HICKORY - Phyllis Erikson said if a person wanted
to, thereís something new he could learn about orchids every day
for the rest of his life.
"But you donít
have to know it all to successfully grow orchids," said the owner
of Ironwood Estate Orchids on Sandy Ford Road. "Many first-time
customers come back and comment on how easy theyíve found them to
"They want more."
Customers at the recently-expanded Ironwood
Estate Orchids are among the growing number or enthusiasts who
have pushed wholesale orchid sales to the No. 2 position among
potted, flowering plants in the United States.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
only poinsettia sales rank higher, and those of chrysanthemums
rank a distant third.
To Erikson, the reasons for the boom in orchidsí
popularity are obvious. Their exotic appearance adds a distinctive
touch to homes and offices. And with more than 25,000 identified
species, thereís an orchid for nearly every personís taste.
"Overall, people are becoming more comfortable
with orchids," said Erikson, a member of the American Orchid
Society and the Catawba Valley Orchid Society.
"Theyíre realizing that itís something that they
can be successful at, that itís not beyond them."
Ironwood Estate Orchids, a family-owned business
that operates from two greenhouses behind Eriksonís home, sells
retail and wholesale and even rents orchids for use at wedding
receptions, business open houses and other special events.
Besides orchids, it also carries decorative
pots, potting mediums, fertilizers and a few other plants
including bromeliads, ferns and geraniums.
But itís the thousands of orchids, priced from
$5 to $85, that take center stage, enticing buyers with their lush
blooms and unusual fragrances.
Ironwood Estate carries such familiar plants as
phalaenopsis (moth orchid), cattleya (corsage orchid),
paphiopedilum (lady slipper), oncidium (dancing lady), dendrobium
and vanda. It also has rarer plants, including angraecum (Darwinís
orchid); the vanilla orchid, the seed pods from which are used to
make vanilla flavoring; orchids imported from the Philippines; and
orchids that when in bloom smell like chocolate.
Some orchids are potted, others are mounted on
moss-covered cork, and a few hang completely free, as they would
from tree limbs in a tropical rain forest.
Erikson and her husband began growing orchids as
a hobby about 20 years ago when they received one as a gift.
"We kept getting more and more," she said.
"First they were on our dining table, then we added a card table.
We finally ran out of room and built a greenhouse."
Orchid-growing remained a hobby until Erikson
took early retirement from her job a couple of years ago. "I began
praying as to what I was supposed to be doing, and as far as I can
tell, this is it," she said.
Ironwood Estate Orchids opened in April 2002.
The business, a member of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce
and the Southwest Business Association, more than doubled in size
with the recent addition of the second greenhouse. An open house
was held Friday and Saturday.
Erikson, who has won awards for her orchids at
home-and-garden shows in Hickory and Charlotte and at the Hickory
American Legion Fair, shares her knowledge during presentations to
garden clubs and orchid societies. And, naturally, with her
customers. In addition to providing printed care instructions with
each plant purchase, she enjoys answering customersí questions
"I love people, and I love to talk about
orchids," she said. "Every day I come out here and look for new
blooms. They make me smile."