Orchid Gems



Carolyn Bolton.jpg

For the love of orchids and all that flows from it: Carolyn Bolton

By: Norma Raiff

Long-time OSWP member, two-term OSWP president, hard-working OSWP Holiday Party event planner, original cast member of Phalaenopsis Phollies --Carolyn Bolton is all of these and more. In her

“other life”, Carolyn is also a highly recognized neonatal nurse at West Penn Hospital, who still stays in contact with some of her early patients.

Carolyn is remarkably knowledgeable about orchids and is a highly visible OSWP member. Doug Oster, host of The Organic Radio Show, has interviewed her on KDKA. Carolyn also reaches out directly to others. Pam Horter-Moore recalls how Carolyn approached her and her late husband Chris at their first OSWP meeting and asked him what he had in the lunch bag he was holding. Pam was so impressed and touched that, without even knowing them, Carolyn stepped forward to offer her expertise for his sick orchid. “Thanks to Carolyn, we came to know right away the caliber and decency of the people in the organization we had just joined. Carolyn was and is an ambassador of good will for OSWP and for orchid lovers everywhere,” Pam says.

As for Carolyn’s most recent venture: well, she just returned from a 13-day visit to Hawaii, courtesy of the confluence of low air fares and our good OSWP friend and national orchid figure, Tom Mirenda. While Tom Mirenda’s name may not resonate with everyone, many older members fondly remember Tom as a highly knowledgeable speaker, someone with a terrific sense of humor, and as the long-term curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s huge and amazing orchid collection.

Tom moved to Hawaii several years ago to assume the position of Director of Horticulture, Education and Community Outreach at the Tropical Botanical Garden. It is on the Hamakua coast just north of Hilo on the Big Island, an area he refers to as an “Orchid Paradise.”

Tom and Carolyn are also long-time Facebook friends and they both love orchids and achimenes (which are flowers related to African violets). “Dahlias, achimenes, and orchids are my passion, and somehow we found that Tom and I both share this fascination.” Because Carolyn had shared her achimenes with the Smithsonian, she wondered if Tom would be interested in receiving some at his cur- rent address.

“Yes,” replied Tom, “and my two friends are also interested.” After he and his friends received the rhizomes, he invited her to come visit and added that she could stay at his place free! So Carolyn found a cheap flight ($328 round trip) and stayed in his landlord’s apartment.

Carolyn’s varied itinerary included visiting Tom’s friends, sightseeing, and viewing different breathtaking landscapes. She and Tom spent a lot of time touring private gardens. One of her most memorable visits was to two people who belong to the Hawaii Island Palm Society. “They each had properties that started as a jungle which they bulldozed and then added lots of plants, including orchids, which cascaded from trees and the palms.”

Naturally, Carolyn visited several Hawaiian growers. However, because of Covid restrictions, some businesses had closed or were only offering limited visits, but even with this, her trip was a shopping success. Her purchasing visits included meeting Matthias Seelis, owner of Shogun Hawaii (www.catt-leyaorchidshawaii.com} “who grows a lot of wonderful standard cattleyas” and who sells his own crosses as well as clones and hybrids imported from Thailand.

She also visited H&R Orchids (www.hrnurseries.com) whose stunning hybrids can often be purchased at AOS shows, and Kawamoto Orchids (www.kawamotoorchids.com), on Oahu, a fourth generation family of growers. As Carolyn reports, “I bought something at every place I visited.”

Carolyn also toured the islands, saw volcanos, and attended an AOS judging held at Tom’s place. Both she and Tom helped the staff at Kalapana Tropicals (www.kalapanatropicals.com) pack plants from a third party’s going out of business sale.

And here’s where you too can anticipate your very own “taste” of Hawaii. As OSWP December’s Holiday Party long-time planner, Carolyn did not leave Kalapana Tropicals without first purchasing an amazing array of genera that include paphs, cattleyas, dendrobiums and oncidiums that attendees will receive as their OSWP Holiday Party favors. If you have never come to one of these fun occasions, the date you register for the event determines whether you are one of the first or among the last to select your plant. So, looking forward to December, sign up early, bring dessert only since it will be held at the same hotel we used for the last orchid show. Come celebrate together!

In brief, this month’s takeaway is simple: Orchids are varied and beautiful; they can take you to exotic experiences, and they can forge lasting relationships between you and the universe of orchid enthusiasts. Stay involved. Volunteer. Come to our Holiday Party and experience Hawaii for yourself.