Folks often ask us about the history of the nursery, the stories about people, events, places that figure prominently in our journey. There are plenty of them (Bob’s family history just in Homestead goes back more than 100 years!), so we thought we’d share some of them with you. Look for them here, under this heading, with new chapters about once a month.
Every three years, the AOS and RHS (Royal Horticultural Society, Britain) jointly sponsor, with a host country, a World Orchid Conference. The first WOC, 1954, was held at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Every three years thereafter, somewhere around the world, a WOC invited orchid enthusiasts, growers, scientists and judges to participate. After MOBOT, conferences were held in Honolulu, London, Singapore, Long Beach, Sydney, Medellín, Frankfurt, Bangkok, and Durban. The 11th World Orchid Conference was coming to Miami in 1984, hosted by the South Florida Orchid Society.
In 1983, Bob was a Vice President and Show Chairman for the South Florida Orchid Society. That year, SFOS moved the location of its annual Miami International Orchid Show from Miami’s Bayfront Auditorium to the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove, in anticipation of the 11th World Orchid Conference in 1984. The City of Miami had finished the construction of the addition, known as the “back” hall, to the facility, greatly enlarging it. This addition allowed the show to stage all of the exhibits in the main hall and place all of the vendors in the new space.
The 1983 Miami International Orchid Show was a rehearsal for the 11th World Orchid Conference the following year. SFOS had been working on preparations for 11WOC for years, with Bob Scully, Jr. as the Chairman, Sue Skeoch as Executive Director, and Col. Kenneth Kone as Show Chairman. Tom Fennell, Jr. was president of SFOS.
A World Orchid Conference includes many activities for registrants and attendees, including a spectacular orchid show as well as lectures and scientific presentations, social events and more. With the expansion of the Coconut Grove Exhibition Center (known locally as the “Dinner Key Auditorium”), the possibilities for an enormous show were in place. The Exhibition Center had 2.5 acres (more than 100,000 sq. ft.) of floor space for the show, as well as about 7,000 additional sq. ft. in a mezzanine for ancillary exhibits and competitions. SFOS staged the 11WOC show in this massive space, landscaping the hall with more than 1,000 trees. When the installation was complete, there were more than 100 orchid exhibits from commercial growers, individuals and orchid societies from around the world.
More than 300 American Orchid Society and international judges evaluated the exhibits and the individual orchids. They were organized into teams and assigned the entry classes most appropriate for the experience and expertise of the team members. Hundreds of internationally-recognized orchid experts walked the show floor virtually the entire day of March 6, 1984, to recognize the excellence of the orchids and exhibits.
11WOC judges granted 40 trophies and 175 medals to individual blooming orchid plants, as well as dozens of trophies and medals to orchid exhibits entered by commercial firms, orchid societies and individual growers. R.F. Orchids’ display was honored to receive a Silver Medal, and the trophy for the best 300 sq. ft. exhibit, as well as six Bronze Medals and three Silver Medals on individual plants. Additionally three plants received Best-in-Class Trophies. Among those was the magnificent Vanda Deva ‘Robert’, which was voted Best Vanda as well as the 11WOC Grand Champion. Lycaste Always ‘Sanbar Picotee’ entered by Santa Barbara Orchid Estate was voted the Reserve Champion.
At the time of the 11WOC, Bob was an AOS student judge. He did not participate directly in the show judging, as only accredited judges were credentialed, but he and many other student judges participated as clerks. The student judge clerks were required to stay late after judging in order to finalize the judging score sheets, as many teams had submitted paperwork without properly tallying and averaging the scores for awards granted by that team. Bob nearly missed the WOC party that evening as a result.
Professional jealousy among the commercial growers was rampant when all the awards were announced. The Grand Champion award was particularly controversial among the established commercial growers – with so many of them represented at 11WOC, how did an upstart nursery like R.F. Orchids win this award? Bob, and the nursery, became an instant target for this resentment.
During the show, Bob approached Bob Scully to congratulate him on the Gold Medal that Jones & Scully’s exhibit had received. Scully returned the compliment, and stated “winning the Grand Champion at a World Orchid Conference will catapult you onto the international stage, a position you’ll obviously not be able to handle.” Then he turned and walked away, “I was flabbergasted, to say the least,” Bob said.
But R.F. Orchids was enjoying success elsewhere, too. In the years 1983-1984, the nursery had received 59 awards from the American Orchid Society.