An Orchid Society Tip: 'Leave Them Alone'

Growing orchids may be easier than you think.

"Don't be afraid of them," said Richard Harwood, president of the San Fernando Valley Orchid Society. "If you can grow a cactus, you can grow an orchid. The secret is to leave them alone."

Joining an orchid society is a good way to become familiar with the exotic blooms. Many groups hold beginner's classes before monthly meetings where instructions are given on when to pot and which pests are especially troublesome.

"At the classes, you can learn to grow an orchid without killing it," Harwood said. "You can find out which types of plants you like best and which will reward you with the right blooms for the amount of work you want to put into them."

What follows is a sampling of local orchid societies.

The San Fernando Valley Orchid Society features guest speakers such as Rebecca Northern, a renowned orchid grower and author of many books on the subject. The society meets at 8 p.m. the first Thursday of each month in the social hall of First Christian Church of North Hollywood. A beginner's class meets at 7 p.m.

About 30 orchid plants, some priced as high as $250, are raffled off at each meeting, and bus trips to orchid growers throughout Southern California are organized throughout the year. Membership is $15 per year, which includes a monthly newsletter. For information, write to 5005 Auckland Ave., North Hollywood 91601. (818) 363-1670.

The Malibu Orchid Society meets at 8 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Malibu Community Center on Point Dume. Members' plants are judged during a showing at each meeting, which also features a speaker and a raffle.

Membership is $12 per year, which includes a monthly newsletter. For information, write to 25202 Piuma Road, Calabasas 91302. (818) 888- 9568.

The Orchid Society of Southern California began in 1940 as an offshoot of a San Francisco group. The society meets at 8 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce downtown. A "culture seminar" for beginners is held at 7 p.m. Membership, which includes a monthly newsletter, is $10 per year. For information, write to 825 Bluff Road, Montebello 90640. (213) 725- 2560.

The Conejo Valley Orchid Society meets at 8 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at First Christian Church in Thousand Oaks. A "grower's corner," where beginners can learn how to import plants, photograph orchids and make orchid corsages, is held at 7:30 p.m.

Orchids are judged at each meeting, and a year-end award is given to the best orchid grower in the area. The society will hold a fair Saturday and Sunday at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel in Westlake Village, where instruction on growing orchids will be given. Admission is free. For information, write to 38 Los Vientos Drive, Newbury Park 91320. (805) 495-1792.

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