It's All About The Orchids-Hall Art Foundation hosts Orchid Talk and Tour

June 21, 2017
Reading and Hartland, Vt.

The first day of summer was Wednesday, June 21. It started cloudy and cool but by the afternoon it was sunny and warm, just the way orchids like it. To help celebrate the summer solstice, the Hall Art Foundation, in Reading, hosted a program entitled "All About Orchids." This event like most things that happen at the Hall Art Foundation was free and open to the public (but an appointment is needed to take a tour.)

Today's tour was conducted by Bridgewater Corners resident and Director of Operations at Hall Art Foundation, Linda Fondulas. In 2007, Andrew and Christine Hall founded the Hall Art Foundation with the purpose of sharing some of their postwar and contemporary artworks with the public. They also operate a museum in a castle in Derneburg, Germany; are in an exhibition partnership with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, Ma.; and operate this gallery/museum in Reading, Vermont.

In 2012, the Hall Art Foundation opened its doors to the public after years of renovating the Lexington Farm located in the center of Reading. The original farm was built by Elisha Watkins in the early 1800's and was an active dairy until the 1980's. The farmhouse and outbuildings themselves are fascinating to view but the interiors are what one might call spectacular. In three years the old farm was converted into 6000 square feet of museum-quality galleries and exhibition space.

The property in Reading currently has an exhibit of Outdoor Sculpture which includes: Richard Deacon's "Untitled" a welded steel piece of vertical loops; Olafur Eliasson's Waterfall (just feet from the natural waterfall of the Black River in the center of town) and Marc Quinn's "The Incredible World of Desire" a 20 foot tall orchid. Fondulas explained each piece carefully and answered questions about them but what most people came for was the orchids.

Fondulas turned the tour over to Kim DeLong, the Greenhouse Curator and Manager at Dartmouth College, who oversees the Brout Orchid Collection. This orchid collection was a gift from Alan Brout, Class of 1951 and contains close to 1000 individual plants from the family Orchidaceae.

"Why do most people kill orchids, they overwater them" she said. "They also water them with tap water which contains too much salt. It's best to water with purified water, rainwater of distilled water." DeLong showed off some of the orchids housed in the Dartmouth greenhouse and explained what made each type unique, what substrate to grow each type in and how often to water and feed them. After all the questions were asked, the twenty or so orchid enthusiasts got into their cars and drove to Eshqua Bog in Hartland.

The Hall Art Foundation arranged a guided tour of the Bog, which is actually a fen, with local volunteer stewards Susan and Dean Greenberg. Susan Greenberg explained that Grace Ann Ridlon, an English teacher in Woodstock, worked with the Nature Conservancy to preserve the eight acres of wetland when the property was put up for sale. The Nature Conservancy and the New England Wildflower Society also purchased the surrounding 33 acres in 1990.

"We were here last weekend and only four showy lady slippers (Cypripedium reginae) were open, we're in luck today, they are in full bloom" Susan Greenberg declared. "We are also in luck because the Green Bog (Platanthera hyperborea) and White Bog (Platanthera dilatata) orchids are open" Dean Greenberg told the tour group. If you venture to the Eshqua Bog bring a wildflower guidebook, there are so many interesting plants to view in this wetland, although the lady slippers are the star attractions. "Their species name is reginae, queen, they really are the queens" said Susan.

After the wildflower walk along the 400 foot boardwalk, some people followed DeLong up to Dartmouth College to tour the Brout Orchid Collection. Others went home after spending the first day of summer with the Eshqua Bog lady slippers.

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