Barry Curtis could be called the voice of the Tauranga Orchid Show, thanks to the popular repotting demonstrations he has been running for several years – and he will be back again at this year’s show from Friday to Sunday at Tauranga Racecourse.
“I saw it as something I could do,” says Barry, who has been president of the Tauranga Orchid Society for about 10 years. “Having been a school principal, I am confident speaking to groups.”
After retiring from teaching in Auckland, Barry and wife Elizabeth moved to Tauranga to run a motel and also grew callas commercially in Pyes Pa. The couple shifted to just south of Katikati about 11 years ago.
Barry Curtis with some of his beloved cymbidiums. Photo: Sandra Simpson
“My Dad grew a few cymbidiums in his tomato house and, when he was no longer able to care for them, I took them on,” Barry says. “I’ve always liked taking a plant and seeing what will come out of it – it doesn’t have to be the biggest or the best to interest me.”
Most hobby orchid growers start with cymbidiums and move on to more exotic plants but Barry has hundreds of the easy-to-grow beauties in his collection.
“The great thing about cymbidiums is that you don’t need an orchid house – they’re happy in the garden, particularly under trees. I keep mine in pots and growing bags so when they flower I can move them to the front door and enjoy them for months.”
Cymbidiums love the outdoor conditions at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Barry, who is also a volunteer in the orchid garden at Te Puna Quarry Park, says that when it comes to growing orchids outside the only no-no is full (burning) sun. Filtered light is perfect.
“Pot them in bark, not soil, and put them in a pot that is only just big enough for the roots, otherwise it takes too long for the plant to feel happy. Orchids need repotting when the bark starts to break down because the soil-like crumbs suffocate the roots – in the wild, the vast majority of orchids don’t grow in soil so need air round their roots.”
In his talks, Barry also shares easy-to-understand information on how a cymbidium grows, including what the pseudo-bulbs do (food storage) and how to split a mature plant.
He says people often worry about which fertiliser to use but “you can use any house plant fertiliser if it is mixed below half the strength it says on the container”. Otherwise, his recommendation is to throw on a handful of slow-release fertiliser twice a year. Barry makes up a special slow-release mix for orchids that is available at the show for a reasonable price.
Whakatane grower Andy Price specialises in unusually coloured cymbidiums. Photo: Sandra Simpson
Read my story about orchid shows from this month’s New Zealand gardener.
To find a New Zealand orchid show in an area near you, go here. September and October are prime months for shows. Orchid shows around the North Island are on the Events page on this website.