Article on Dotty and Berry Woodson (Garden Rant)

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Aug 18, 2011
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Washington DC, USA

Orchid Love, An Origin Story​

Walking into Dotty and Berry Woodson’s greenhouse is like walking into heaven, but thankfully you don’t have to perish to get there. You do need to make an appointment or be lucky enough to receive an invitation, as I did last week. Could there be anything more fun than spending time with Dotty and her magic greenhouse? I don’t think so!
D&B Orchids, Fort Worth, TX

3,000 square ft., wet wall cooling, 5,000-gallon rain collection capacity

You could call Dotty an educator and a horticulturist, though neither description feels adequate. Horticultural evangelist seems a far better title for a woman who has made it her life’s work to teach everyone about “landscape water conservation practices by design, plant selection, irrigation efficiency, and rainwater collection.”

Dr. Woodson teaching Texas Master Gardeners. Photo courtesy Francisco Almaguer

Dotty is known by other names, too. She’s a mother of two and a grandmother, as well. Reporters have called her the “orchid whisperer.” Fort Worth horticulturist and author Steve Huddleston says you might as well call Dotty the “orchid queen.”

Dotty Woodson with orchids in a greenhouse

Clint Wolfe, Patrick Dickinson, and Daniel Cunningham, Dotty’s colleagues from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, have called her a mentor, as have many other people across the plant-loving world.

Whatever you call Dotty, she’s one of a kind.

When I pulled into the parking area at [COLOR=var(--link_color)]D & B Orchids[/COLOR], I saw Dotty and her spaniel, Sparkle, out front. We said hello, and then Dotty opened that blessed greenhouse door. Plants filled the space from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. I saw Plumeria so tall they nearly touched the sky. A scattered herd of Cattleya orchids caught my eye. Celestial containers of jewel-toned Vanda orchids and bulbous carnivorous plants hung down from the roof rails; their baskets festooned with Spanish moss that brushed against my ears. Blown away by the sight of so many tropical delights, I forgot every question I had meant to ask.





Dr. Woodson clicked into teaching mode, which is her default mode. Several days each week, she teaches two college interns about greenhouse management and how to cultivate orchids, ferns, and carnivorous plants.


Our discussion ran through all dimensions of time and space, from the Aztec emperor Montezuma and his place in the history of her vanilla vines to the benefits of rain barrel water versus city tap water for carnivorous plants.



Dotty showed me how to water Spanish moss.

She reminded me that orchids are seasonal perennials that can live for decades. She has a 35-year-old orchid, for goodness sake. That people throw them out after they bloom is a tragic waste.



Henceforth, I do solemnly swear to protect and nurture any orchid that crosses my path.

Orchids are not disposable!

As we walked the benches, Dotty gathered far too generous a collection of young plants for me to take home, reminding me of those Italian grandmothers who say you need more meat on your bones, but in this case, bromeliad and butterworts, among other treats.



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Eventually, Dotty shared the story I had come to hear, the story that would explain how this petite woman with a charming accent and sweet orchid broaches had become a living legend. I am of the opinion that supergardeners, like superheroes, have origin stories.

Orchids, orchids, everywhere!



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