Visiting R.F. Orchids With a Dog – Redlands, Florida in the USA
I love listening to humans. They say the strangest things. They have sayings they bandy about, often without really thinking about what the words literally mean. “It’s raining cats and dogs,” for example. I hear this and can’t help but have a disturbing mental image. *shudder*
Another saying I hear a lot is, “It isn’t what you know but who you know.” Now, this little gem has often made my ears perk up but I’ve always been confused by it. That is, until recently.
On our trip to Miami and the Redlands, we stayed with Celebrity Canine Couturier Kiki Hamann. I can’t tell you how proud I am to call her my friend. We love her. We admire her talent. She’s a beautiful person inside and out. She’s a true artist. Attending her Halloween party was an amazing experience and the highlight of our stay there … that is, with the exception of our amazing visit to R.F. Orchids.
Kiki knows a lot of people. What is heartwarming is her desire to have the people she cares about meet each other when she discovers there is a connection, no matter how small. So, on a gorgeous fall afternoon, she and her partner, Alex, organized a tour of RF Orchids for Mom. Dad and I happily tagged along. This wasn’t just any tour, Dear Readers. Oh no no no. This was a private tour of the personal gardens, guided by no less than the V.P., Michael (a.k.a. Mike).
One word: Wow.
See, Mom loves orchids. She has not been able to keep a plant alive or make one bloom again, but she loves them deeply. She loves their sensuality, their variety, their complexity. Their beauty is both erotic and simple. There are orchids all over the world. They are world travelers in their own way, finding a method to survive on nearly every continent, being flown all over the world, and gracing homes everywhere.
So to be in a place where the plants thrive and the variety is mind boggling … well, it was really fun just to see Mom’s jaw drop. She took so many photos. I even heard her squeal. Yes, Dear Reader, squeal! She was rather adorable to be honest, like a child in a candy store, or a dog in a butcher shop!
R.F. Orchids opened its doors in 1970 on a portion of Fred and Louise Fuchs’ 1921 homestead property. Wonderfully, the business is still in the family, now owned by Robert Fuchs, an orchid man worth his weight in gold. His partner, Michael Coronado, grew up at R. F. Orchids, having been with the firm since he was 13 years old. Michael started out working in the greenhouses, re-potting, staking, fertilizing, and packing and shipping the orchids. Later, he became involved with exhibiting orchids and other facets of the business. In 1985, the firm incorporated and Michael became its Vice President.
Something the bipeds found particularly intriguing is the opportunity to join Robert and Mike on a traveling tour. Can you imagine joining these two as they travel the world looking for new species and keeping abreast of the newest trends in orchid hybridizing, including the nursery’s specialty, vandaceous orchids? Can you just imagine how extraordinary a trip like that would be?
These fabulous and exciting tours to destinations around the globe, occur in conjunction with orchid shows or visits to orchid nurseries. In the past, they have visited many exotic places in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. I wonder if they’d add a canine to their traveling party?
Mike has designed orchid gardens for many important South Florida properties, including the outdoor façade of the Christian Louboutin boutique in the Miami Design District. Mike has also designed interior orchid arrangements for South Florida notables and is the manager of the flower shop at the Ocean Reef Club.
But one of Mike’s favorite activities is designing the absolutely extraordinary private orchid garden. And it was the chance to see this private garden that was the gift Kiki had for us. A guided tour, complete with Mike in person to answer questions, tell the stories, and regale us with his infectious laugh, charm and endless knowledge.
The garden is a lovely collection of a multitude of smaller gardens, each with a purpose and specific feel. The smaller gardens are made into the whole by small paths that weave the gardens together into a spectacular natural space that seems to have an identity of its own, separate from the humans who tend it.
A dark black-bottomed swimming pool with its Thai influence is a place of peace, meditation and reflection. A coffee tree that will never produce a drinkable harvest pays homage to previous travels to Columbia. Tall bamboo species sigh in the wind near a most extraordinary, double waterfall and private Amazon jungle, complete with fish, turtles and an alligator in a turquoise pool. Yes, Dear Reader, an alligator. It was chilly on the day we visited so that little lady was hiding. I can’t say I am too sorry to have missed her. I also fully understand Mom’s sudden hold on me and my leash!
Of course, orchids are everywhere in the garden: all sizes, colors and shapes. Mike told us this was “nothing” and we should see the garden in April when the place explodes all over like orchid fireworks. I would indeed love to see that.
What we enjoyed the most about the visit was Mike’s enthusiasm, especially when he spoke of the orchids that had self-seeded in the crevices at the very top of palm trees on the property. You know you’re doing something right when nature joins your plans and contributes things all by herself. Mike’s excitement at this development was not only endearing but also contagious. We all felt it. We all wanted to be there when the first orchid will bloom in a few years. We looked up into the bright blue sky turning slightly pink as the sun set, spotting different little baby orchid plants so high up on their unlikely perches. Like Mike, we all grinned as widely as Cheshire Cats.
You see, Dear Reader, I now understand the saying, “It isn’t what you know but who you know.” The bipeds could have been informed by volumes of orchid knowledge but without the generous spirit of our friend Kiki, this little paradise would have remained unknown to us – unseen. I am reminded of a quotation:
When two people are one in their inmost hearts, they shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze. And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids. – Unknown
Kiki understands Mom’s heart and her love for orchids. What a gift this was – more than most of you can begin to imagine. Forever, the Orchid now has a new symbolism for the Montecristo Travels Team. For us, the Orchid will forever symbolize the love and bond that is the deep and mutual friendship and understanding of inmost hearts.
Thank you, Kiki. Thank you, Alex. Thank you, Mike.
While the private gardens are just that – private – anyone can visit the nursery and lush tropical garden. They are open six days a week, closed on Mondays and a few major holidays. I promise you, you will be enthralled by the largest selection of flowering orchid plants to be found anywhere. Garden tours are at 11am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. No appointment is necessary. If you are in the area, GO! And the best part? RF orchids is dog friendly! (I only saw small dogs; if you are/have a medium or large dog, please call ahead). Visiting R.F. Orchids with a dog – Redlands, Florida in the USA is TOTALLY worth it!
Have you ever been behind the scenes? Or allowed somewhere normally restricted, or invited to an event you could not have attended unless you knew someone in the know or on the inside? What was it?