A visit to Orchids by Hausermann

I haven’t written a blog post for over a month, so I thought I should stop in and do something!  I’ve had quite a few ups and downs in life over that month, as well as some travel and a lot of work to do — including reviewing the editor’s comments for my upcoming cat physics book! (I have mostly finished them now, thankfully!)

Two weekends ago, I ended up in Chicago for my sister’s 50th birthday party — oh, how time has flown! While I was there, I caught up on some of my favorite Chicago things, like the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and a plate of White Castle cheeseburgers.

Yum!

The decision to visit White Castle was fortuitous.  On the way to the fast food restaurant, we passed by Orchids by Hausermann, a quite old and very prestigious greenhouse that specializes in orchids of unimaginable variety.  Carl Hausermann started growing plants in the 1920s, and his son turned the business into a nearly orchid-exclusive one in 1935. Since then, they’ve become a huge and influential seller of orchids both for professionals and casual hobbyists.  Since we were literally right around the corner, my mom, my roommate Sarah and I opted to go for a visit.

The entrance/exit to the Hausermann shop.

It turned out to be a very good weekend to do so! Hausermann’s was holding an open house, so visitors were able to explore pretty much the entirety of the operation, and see all sort of beautiful orchids of every size and color.  So, in this blog post, I thought I would simply share some photos of the highlights of the visit. Along the way, I’ll have a few comments, but mostly, this is a photo post!

The walkthrough began in a sales room, where a lot of varieties were available for purchasing and smelling.

Have I mentioned that orchids are amazing? My mother is a bit of an orchid aficionado (she lives only about 15 minutes away from Hausermann’s) and she made sure that we smelled the next orchid, which has an aroma that is strongly suggestive of chocolate!

The “chocolate” orchid, oncidium Sharry Baby.

For the most part, though, I’m not going to even try to identify everything I saw — there are some 28,000 varieties of orchids!

After getting through the initial sales room, we were able to walk into the greenhouse complex itself, which is just amazing to see in person.

Some of the colors seemed almost unearthly.

The next group of orchids really surprised me, because I had never seen blue orchids before.  Turns out that there’s a reason I hadn’t: they’re artificially colored! As an accompanying sign explained, a blue dye is injected in the flowering stem, causing it to bloom in such a stunning blue. In the next flowering, it will have its original pink or white coloring.

But orchids do not lack for variety in their natural colors.

At this point, my mom the orchid aficionado overheard someone say that a particular orchid didn’t have a scent, so she stepped in to explain that some orchids only have a scent at particular times of day! (My mom is in the center.)

Orchids come in a variety of sizes, from “fit in the palm of your hand” flowers to “the diameter of your head” flowers. This one was closer to the latter.

Near the back of the greenhouse is a small garden room that appears to be where Hausermann’s shows off, even more than in the rest of the greenhouse! It has a wide variety of beautiful specimens arranged aesthetically.

From that point, the tour took us back through some of the more empty greenhouses, where they were apparently in preparation for the next growing season. There were still some amazing specimens to be found.

Whew! And that was the end of our visit to Orchids by Hausermann! A really amazing place to wander through for a visit, especially if you’re stuck in Chicago in March when the outside temperature is 20 below freezing. The warm humid greenhouses are a nice break from the cold.

To wrap up, let me just emphasize again how prestigious Hausermann’s is!  Tacked on a bulletin board in the greenhouse was this little tidbit:

Okay, I will hopefully be back again in the near future with some more science blogging and book blogging! I hope you enjoyed this little wander through the beautiful world of orchids.

 

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3 Responses to A visit to Orchids by Hausermann

  1. Tim says:

    I quite like the blue orchids, even if they are artificially colored.

  2. kaleberg says:

    That was pretty amazing. I’ll keep Hausermann’s in mind if I ever get to Chicago again. (I’ll probably avoid winter.) Breeding and cultivating orchids was a real challenge until the 1930s when they discovered that you can germinate them in agar. There was a real boom in production and many new cultivars. It’s nice to see a business that was part of that development still in business and still producing amazing flowers.

    We have a few wild orchids growing in our area, but they’re not the big showy ones. I once saw an exhibit of Himalyan orchids in San Francisco in a greenhouse in Golden Gate Park. They were blooming in clear glass refrigerated displays. I probably won’t be visiting the Himalayas, at least not the higher peaks, in the winter either. (I was in Bhutan this January for the black necked crane migration, but never really got about 10,000 feet, even in the passes.)

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