Traverse City Record-Eagle


I was an Orchid Clerk

By Gloria Veltman WANTED:  Orchid clerk.  No experience required.  On-the-job training.  No pay but great learning opportunity.  How could I turn down such an opportunity?

And so it was that I volunteered to clerk at the recent Northwestern Michigan Orchid Society “Orchids By The Bay” show at the Civic Center.  Everyone assured me that it would not be  hard and I would learn a lot from the experts who came to judge the exhibits.  I was given two pages of instructions, which I read carefully but didn’t leave me feeling any better prepared.

Nevertheless, I reported for duty at 7:30 the morning of the show.  I told everyone who would listen that I had never done this before and so, PLEASE, for everyone’s sake put me on a team with experienced clerks.

Each team was composed of three judges and at least three clerks.  Our judges had a lot of knowledge and were patient and gracious through the several-hours-long process of judging the many entries.

Our team’s head clerk, Lucy, had her arms full of folders containing slips for each plant that would be judged.  She  provided the information for each entry from a duplicate of the slip that stayed  with the entered plant.

As the “spotter” clerk, I  would take this information and dart ahead to find the named plant and stand by; kind of like a hunting dog on point.  The ribbon clerk, Jean, wore a carpenter’s apron full of colored ribbons that had to be signed by the judges and attached to the first, second and third place winners.

Our team was fortunate to have fourth clerk, a nine year old girl, who knew a lot about orchids — a lot more than I do — she could even reel off some of the scientific names.  She ran for supplies as needed and several times steered me in the right direction on my spotting duties.

When we first started the process, the whole system was as clear as mud but as we continued I was locate the specified entries with increasing frequency.  The duplicate tag that the head clerk had in her folder gave the plant’s class-those Latin names-and other information.  Another number indicated what exhibit the plant would be found in and yet  another number matched it to its counterpart.  In addition, the tags gave the exhibitor’s code number and the Latin names were spelled out.  On the bottom a row of numbers gave the choice of 1st, 2nd and third places which could be circled depending on the judges’ decisions.

In addition to all of the beautiful individual entries, there was an educational exhibit with a video show, a photographic display on Michigan wild orchids which are protected by state and federal law.  Under a light was a “nursery” of three year old seedlings.

The educational exhibit. Note the seedling "nursery" under the light at the right. When they are older, they will be "released into the wild." Many wild orchids are lost due to habitat destruction.

I was struck by the thoughtful interest and encouragement shown by the judges.  They didn’t disparage any of the entries and made the whole process a learning  experience by commenting on the good and not so good points of most of the entries.  A lot of “We like to see this…” and “We want encourage more of this…”  I learned enough to be willing to volunteer again and maybe, just maybe,  someday enter a flower in a show.

Exhibit showing ribbons and other awards after the judging was completed.

This was "our" society's display. The Northwestern Michigan Orchid Society is a non-profit organization devoted to education about orchids for hobbyists and interested parties. For more information check the web site

This show was dedicated to the memory of Jane Norcross, a charter member of the Society, who died two days before the show.

Poster in memorium for Jane Norcross.

The rest of this post is being devoted to the pictures I took the following day.  I am a rookie and will not try to identify these orchids by their common or Latin names.  Instead, I will let the orchids will do the talking.

Orchids come in an amazing array of sizes, shapes and colors. Here are some orange ones.


No, these aren't pansies but I did hear someone refer to them as "pansy orchids."


This was one of my favorites. In the picture the markings look purple but in "person" they were more of a medium brown.

Here is one of the more exotic entries.

This one reminds me of a giraffe for some reason-probably the coloring.

I'm going out on a limb and say this classic beauty is a variety of Cattleya.


Orchids not only come in a variety of colors and sizes but some are striped and some are dotted.


This cascading, mounted orchid was my favorite of my many favorites. It is from the collection of the late Jane Norcross and is called Brassada perrinii--I know because I made a point of writing it down.

  • Roger & Karen Kirk

    Beautiful.  We enjoy your blogs.  Roger & Karen Kirk

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