Years of experience on show at orchid extravaganza
GARY McAteer knows a thing or two about growing champion orchids.
He joined the Casino and District Orchid Society as a foundation member in 1965, and has been showing his prized plants for 51 years.
This coming Autumn Orchid Show in Casino will be about the 40th he's been involved in.
Mostly, Gary grows cattleyas.
The cattleya group is known for large, showy and sometimes fragrant flowers.
Some of the most stunning orchids in cultivation are cattleyas, with huge flowers that can measure eight inches across and come in a wide variety of colours and patterns
"I like a pretty flower, that's why I grow them,” Gary said.
"I show only at Lismore and Casino.
"I used to go all over the place showing orchids, but now I judge.
"They've got to be clean, free of disease, have colour, and it's the way it's presented to show the flower in the best possible way.
"They've all got to have flowers on.”
Showing that he practises what he preaches, Gary grew the champion cattleya which impressed the judges at Lismore in April.
"There's so many growers around, to get a championship, you've got to be lucky,” he said.
While growing orchids is a popular hobby in the Northern Rivers, clubs struggle to attract younger members.
Gary says growers are like "a family within a family”.
With an estimated 32,000 different species of orchid, there's much to learn about growing and looking after them.
Gary became interested as a young man when his football career ground to a halt through injury.
"I used to take a stack of magazines out to my mum's friends' place and they grew orchids,” he said. "They gave me my first orchids.”
In the 1960s, orchids were quite expensive and hardly a "working class” hobby.
Later, the price of even the best and most sought-after orchids dropped dramatically, due mainly to the introduction of propagation techniques.
Gary and other Richmond Valley growers will have a magnificent array of orchids on display at the annual Autumn Orchid Show in Casino, held every year throughout Beef Week.
View competition orchids and buy pot plants and other items over the three days from May 24 to 26.
Open from 9am to 4pm Thursday and Friday, and 9am to 1pm on Saturday at the Anglican Church Hall, Barker St, Casino.
For more details go to: casinoorchids.com/.