Stephanie O’Neill: And assuming you get past the tongue- tying nomenclature, there’s the other challenge keeping the darn things alive! But fear not, help has arrived.
Stephanie O’Neill: David Stanley is “the orchid wrangler,” an award-winning orchid florist from West Hollywood who’s made it his mission to make orchids easy for the rest of us.
David Stanley: People have a real phobia about orchids because they just don’t understand them. They don’t know how simple they are and a little bit of an understanding of how they grow helps you to better understand how you can take care of them and once you understand that, it’s a piece of cake.
Stephanie O’Neill: Or we can call it Sweet—
David Stanley: Sweet ears.
Stephanie O’Neill: I like sweet ears. I think I’ll stick to that. (laughter)
David Stanley: There’s a great endsium out there if you want to ask for it called Sharry Baby. It’s spelled s-h-a-r-r-y b-a-b-y, Sharry Baby. And it looks like this but it’s kind of a purple crimson color but it smells like chocolate!
Stephanie O’Neill: Oh!
David Stanley: It’s sort of like a cross between vanilla and chocolate and it will perfume an entire room.
Stephanie O’Neill: Orchids first took root in Stanley’s life with this now thriving plant that he found 15 years ago on a friend’s porch shriveled and nearly dead.
David Stanley: Took it home and I watered it and I put it under a tree and about two weeks later it just completely inflated. It lifted up its leaves. It started growing new roots. It looked beautiful and three months later it bloomed so gloriously and it was like Easter Sunday and that was it! From that moment I was completely transfixed and I had to learn everything about orchids and that’s when I started my collection.
Stephanie O’Neill: And as his orchid collection grew —so too did his near-encyclopedic knowledge of the flower.
David Stanley: That’s how an orchid grows in the wild.
Stephanie O’Neill: Very interesting, it looks like an alien.
David Stanley: Well people thought they were parasites. It’s very ominous looking, It looks like it’s sucking the life out of a tree but it actually isn’t. It actually attaches itself. They’re very clever.
David Stanley: This Flower mimics a moth that lives where this plant lives out in the wild and the flower looks exactly like the moth.
Stephanie O’Neill: It does look like a moth doesn’t it?
David Stanley: So what happens is, a moth lands on and tries to mate with it and that’s how they pollinate themselves and continue their species.
Stephanie O’Neill: Now this one behind me here, this is an orchid?
David Stanley: This is great. I love it. This is vanilla plentifolia. It’s a long vine that grows along with these beautiful variegated leaves.
Stephanie O’Neill: They’re gorgeous.
David Stanley: I have them growing along a manzanita branch, just one long continuous vine that snakes around. It produces a flower that lasts for only one day, it has to be pollinated that day and if it does, the seed pod that forms afterward is what we know as the vanilla bean.
Stephanie O’Neill: It’s this enthusiasm that has grown Stanley’s business steadily for eight years—earning him two best-florist-in-Los Angeles awards.
David Stanley: Someone said to me once do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. And I was like, wow! I think that makes a big difference.
Stephanie O’Neill: These fragile flowers also made a big difference in the lives of Dennis and Laura Keany
Stephanie O’Neill: Their four-acre orchid farm in Northern San Diego County is where Stanley buys many of his orchids.
Dennis Keany: Actually they show better when they have 3 or 4 flowers open.
David Stanley: The leaves on these are impeccable.
Dennis Keany: We spend a lot of time on the leaves. They only grow three or four leaves a year so the employees know their golden.
Stephanie O’Neill: For Dennis Keany as well, all of this sprouted from a backyard collection 25 years ago.
Dennis Keany: It was just a hobby that got out of control.
Stephanie O’Neill: I can see!
Stephanie O’Neill: Today Keany ships more than five thousand orchid plants a month —sharing his colorful passion with the rest of the country.
Stephanie O’Neill: These I just think are delicious, these colors are magnificent.
Dennis Keany: Yeah, these are really vibrant. These smaller flowers are a phalenopsis, they call it a novelty.
Stephanie O’Neill: While Dennis Keany tends the greenhouse, Laura Keany arranges the orchids and captures their colors on camera for their retail website. For them and for Stanley, orchids represent far more than a livelihood.
Stephanie O’Neill: What’s the draw? Why do people love them so much?
Dennis Keany: Well, they’ve always been exotic and hard to come by.
Laura Keany: And they’re understated but very stately and the same time. They’re just a universal flower.
David Stanley: I think they just take people away to another place. I think you look at them and you see how unbelievably beautiful they are and most people don’t grow up with them. You grow up with roses. You grow up with dandelions.
David Stanley: But it really is kind of like an adult thing to discover and understand and appreciate an orchid and that fascination about them and these faraway places that they come from really compels people.