Keith Tibbetts' Amazing Orchid Greenhouse

By Kathy Puckett (boojum) on February 25, 2011

I recently met Keith Tibbetts when I joined the Amherst Orchid Society here in Western, MA. Keith had brought many wonderful orchids to the gathering that I was especially attracted to. So when he invited me to visit his greenhouse, I jumped at the chance to see it! He kindly consented to this interview.

Here are the questions that I asked Keith:

1. Please tell us about yourself.
2. Do you garden besides growing orchids?
 3. What other hobbies do you have?
4. Tell us about your interest in orchids and how it progressed.
5. What is most important to you? Who are your heroes?
6. What are your dreams and aspirations?
7. What makes  you laugh?

Keith, thank you so much for agreeing to be An Orchid Obsession interviewee!!!

Here are Keith's buildings: Woodshed, Carpentry Shop, Home, Greenhouse.  Click on images to enlarge them.

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When I arrived at Keith's home, he was stoking a large wood furnace in an outbuilding.  I had driven past his house to the right and his greenhouse on the left on the way in and parked in front of his large woodworking shop.  He directed me to follow him on a path to his greenhouse.  Upon entering, he turned on a large stone waterfall against the back wall.  I looked around and saw stairways and catwalks in his large greenhouse.  And the place was filled with orchids: orchids on shelves and orchids suspended from wire racks hanging from the tall ceiling.  There was also a tree helping to hold up a section of the greenhouse.  There were many specimen sized plants in large baskets, as well as delicate ones in small pots on the shelves. Many plants were in bloom.  It was magical!

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Keith was organizing his flowering orchids for the Amherst Orchid Society Show (February 26th-27th) when I was there.  This is the fourth year he has set up his own display.  It will be a moving display!  I can't wait to see it in action.  Keith told me, "I like to make a display and then I stand back and watch the people.  I really like that.  I really like that."

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He often gets ribbons for his orchids.  "But I think there are too many ribbons given.  There should be 5 ribbons: best of show, best cattleya, best dendrobium, best miscellaneous..."  I interrupted here so I never heard the fifth ribbon.  Perhaps the oncidium alliance...?

Keith told me that grew up in Eastern, MA or "the other side of the state" as he put it.  He is a self-employed fine woodworker.  Here is his website.  You can easily see the quality of his work!  http://tibbettswoodworking.com/  He built the greenhouse ten years ago.

He used to garden until the orchid bug caught him!  His wife grows other houseplants but Keith's number one hobby is orchids.  He has never had a hobby before because he "is self-employed and works a lot."  It all started when a neighbor, who gardens, told him about the Amherst Orchid Society Show six years ago.  He bought one orchid, visited the show, and the rest is history.  Because Keith's wife is from Thailand, he became especially interested in Thai dendrobiums and visited Thailand twice, becoming an importer to be able to bring plants back.  Here is Dendrobium scabrilingue from Thailand.  The Queen of Thailand has chosen the scent from this dendrobium as her official scent!

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He also went to Homestead, FL to go to the Redland International Orchid Festival. http://www.redlandorchidfestival.org/  He described how they packed a large specimen sized plant for him suspended in a huge box and totally filled with styrofoam peanuts.  He often goes to the Longwood Garden International Orchid Show and Sale, too. http://www.longwoodgardens.org/OrchidShow2011.html   Sometimes, he gets well established orchids from other collectors who are downsizing.  It is truly amazing to see how many orchids he has accumulated in just six years!!

Photos are: Cattleya hybrid, Dendrobium, Cymbidium, Epidendrum parkinsonium, Dendrobium aggregatum, Trichoglottis triflora, Epicattleya René Marqués 'Flamethrower', Lc. Rojo, Ada allenii I believe, species Catasetum, Dendrobium nobile type, Laelia anceps.

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Keith said that his family is most important to him, his wife and 2 daughters.  He couldn't think of one hero but he said that he recently watched a movie about Andy Goldworthy, an artist who works with natural materials, that inspired him.  Here's a sample of his work.

That brings us to dreams and aspirations.  Keith dreams of starting a new career as an artist. "I am an artist but I always suppressed it to make a living.  I know it's a hard way to make money, but I want to find a way to make a living at it."

And then there's the work he's started on the new greenhouse... "the new greenhouse will take six years to build."  Here you can see the swimming pool.  "There will be a curved south wall and solar collectors on the roof.  The pool will hold 21,000 gallons of water.  It will provide radiant heat." If all goes as planned, this will provide all the heat he needs. "And we'll have the pool!"

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Keith had lots of recommendations for me.  He uses carlite as a medium in pots which doesn't break down.  The plant roots appear to love the stuff. 

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He also mounts his catasetums.  He likes to use heartwood for mounting.  He would like to get more serious about his stanhopea collection.

And what makes Keith laugh?  Well, that question made him laugh.  "I used to like Monty Python a lot."  In general, Keith sees himself as "an even person.  I don't get too excited.  I don't get depressed.  I'm kind of in the middle."  Well, that seems to be just right for the orchids!!

Thanks again Keith for sharing your wonderful greenhouse and ideas with us here at cubits!  Good luck on your display at the show!

Related articles:
orchid, orchid plants, specimen plants, Thai dendrobiums, vanda

About Kathy Puckett
Kathy is the admin for An Orchid Obsession. She is a speech-language pathologist, a former professional artist, a photographer, and an avid orchid grower. And most of all she likes to learn about the folks she chats with every day on her cubit.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
What a great greenhouse! lakesidecallas Mar 1, 2011 5:00 PM 1
Wow valleylynn Feb 26, 2011 11:18 AM 13

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