Autumn in Florida blooms with beauty

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By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

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September 22 was the first day of fall and with it, the heat and humidity of summer seems to be fading. Autumn in Florida is a wondrous and beautiful time. The days are warm, the nights cool and there is a crispness and optimism in the air. It is a beauty well represented by the grace and complexity of the Orchidaceae, also known as the orchid.

Despite a widespread belief that orchids are delicate flowers requiring intense and specific care, the reality is that orchids have been found in nearly every habitat with the exception of glaciers and deserts. While they are most common in the tropics and thrive in Florida, they have also been found as far north as the Arctic Circle. They remain wild plants by nature and appear in a stunning variety.

Orchid Mania, a nursery east of Bradenton, is a family-owned business nurturing an amazing variety of orchidaceae. The owner, Karen Harper, grows an estimated 50,000 orchids annually in a stunning array of fragrant flowers in a variety of genera and colors. She even has chocolate orchids that do indeed give off the scent of chocolate. Harper sells and ships some orchids to commercial dealers but the majority of her business comes from people stopping in to wander in wonder through her six greenhouses. Orchid Mania is open year-around. Harper has scheduled an open house and sale event with classes on orchids to take place November 12-21.

Interest in orchids has spawned hundreds of orchid societies and clubs across the nation. On Saturday, a Pinellas County orchid buying club was shopping and filling up the back of an SUV with flowers from Orchid Mania and other nurseries. Orchid Mania is located at 5050 261st Street East, Myakka City. Their orchids are available seasonally at Harriet’s Flowers in Ruskin. For information, visit Orchid Mania at www.orchid-mania.com or the American Orchid Society at www.aos.org.

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