This blog post is long overdue – indeed, to the point where I’ve actively shied away from logging in and writing it, which should tell you just how ashamed I am of my tardiness! I do have an excuse, though… which is, of course, the publication earlier this year of my new book, Orchid Summer. More on that in due course, but needless to say, since it was published I’ve been pretty busy…
I’ve enjoyed all sorts of appearances in places I’ve hitherto only enjoyed as a visitor – speaking at the Royal Horticultural Society in London, the Smithsonian in the USA, and even appearing on BBC Gardener’s World – the latter experience, working with a professional film crew in the lovely surroundings of the Kent countryside, being right up there with the very best of life events.
I’ve also been travelling, leading wildlife tours for the lovely folk at Greenwings – both close to home, in Kent, and much further afield – in Rhodes, mainland Greece, and Estonia. The latter two tours had a predominantly butterfly focus, and I’ll blog about those in due course, but all three tours featured orchids to one extent or another, not least the Rhodes tour, which was exclusively all about them. (Though we did see some pretty brilliant birds too, but we’ll skip over those for now!)
Starting then, in Rhodes… This was a week-long, uninhibited orchid bonanza. Greenwings call it their Orchid Odyssey, and I can see why – dozens of species were seen, in beautiful countryside, in balmy, sunny conditions, and in enormous profusion. Orchid taxonomy is currently in more flux than ever before, so actually quantifying what is and isn’t a valid species is becoming increasingly contentious, but that didn’t bother us in the least. No matter whether a given Ophrys orchid is genetically more or less identical to another Ophrys orchid, if they look strikingly different and are simply gorgeous in their own right… well, it would be churlish not to just enjoy them for what they are, spectacular examples of orchid diversity.
Greece is justly famous for the range of shapes, colours and forms of Ophrys orchids that grow there – and you wouldn’t have to push me too hard to declare a serious soft spot for them – but that’s far from the whole picture. Rhodes boasts other orchids besides, so we were spoiled for choice every single day, with double figures of species recorded daily, and new species added on a daily basis to our expanding trip list and bulging camera memory cards.
This was my first time orchid-hunting on Rhodes, so a good number of the orchids there were new for me as well as for the guests who’d joined me. I was like a kid in a particularly well-stocked sweet shop… As an islander myself, I was also delighted to spend time exploring a new island’s culture – away from the usual coastal holiday hotspots (which we avoided) Rhodes proved to be a constant delight – friendly people, delicious food, and glorious scenery were all a given.
I left Rhodes at the end of the week with the greatest of reluctance indeed – this had been a fabulous trip spent in great company, in the form of a group of friendly guests and my co-leader, the talented and genial botanist Yiannis Christofides. The good news is that Yiannis and I are leading the Orchid Odyssey for Greenwings once more in April 2019 – so I will be back in my element, in my happy place – on Rhodes, immersed in pursuit of orchids.
And you could join me! There are still some places available on the trip, though they’re going fast, and the trip is now a guaranteed departure. Come what may, I’ll be there – and maybe you will be too…