMSF, home to both the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor, offers programs and exhibitions specifically designed to involve locals and visitors in the day-to-day happenings of the museum. The artist-in-residence program, for example, brings local artists and local art lovers together in a program that allows people not only to meet and interact with the artist but to work and create with him or her as well.

January's artist-in-residence, Jennifer Ewig, is a muralist and teacher whose exhibit, “Spirit Boats” will be hosted in the Kimball Gallery. Visitors are invited and encouraged to create their own spirit boats as a reflection of the exhibit and of their own identities.

Another unique program at the de Young museum are the “Cultural Encounters at the de Young” programs, a series of events that take place on Friday evenings in January and February that offer interdisciplinary arts programs as well as a special dinner menu at the museum's café. These evening programs offer something different to locals who may not have the time to visit the museum during its normal opening hours. On Friday evenings, after the work week is done, these interdisciplinary programs offer an inventive way for San Franciscans to become a part of the local art scene and to claim it as their own... for free.

Upcoming Friday night programs at the de Young include live jazz music and Tableaux vivants—actors impersonating such artists as Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, painting the masters' masterpieces before your eyes.

FAMSF also offers several programs geared towards local San Francisco children and students: weekly art camps during the summers and after school programs during the year allow children the free expression and exploration that artistic creation can bring, and the Museum Ambassador program brings high school students from low income backgrounds to the museum so that they can learn and, in turn, share with their communities.

“FAMSF is committed to contributing to the economy and culture of San Francisco,” -says Robin Wander, a FAMSF representative. The FAMSF is not the only museum bringing the art to the people in the Bay Area; the SFMOMA, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, finds other unique ways to bring its exhibitions to the residents of its home city and, more specifically, to the Yerba Buena arts district where it is located. It works together with surrounding businesses, restaurants and other museums in the neighborhood to bring people to the area and help them get to know the art scene located here. In honor of its anniversary, the SFMOMA is also presenting SECA awards and exhibitions for local artists, yet another way for locals to become more involved with the art scene here. The museum offers free entrance every first Tuesday of the month as well as Free Family Days, when child-friendly activities are planned to expose children to art and museums.

One place where SFMOMA visitors can truly feel at home is the Rooftop Garden. A beautiful, thoroughly modern space, the sculpture garden, which was added to the museum in 2008, provides not only a location for several well-known works and recent acquisitions, but also a space for visitors to sit enjoy the changing light in the indoor and outdoor spaces of the garden, which was specifically built with these eventual natural changes in mood and atmosphere in mind.

Another SFMOMA space that allows for reflection is the Haas Atrium, which is free to the public and offers free WiFi access; it is the perfect place for local artists, writers and students to come work and find inspiration, as well as for others looking for something different from their local coffee shop. Art in the Atrium exhibitions are specifically chosen for this space, like Kerry James Marshall's murals of Mount Vernon and Monticello, the estates of former US presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, which are currently being shown. These large-scale paintings allow visitors to the Atrium to connect with other parts of their country without ever leaving their home city. In this way, the SFMOMA, like the FAMSF, allows San Francisco residents to take advantage of the art and culture that is so often targeted to visitors, aspects of their city that they might have overlooked without the initiatives of these two special places.

Emily Monaco -Travel Writer

© Copy Right Protected Work. 12-01-2010

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