Santa Rosa Beach orchid grower has the Midas touch

August 1, 2010

Encyclia Alata orchid blooming in Laura Talbert's greenhouse. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Flowering epiphytes thrive in local greenhouse

For Santa Rosa Beach resident, Laura Talbert, orchid growing is more than a hobby – it’s a passion.

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are epiphytes – a plant that grows upon another plant such as a tree, non-parasitically and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. Orchids typically thrive in a tropical environment.

Laura had been growing orchids for more than 10 years in Titusville before she and husband Rick relocated to Santa Rosa Beach three years ago.

Laura originally picked up the hobby from her father, an avid orchid grower. It didn’t take long before she was hooked. A member of the American Orchid Society and the Brevard County Orchid Society, Laura soon became a serious collector and competitor. At one time her collection boasted more than 200 plants.

Laura’s now 15-year-old Vanda John Dibiase, towering more than 6-ft. tall won best in show at a competition in Titusville a few years ago.

Laura with her champion Vanda John Dibiase. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Some challenges arose to the treasured collection when the Talbert’s relocated to Northwest Florida, forcing Laura to pare down to nearly 100 plants.

The Talbert’s built a small greenhouse and installed a heater to keep the plants warm during the winter months along with a solar powered fan to keep the air circulated in the summer. Typically, an orchid thrives best in high humidity with temperatures between 85 – 90 degrees.

This past winter proved almost catastrophic and a several plants were lost when the heater in the greenhouse broke down one cold day. Laura bolted to Home Depot to quickly purchase the last heater available in the store.

Some of the true tropicals did not acclimate, leaving only the most hearty to survive.

“You conform or you die,” Laura quipped.

The Cattleya and Dendrobium have done the best in the Northwest Florida climate.

“It’s easier than you think,” Laura said as she explained the care involved in maintaining orchids.

“It’s better to under water than over water the plants and they do well on a windowsill out of direct sunlight,” Laura continued.

With the closest orchid society in Pensacola, Laura hopes to find kindred spirits in the Walton County area. You are interested in learning more or starting a group you can contact Laura via email at

“Once you get it in your blood, you just love it,” Laura said.