Orchids get bad press for being the divas of the plant world because they are picky, temperamental and unforgiving. An exquisite blossom can turn into withered stick of a stem if left in the wrong hands, but the 25,000 species and 100,000 hybrids are hardy enough to thrive for years if you have the knack.

Writer: Paula Hubert – Photographer: David Field and Anthony Webster

THE ORCHID CHAMPION
Georg Hein’s daughter gave him a flowering phalaenopsis for Christmas five years ago which was enough to get him hooked on growing orchids as a hobby.
“I’d never given orchids a thought. I fell in love with this one. It was so beautiful. There were 15 flowers with purple edging. I really got stuck on it,” he says.
He bought 40 orchids that first year and joined the Bendigo Orchid Club. He now enjoys looking after 250 orchids in this back yard, with many undercover.
Ones that need warmth – like his cattleya, lady slippers and phalaenopsis – are in the hot house where the temperature stays around 10 to 15ºC. He mists them to keep the humidity around 50 to 70 per cent.
“I like the way they grow – the different shapes like the lady slippers.
“I still class myself as a new member of the Bendigo Orchid Club even after five years because I’m growing orchids that I’ve never grown before and I make mistakes,” says the 65-year-old.
Austrian-born Georg is watching his orchids carefully to see how many will flower just in time for the Bendigo Orchid show next month. His past displays on show have certainly caught the eye of the judges.
One wall in his living room is covered with a colourful collection of winning sashes from the Orchid’s Country Club Challenges.
Last year, he came home with four winning championship sashes including the champion cymbidium of the show for growing 11 spikes.
Winning is a good feeling but Georg remains very modest of his achievements.
“It makes me feel that I’m doing something right. I find it really satisfying seeing things grow.”
“You either love it or you don’t,” explains the 65 year-old, who also works as a tour guide at the Central Deborah Goldmine.
Georg uses lots of clever tricks to help the orchids grow so they can display well at shows.
Nuts and bolts weigh fragrant Stanhopeas that are flowering downwards, while yo-yos and rubber bands to help spikes grow upwards so they can display well at shows.
He also adds another important tip on growing orchids: “You’ve got to tell them that they’re doing well,” he says smiling…