HUCKNALL heating engineer Keith Kent has a blooming business that would surprise his workmates at Nottingham City Homes.
After his day-job fixing boilers and checking appliances, the 37-year-old returns home and disappears into his greenhouse to tend to his oriental flowers.
Years of tentative toil has turned him into an award-winning orchid grower after scooping a clutch of commendations in a recent Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show held in Peterborough.
“I was really surprised but delighted to win such high praise for my orchids,” said the Papplewick Lane resident who took first place for the trade display, which featured his Masdevellia species from South America. Keith also received a highly acclaimed Award of Merit for the flower he named after his wife, Alison.
Keith’s hobby, which has now expanded into a small business, started ten years ago when he bought an orchid to brighten up the windowsill in his first home.
“It died after about two weeks and I couldn’t understand why,” explained Keith, who is the youngest member of the East Midlands Orchid Society. “I started researching the plant and discovered I probably over-watered it so tried again with another and my interest for the species grew and grew.
“Orchids have become very popular in recent years because they are now much cheaper than they used to be. They often cost less than a bouquet of flowers and last longer,” explained Keith. “People might think it is hard to grow orchids but if you follow the instructions on the labels, they should be fine. The trick is to get the temperature right and not water them too much.”
Keith now has more than 250 plants of various varieties which he keeps in a specially built greenhouse at the bottom of his garden, where he can often be found perfecting his craft.
The show in Peterborough attracted more than 70 entrants from around the world and has been Keith’s most successful to date.
“I’m not sure what the reaction from my workmates will be if they find out,” added Keith. “I’m sure they’ll be surprised and very sarcastic.”
Orchids are the most cosmopolitan of flowering plant families, found everywhere on earth except dry deserts and cold glaciers.
They are thought to be one of the largest flowering plant families and contain around 25,000 species.
They are most numerous in the world’s tropical areas where big, showy flowers are produced, although the flowers of species found elsewhere are no less beautiful.
Orchids have developed some highly specialized pollination systems, often producing attractively shaped and colourful flowers that sometimes look similar to the insects that pollinate them.
Some species of orchid are very rare.