UNITED STATES—As the Nineteenth Century turned to the Twentieth, orchids were popularized by those who profited from industry in the east, and then moved to the west coast of California to escape harsh winters. These new Californians arrived in the Mediterranean climate of the Santa Barbara region with resources to spend on outfitting luxury homes with comparably luxurious gardens and unusual plants. Exotic orchids were a natural choice.

At homes in Montecito and Hope Ranch, cymbidium orchids were grown is mass plantings, and maintained by professional horticulturists. The popularity of orchids continued for decades. As the extensive orchid collections of England were threatened by the bombings and fuel shortages of World War II, Californian collectors and horticulturists brought them here to be safe and warm.

Many of these refugee orchids were bred extensively to produce many of the countless varieties that are now available. Production of blooming potted orchid plants and cut orchid flowers have become major horticultural industries in California. The Santa Barbara region still produces more orchids than any other region in America. Now, after so much history, the Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is in its 70th year!

As they have done since 1945, exhibitors from all over the world will be coming to Santa Barbara to put their rare and exotic hybrid orchids on display. Countless orchids will be exhibited in lavish gardens. Others will be displayed in distinctive floral arrangements and corsages. Many will compete in juried exhibition. Thousands of blooming orchid plants, as well as orchid supplies and orchid themed artwork, will be available for sale in the extensive Vendor Hall. There will even be free orchid workshops by expert orchidists.

The 70th Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show will be from March 13 through March 15 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, which is located on Las Positas Road, just off of Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. The hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Admission is $12, or $10 for seniors (65+) and students with identification. Three-day passes for all three days of the Event are $20, or $17 for seniors and students. Admission is free for children (12 and younger) with a paying adult. Parking is $5. More information about the 70th Annual Santa Barbara International Orchid Show can be found online at sborchidshow.com.

Highlight: cymbidium orchid

Of all the many and varied orchids, cymbidium orchids are the most popular because they are the easiest to grow. They are naturally terrestrial, so can be grown in the ground if the media (soil) is coarse and rich enough (epiphytic orchids that naturally grow in crotches of trees want coarse bark in well drained pots). They are also more tolerant of cool weather than tropical orchids are.

The arching flower stalks that begin to appear over winter may bloom for two months. They can be three feet tall, so stand well above the strap shaped leaves that get about two feet tall. Each stalk has many waxy flowers that can be two or three inches wide, in almost any color but blue. Most flowers are pastel hues of pink, lavender, yellow, orange, chartreuse, tan or white, and are intricately spotted and blotched.