Don Ghiz's affair with orchids began on a business trip to Singapore. With a day off to adjust for time change, he visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Little did he know then that this was the beginning of a new era in his life. He purchased a flask of seedlings and carried it around the world, from one customs to another, before losing it to a European customs officer. When he got back home, he began dabbling in orchids. Another life changing experience happened a few years later at a Houston Orchid Society monthly meeting with his friend-to-become, Bill Bartlett, brought a Tolumnia urophylla with some 1500 or so flowers and buds to the plant table. Don tells us that he knew then that he had to build a greenhouse and get serious about orchids. His first greenhouse was built in 2000 and a second one built a few years later.
Don grew up and went to school in Massachusetts. After receiving his chemical engineering degree, he went to work in the oil industry and worked many management jobs in various field locations before being transferred to headquarters in Houston, TX in 1975. Retired now, he still lives in Houston. About growing in Houston, Don says, "Many people think of orchids as tropical, but that's a total misconception. Houston's hot summers and unpredictable winters can challenge the best of growers. There are many genera we can't grow in Houston because of the heat." He tells us of his childhood days and being in the woods amongst the Cypripedium acaule and not even knowing that they are orchids "I wish I could grow one here," he says.
After retiring in the nineties, he finally had enough time to develop his orchid growing skills and knowledge. He began training to become an orchid judge. Now an accredited judge, he would tell you that, in some ways, it changed the way he looks at orchids - not better, not worse, just differently. "It's like putting a frame on a beautiful picture," he says. "Sometimes it enhances the view, other times it detracts."
Even while a student judge, Don found time to hold office in the Houston Orchid Society and the AOS. He has held various offices including president of HOS, and is currently on the Board of Directors there. Within AOS, he has worked on various committees and is currently on the Publications Committee. Last year, Don attended and judged the Taiwan International Orchid Show, and the World Orchid Conference in Miami the previous year. He tells us that it's not just the orchids themselves, but the travel and social interaction with others that makes orchids and AOS so interesting.