August 22, 2014

Orchid house in Newberry opens its house to visitors

Go Columbia for Aug. 22: Carter and Holmes Orchids open house

Sometimes, you have no idea what’s growing in your own backyard. For instance, Carter and Holmes Orchids, one of the top orchid growers in the country, is just up the road in Newberry.

Orchids have quite a following. Fervor about the famously finicky blossoms began in the early 19th century in England, when wealthy gardeners not only cultivated their own hybrids, but sent “orchid hunters” to faraway lands in search of new varieties. It probably wasn’t a terribly difficult challenge: According to Mac Holmes, president of Carter and Holmes, orchids make up one of the largest and most varied flowering plant families with more than 40,000 species identified so far, not counting the man-made hybrids.

Why the fuss? Although they go months without blooming, they reward one’s patience with gorgeous sculptural beauty and delicate details set on stark stems. Some varieties emit a lovely scent. And the blooms last for weeks.

Instead of relying on orchid hunters to bring new varieties to market, Carter and Holmes uses a team of specialists who cross-pollinate by hand at the Newberry greenhouse. They extract the almost microscopic seeds several months later and raise the new hybrids from those seeds. The plants are then shipped all over the world. They’re also sold directly from Newberry.

On Friday and Saturday, Carter and Holmes will hold its annual open house. In addition to great prices on rare and unique orchids developed here in South Carolina, there will be lunch, seminars and specialists on hand to answer questions. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, including directions, visit carterandholmes.com.

Katie McElveen, Special to The State

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