by Harry Zelenko

Harry Zelenko was born in New York City. Six years ago, he moved from New York City to Quito, Ecuador where he paints, illustrates, writes and is a part time-gardener for more than 6.000 orchids.
His writing has been published, he has lectured and exhibited nationally and internationally and has received many awards for his ARTwork.
After thirteen years of painting Oncidium, he designed and published the first edition of "The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Oncidium" and after another seven years, published the second revised edition with more than 850 same-size paintings of plants and flowers. During the 18th WOC, he presents a lecture about "The Oncidium alliance with an emphasis on Caucaea" and exhibited paintings from his book.


It was cold in France! Ten below zero Celsius is really cold! Arriving to freezing weather in Paris three days before the show/conference opened on March 11, and having been informed of the unusually cold weather in Europe, we brought overcoats and warm clothes. Had the event opened a week later, the weather, mostly sunny and crisp, would have been far nicer. Orchids were shipped from all over the world and were always in danger of being left on a loading dock in the sub-zero weather. Fortunately, this was not one of the problems that cropped up for exhibitors.
The orchid exhibition was combined with another plant and flower show, Florissimo, which adjoined the enormous hall for orchid displays. The orchid show was a magnificent display of many, many genera and hybrids. The winning display, presented by Lecoufle, was outstanding with the centerpiece of their exhibit an oil painting of orchids produced in the last century by Philippe LeCoufle’s grandmother. The painting was surrounded by myriad flowering hybrids and species. Most elegant was the amazing, colorful presentation of tropical orchids from Singapore with vandas and other plants silhouetted against a black column that stood out brilliantly; the entire exhibit was surrounded by a wreath of hundreds upon hundred of dendrobiums, oncidiums and other orchids. The huge exhibit from The Netherlands presented an incredible, colorful palette of flowers lent by the excellent growers of that country. From Denmark came some of the largest and well-grown specimen plants. Germany had their share of award winning orchids too, with superb displays that won the most awards and was voted best in show. The Jardin du Luxembourg presented some remarkable, huge orchids. And many, many other countries were represented with potted and mounted orchids, outstanding specimens all, as well as beautiful cut flowers. There is only one word to describe the show: Staggering! At least 200,000 visitors came to the huge hall.
The judging was broken down into many categories, perhaps too many. For instance, oncidium, miltonia and odontoglossum were split into three overlapping groups that created problems for the judges, especially when it came to mixed hybrids. Perhaps one larger group judging Oncidium (combining the experts in the three groups) would have simplified matters. And enhanced the learning process.
The informative conference was quite varied and delved deeply. There was much to learn from the many speakers although little of the content was controversial. Illustrative material was presented on CDs with Powerpoint, an innovation by the show management, avoiding slides getting stuck and preventing the awkward wait when changing reels. In general, the show was quite well managed with Vinciane and Marc Dumont present and available at all times to solve problems that arose with grace. Evening events, as expected, were all superb… as only the French can do it!
Some of the exhibitors and vendors suffered the only major problems. They brought species and hybrids from various countries and what they shipped were either delayed or eliminated by French customs and agricultural officials. This meant that growers could not produce exhibits or vend. A grower from Peru with plants and flasks was delayed until the last day of the show for selling and could not produce an exhibit showing the remarkable orchids from that country. The people from Madagascar never gained entry for their plants. On the fourth day of the show, some of the plants from Brazil finally were allowed by the authorities to be sold. There was a major grower from Bogota, Colombia who brought 2,800 plants whose Acineta won best in show in Quito last year. His CITES and Phytosanitary papers were somehow sent via Moscow, tying up his plants in Paris; they never arrived in Dijon for the show! The vendors from the Philippines were allowed to open and sell for a day, but were then shut down permanently. And there were others who came with species that had similar problems. It seemed to this writer that most of the species vendors were focused on for special treatment by the French authorities. How depressing. How unfair. I think it quite odd that most of the six growers from around the world could not bring their species of orchids into France for exhibit and sales, and the few that did got them on the last day of the conference. Vive la France!
There was an art exhibit of orchid paintings. Represented were magnificent paintings by Angela Mirro, Linda Walsh Petchnick, Carol Woodin, and the writer, all from the United States, Sylvia Strigari of Italy and France, and Hemlata Pradham from India. Carol Woodin’s superb painting for the conference poster of a toucan and Lycaste was awarded a gold medal.
Enough (for the moment) about orchids and the show… there was the food! But then it would take up too much space to render appropriate comment. This writer returned home with great appreciation for French cuisine and a gain of four and a half pounds.
At the closing ceremony, there was a changing of the guard, with Joyce Stewart giving up her berth to Pete Furness. The high point of the ceremony was the announcement of the selection by the committee for the WOC location to follow the Miami conference that will be held there in three years. The three competitors were Taiwan, South Africa and Singapore; the choice was Singapore in six years hence.
All in all, it was a most interesting trip, well worth the length of time it took to travel to Dijon from Ecuador, and even worth suffering through the chill of the late winter.

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