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Orchid Dreams Do Come True

March 12, 2010

The $2.1 million orchid conservatory at Old Dominion University was the lifelong goal of the late Arthur Kaplan, a physician and avid orchid collector who also raised money for the facility in Norfolk, Virginia.

Caring for the 750 orchids that Kaplan personally donated is the dream-come-true for Steve Urick, a horticulturist who grew orchids at his home in Hampton, Va., for 26 years.

The Deseret News tells us that Steve started at the Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory in 2007, almost a year before it opened in April 2008. The complex consists of six individual, climate-controlled greenhouses. Since opening, the conservatory has purchased and received additional orchid donations, giving it 400 species among more than 1,500 plants. The goal is eventually to spotlight 2,500 orchid species among 5,000 plants.

The conservatory is open to free public tours 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The main display greenhouse is the "heart of the jungle," a native habitat replica with splashes of color from corsage-like Cymbidium, garden-style Reed-stem epidendrum and showy lady slipper orchids. Some orchids grow on bark in tree trunks, some in pots sunk in native garden soil, some in the depressions of a man-made rock wall. Vegetation like bromeliads, ferns, palms and cinnamon, chocolate and coffee plants add more tropical touches.

Steve is always switching potted orchids in and out of the five growing greenhouses, ensuring the display area is full of color with at least 100 blooming orchids flowers on any given day.

During your visit to the conservatory, you'll also see more common species like the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchids, and Paphiopedilum, or lady slipper orchid, that are so easy to grow indoors at home.

See the greenhouse online at