Lisa Crane finds it intriguing that even the most experienced of plant enthusiasts are often intimidated by the prospect of growing orchids.
With her new Blowing Rock shop, Bella's Bloomers, she hopes to educate people about how easy orchids can be to grow and how enjoyable they are for both the owner and their visitors.
"Almost everyone has tried them," Crane said. "Some have triumphed and gone on to re-bloom their plants, adding to their collection year after year. Yet many have met with frustration and failure, unwilling to risk once again becoming an orchid widow. "They are really one of the easiest houseplants to grow. They respond to a wide range of light, indirect light or low light."
Crane believes that patience is the key to growing orchids, especially since many of them bloom but once a year.
"But those beautiful blooms can last as long as three months, so that patience is rewarded," Crane said.
At Bella's Bloomers, orchid fans can learn many of the tricks that keep the plants healthy and attractive. For instance, Crane said that many growers cut them back at the time of their first bloom to enhance the plant and the roots. That pruning pays dividends for future blooms.
Crane sells "recipe cards," laminated sheets of information that help orchid growers with the care and feeding of their plants. She also provides hands-on advice for people who bring their plants to the shop and can help with the packing of orchids for long-distance moves.
One of her other services is to provide orchids for restaurants, businesses and special events.
Currently, her plants can be seen at the Blowing Rock Country Club and at the Inn at Ragged Gardens.
"I remember my first orchid," Crane said. "It was a pink phalaenopsis, blooming in all its glory at the local home improvement store. It was mysterious. It was ethereal. It was seductive. Its perfection captivated me, and I bought it. I think it was $20. A lot, I thought, for an impulse buy."
That impulse buy slowly but surely led to acquiring other orchids and learning about how to care for them.
"I perused the orchid section at Earth Fare each time I went in, critically scrutinizing the new arrivals, and reveling with excitement in my purchases of ones I could not resist," she said. "The shelf in my sunroom began to crowd with the moth-like blooms, bobbing in the summer breeze of an open window, their beauty duplicated in the mirror behind them."
Crane credits the day she purchased a miltonia, or pansy-faced orchid, as the moment she became an orchidophile. She began to volunteer at a greenhouse that boarded orchids for people not wishing to keep them when not in bloom.
"Within a month, I was creating arrangements for high-end restaurants, residences and offices in the Raleigh area," she said. "I learned much from that experience: Repotting, plant dividing, plant pests and variety of species. It was fabulous, and I loved it all."
After a couple of moves and a stint with a well-meaning plant sitter, however, Crane had lost her entire orchid collection. She began to rebuild her collection, but noticed that although she could find a wide range of orchids in Raleigh or Charlotte, her options were severely limited in the High Country.
"My passion for orchids and their elegance has led me to open Bella's Bloomers in Blowing Rock," she said. "I have connected with an incredible orchid grower, who carries premium orchids of the best size, variety and health I've ever seen. My work is arranging them artfully and finding them homes.
And the best part is that I get to be surrounded by fabulous orchids of every sort, every day."
Crane said that a big part of why she opened Bella's Bloomers is to help the casual orchid grower keep their plants healthy and good looking, and it doesn't necessarily matter where they bought them.
"Unfortunately, orchids purchased at locations where basic orchid needs are unknown may be mishandled," Crane said. "In shipping or in storing, plants can inadvertently be exposed to temperatures detrimental to their health."
Bella's Bloomers offers individual plants, arrangements and even an Orchid of the Month Club, where each month a different orchid is delivered for a specified number of months.
Bella's Monthly Orchid Service provides arrangements and care, with plant rotation for constant blooms.
The shop also carries art related to orchids by local artist Sidney Lyle. They include paintings, sketches, watercolors and metalwork.
Bella's Bloomers is located at the Shoppes at South Marke in downtown Blowing Rock. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (828) 295-4000.