Orchid-Master In Our Midst | iinfo TZANEEN

On entering their home, one is overwhelmed with a sweet fragrance that no air freshener can imitate: the sweet breath exhaled by different orchid species, expertly grown by our local orchid master, Dr Sarel Spies. Locally (Tzaneen and Duiwelskloof) he is well-known as medical doctor, but here and much wider for his involvement in and passion for, orchids. The love-story's time line goes as follows:
Born and raised on the highveld where his father grew roses and dahlias. The interest in flowers is sparked here and transferred to his children, who grow up learning about the estimated 4000 species lovingly nurtured in hothouses around their Duiwelskloof home, nestled in lush gardens.
1981 - he and his wife, Marieta, are invited to an orchid show in Durban in 1981, to make use of tickets that had been reserved by someone else but couldn't be used.
1985 - starts his own collection
1987 - founds the Wolkberg Orchid Club, consisting of about 25 likeminded people with members in Tzaneen, Mooketsi, Phalaborwa, Duiwelskloof and Haenertsburg.
This club founded three more which have further expanded to Polokwane, Phalaborwa, Mookgopong (Nylstroom), Mokopane (Potgietersrus) and Hoedspruit. Monthly meetings might involve a relevant talk, a visit to a hothouse or an outing in nature.
The club caught the attention of orchid growers abroad by exhibiting at three world shows: in Malaysia, Dijon (France) and Singapore. In Singapore they received a first prize for an indigenous specie.
The South African show is held every three years and in 18 years (six shows) they haven't missed one, at three occasions boasting the best exhibition!
Orchids are found across the globe, except in the true desert and icy poles. There are about 25 000 species, excluding hybrids. Curiously, the biggest variety is not found in the true tropics, but in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea (Australasia) and Ecuador (South America).
Dr Spies and his wife, who shares his passion, have travelled extensively to see orchids in their natural environments: clambering around in the snow-capped Andes bordering Ecuador, sweating their way in the tropical Malaysia, braving a raving tropical storm in Australia, meandering in Madagascar – all to observe with their own eyes the beauty and variety of orchids in those parts of the world.
There are countries and places he neither would've visited nor seen if it hadn't been for his fascination with these flowers. There were a few sacrifices due to the demands of his full-time job (as medical doctor) and where his hobby had to take a second place, but he kept a healthy balance.
"I still read a lot about the medical field, orchids, trees and indigenous plants – which also interest me," he says. This next week they will visit Blouberg in the Soutpansberg on a trip to appreciate trees. On leaving I realize he has successfully lived a motto quoted from an acquaintance of his: "There is no substitute for enthusiasm."
Local orchid shows in 2018:
10-13 May     :     Wolkberg Orchid Society Autumn Show, Lifestyle Centre, Tzaneen
4-7 October     :     Wolkberg Orchid Society Spring Show, Lifestyle Centre, Tzaneen

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