A flower you will fall in love with

A flower you will fall in love with

Orchids are the largest existing plant family on our planet. Yet that wasn’t the only reason for Valtl Ra?einer to create his orchid world in Gargazzone/Gargazon.

“This plant is so diverse you just can’t help but fall in love with it”, Valtl Raffeiner says as he reaches for the delicate stem of a rose-coloured orchid with his heavy worker’s hands, shaking it lightly. The flower’s tiny violet lips start swinging back and forth. “Isn’t that fabulous?” Raffeiner asks, beaming with joy. You can’t help but notice the passion this gardener has been putting into his work ever since he started out back in 1970. He truly loves the orchid family. This was why the business man and father decided to initiate the “Orchid World” project. “After growing Mediterranean plants in Apulia for 30 years to be exported to countries all over Europe, I wanted to do something to make people happy”, Raffeiner says. This spring, he started using the huge orchid glass houses located at the entrance to the Gargazzone village not only for growing the precious plants, but also as show rooms for the colourful blooms, thus turning the half-hectare sized space into an adventure park dedicated to educating visitors about these exotic plants.
From seeds to blossoms
A short educational trail with pictures and panels right at the entrance to the Orchid World provides some basic information about the history of this flower. The orchid plant family is 70–80 million years old, a fact proven by the existence of orchid pollen found on the back of a bee fossilised in an amber stone. We walk past Dracula orchids and tree fern to a large glass window that grants us a peek at the many rows of orchids produced at the park. “We have more than 500 different orchids and 6,000 plants in total”, Raffeiner says proudly. A couple metres on, visitors can explore the world of insects. A narrow tunnel leads us into a room painted all in yellow.

“Try to imagine how insects make their way through the blossom, all the way down to the pollen”, the Orchid World manager tells us while walking through the imaginary flower. Bright orange, dark yellow and mixes of violet and green – the range of colours of the flowers in the glass house is vast. “For plants, it’s important to look beautiful – not to impress us human beings, but to make insects notice them so as to get pollinated”, Raffeiner says, explaining
the extraordinary beauty of the blossoms.
Orchid World Raffeiner
Orchid World Raffeiner
Over 12,000 plants are grown in our 6,000 m² greenhouse, including more than 500 different species of orchid, producing a kaleidoscopic effect of natural ...
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For that very purpose, some orchids even drop all their leaves while in bloom, just like a rose-coloured hanging orchid we see here. Valtl Raffeiner removes some of the dried-up blossoms. For five years now, the orchid enthusiast has been collecting specimens from all around the world to test them for durability and marketability in the park’s own lab. “That’s my daughter Barbara’s job. She studied genetics and now runs our own lab”, the proud dad tells us. That is where Raffeiner’s orchids are cultivated as well. “From the seed to the first blossoms takes about five years”, he explains.

Past banana trees and across a suspension bridge we go, ending up in front of a head-high map of the world. It serves to give you some orientation, Valtl Ra≠einer says. “Most orchids are found near the equator in Asia, Central and South America”, he explains, pointing to the regions on the map. Whenever Raffeiner is not working at the park, he spends time with his family or travels the world. Strolling along the orchid path, he tells us about his adventures in the “real jungle”. In spite of being in charge of such a large business, he doesn’t seem stressed out at all. “You need to take the time to have a life”, he says. “That’s really important”.
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