The History of the New Zealand Orchid Society

The consensus is that it was really formed by men who returned from WWII and were looking for something more “peaceful” to do. 

The story continues …

Following a period of informal meetings at the homes of various orchid enthusiasts after WWII, it was suggested by the Secretary of the Auckland Horticultural Society, Mr. W Cosgrove, that there might be enough interest to form a society, so on 13 April 1948, he wrote to 20 members who were orchid enthusiasts, inviting them to an informal meeting to discuss forming an orchid society.

On 22 April 1948, 18 of those orchid enthusiasts met under the chairmanship of Mr. J A McPherson. He spoke about the desire to form a society. Geoff Laird proposed a motion that “a New Zealand Orchid Society be formed with headquarters in Auckland”.

The first official meeting of the New Zealand Orchid Society was held on 12 May 1948, at the offices of the New Zealand Drug Company. (Note: this will be the day of our 75th Dinner!)

At that meeting the following officers were elected:
Patron: Sir Frank Mappin.
President: Geoff Laird.
Vice-Presidents: Charles Reader & Jim McPherson.
Secretary/Treasurer: AE Brownlie.

Sir Frank Mappin and Geoff laird

Initial annual subscriptions was set at One Pound, One Shilling (over $100 in today’s money!).

At the second Auckland meeting in June 1948, it was agreed that “provision be made for branches to be formed in other centres and the policy of affiliation payment be decided at a later date”, allowing for the formation of other societies throughout the country in their local areas, but stay affiliated to the NZOS, thus creating a society representing the whole of New Zealand.

In 1972 the NZOS celebrated it’s 25th birthday with a Silver Jubilee dinner. 106 members attended that dinner.

By the time of that Silver Jubilee, the NZOS had gone from it’s original 18 members in 1948, to over 1800 members 25 years later.

The first orchid show of the New Zealand Orchid Society was held in conjunction with the Auckland Horticultural Councils’ show on 8 & 9 September 1949, with over 6000 people attending.

NZOS show 1959 web

The first competitive orchid show followed the introduction of the New Zealand Orchid Society judging system and was held at Milne & Choice on Queen Street during the Spring of 1959. Several members objected to the competitive nature of the show and resigned in protest.

In 1961, the New Zealand Orchid Society moved the show to the Auckland Town Hall on Queen St.

In 1965, the New Zealand Orchid Society moved the show again, this time to the Mt. Albert War Memorial Hall.
The move was to incorporate both shows and meetings nights, and this is where it remained for the next 50 years.

In 1958 the then President, Bill Potter, and Secretary, Albert Blackmore, of the New Zealand Orchid Society decided to study the judging rules of several overseas societies, and eventually, the NZOS executive decided to adopt a modified version of the New South Wales Orchid Society’s judging rules and to elect judges and a Registrar of Awards.

And so, the New Zealand Orchid Society’s judging system was born. On 6 September 1959, the first panel of judges were appointed.

The first Registrar was Albert Blackmore. Other notable initial New Zealand Orchid Society judges included Assid Corban, Bill Potter, and Fred Powell.

From overseas, Frank Slattery, a long-time cymbidium hybridiser, and then Registrar of Awards for the Australian Orchid Council, who had assisted earlier with the formation of the judging system, was also included as a judge.

In 1976, following the submission of all NZOS judged awards to the Royal Horticultural Society in England, the NZOS Judging System was given international recognition.

By the end of 1985, the NZOS had awarded 315 plants.

The first publication by the NZOS was “The Bulletin”, which began in July 1948. A cyclostyled A4 publication, containing tips on growing orchids, show results, etc. It was posted monthly to members throughout the country.

In August 1957, the first edition of ‘New Zealand Orchid Review’, a more upmarket magazine, was printed, containing photographs and articles on growing orchids, show results etc. This, too, was sent out to members on a monthly basis.

However, within a few years, due in part to cost, it was decided to make the NZ Orchid Review into a quarterly publication and have a separate monthly newsletter.

In 1985, the NZ Orchid Review was incorporated into the OCNZ’s “Orchids in New Zealand”, where it remains to this day.

Past achievements:

The big one – we hosted the 1990 World Orchid Conference in Auckland. A huge central stand was built:

  • Built by members of NZOS, Howick, North Shore, and Waitakere societies.
  • Designed by Logan Brewer – also notable for designing the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, and NZ pavilions at World Expos in Brisbane in 1988 and Seville in 1992.
  • 200 square metres of orchids (50% of those being cymbidiums).
  • Central pillars were 5.5 metres, with 60, 9 meter long ‘petals’ covered with mirror foil and lit by 200 bulbs radiating out from the centre.

In Nov. 1994, the NZOS, in association with SAOS, HOS, and the AOC, mounted a display at the Ellerslie Flower Show. The result – a Gold Medal.

Encouraged to participate by the organisers, the NZOS decided to mount a display again at the Nov 2001 Ellerslie Flower Show – the result – another Gold Medal.

past presidents