Lois Duffin Orchids

News & Events

Apr 2015 article "From orchid enthusiast to award-winning orchid grower"
Feb 2015 Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show
Feb 2014 Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show
Jul 2012 Orchid Digest, via nomination by GPOS, has presented Lois and Jim Duffin with the "Orchid Digest Diamond Award"
Oct 2011 article AOS Orchids Magazine Spotlight: "Dendrobium bullenianum ‘Mt. Airy', CCM/AOS"
Feb 2011 article "Philly-grown flowers, even in winter"
Feb 2004 article "Good health flowers for Mt. Airy former CEO, Beauty rescues area's largest orchid grower"

April 2015 article: "From orchid enthusiast to award-winning orchid grower"

This article appeared in the Chestnut Hill Local, April 2015, by Sue Ann Rybak.

Mt. Airy resident Lois Duffin never intended to become an award-winning orchid grower. She just wanted to grow a few household plants in her living room window.

Duffin, who grew up on a dairy farm in Bowling Green, Ohio, said she always enjoyed working in the garden.

"I loved to plant any kind of flowers," she said, "but our soil wasn't very good."

Unfortunately, when she moved to Mt. Airy with her husband, Jim, she quickly discovered they "didn't have the right kind of soil to grow vegetables or flowers."

"So, I grew all kinds of house plants – coffee plants, banana plants and African violets," said Duffin, who was a stay-at-home mom, guitar teacher and director of liturgical music at Holy Cross Church in Mt. Airy.

"It all started with one orchid I bought in 1979," she said. "At $25, it was the most expensive plant I ever bought. I put it in the windowsill in the midst of the ones I already had. After it finished blooming, I just didn't know what to do, so I started buying all kinds of orchid books. Ten months later, it bloomed again, and I got all excited because I thought ‘I could do it.'"

She said from that moment on she was hooked.

"I couldn't really afford them, but I had to get more of them," Duffin said. "So, I started selling stamps from my stamp collection. I sold $135 worth of stamps. By the 80s, I was seriously collecting orchids."

That's when she decided to join the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society (GPOS).

"I learned a lot," said Duffin, who by then had started growing orchids in her basement under grow lights. "You can ask people about problems you are having."

Duffin, who served as president of the GPOS for decades, arranged for dozens of orchid experts, many of whom are internationally known, to speak at their meetings.

"I hosted speakers from other orchid societies – England, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and many others," she said. "We hosted several speakers in our home, and, as a result, we have traveled to three countries in South America.

"We got to see other people's orchid collections," said Duffin, "David Banks, who writes for the Australian Orchid Review, showed us around Sydney, Australia. We never stayed in a hotel when we traveled. We stayed with different orchid people. Banks even arranged for us to stay at somebody's house in Tasmania. Thanks to the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society, we have developed some great friends over the years."

In 1990, Lois and her husband decided to turn her hobby into a full-time job. They began caring for other people's orchids and started renting spaces in greenhouses in Wyndmoor, New Jersey and Pottstown.

In 2000, they decided to build two greenhouses on land rented from Robertson's Florists. Now, Lois Duffin Orchids is one of the largest commercial growers of orchids in Philadelphia, with more than 500 types of orchids.

For ten years, they exhibited their orchids at the New York Orchid Show. In 2003, they won a trophy at the show for the "Best Phragmipedium" out of hundreds of entrants.

In 2014 and 2015, they won the Philadelphia Horticulture Society's Orchid Award at The Philadelphia Flower Show.

And to think it all started with one orchid plant.

But growing orchids is a time-consuming and delicate process, and every day it gets a little harder to make a living growing and selling orchids.

"The orchid world is changing," said Duffin, 84, who hopes to retire soon. "Countries like Taiwan and Columbia can mass produce orchids for less than what I pay wholesale."

"I love growing orchids, but I am not getting any younger," she said. "I would love to see someone take over the business who loves orchids as much as I do."

From April 24 to 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Duffins will show their award-winning orchids at the International Orchid Show at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. For more information about Lois and Jim Duffin's award-winning orchids go to loisduffinorchids.com or call .

© Copyright 2015, The Chestnut Hill Local

Feb 2015: Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show

PHS Orchid Award - Outstanding blue-ribbon winner - Dendrobium delicatum

Photograph by Maurice Marietti
   Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show: "Outstanding blue-ribbon winner" for her Dendrobium delicatum 'Mt. Airy' CCE/AOS.

Feb 2014: Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show

Lois Duffin is the winner of the PHS Orchid Award at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show: "Outstanding blue-ribbon winner" for her Dendrobium delicatum 'Mt. Airy' CCE/AOS.

This orchid was also awarded a Certificate of Cultural Excellence by the American Orchid Society.

Jul 2012: Orchid Digest, via nomination by GPOS, has presented Lois and Jim Duffin with the "Orchid Digest Diamond Award"

From Orchid Digest Vol. 76-3:
"Quite simply put, without Lois Duffin and the unending assistance of her husband Jim, there simply would not be a Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society (GPOS). Lois Duffin had been President of the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society longer than anyone can really remember though records seem to go back into the 1970's. Now that she has retired from that position, the members wish to honor her service for these many years with the prestigious Orchid Digest Diamond Award.

Through the years, Lois not only oversaw the meetings but arranged speakers, promoted Show Tables, organized auctions and other fund-raisers. Through her leadership, the society remained a viable organization through good times and bad. Her husband, Jim, always by her side is her constant assistant and associate. This award is but a small token of our appreciation for the unselfish contributions they have made for decades to the society. They continue to serve as Directors on the Board and participants on the Show Table. Our sincere thanks to Lois and Jim from the Officers, Board of Directors and Members of the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society."

AOS Orchids Magazine Spotlight: "Dendrobium bullenianum ‘Mt. Airy', CCM/AOS"

This article appeared in the October 2011 edition of Orchids magazine, a publication of the American Orchid Society.

Written by Greg Allikas, Photograph by Maurice Marietti.

One thousand seventy-five immaculate flowers and 12 buds in 43 stacked clusters on four upright canes, two canes immature and three emergent, grown in a 12.5- cm clay pot; cone-shaped flowers bright orange; lip flushed red basally, striped red distally; exceptional presentation of an unusual species.

Awarded at the Mid Atlantic Center Monthly Judging. April 28, 2010.

Exhibited by Lois and Jim Duffin.
  Dendrobium bullenianum ‘Mt. Airy', CCM/AOS

When I first became familiar with this beautiful orchid it was called Dendrobium topaziacum. It started me off building a collection of other members of the Pedilonum section of Dendrobium. Pedilonum is from the Greek "pedilon" meaning "slipper" or "shoe" and refers to the slipperlike spur formed by the joining of the lateral sepals. There are many fine species in the section suitable for a wide range of culture from cool to warm temperatures. Typically, dense clusters of brightly colored flowers are produced from second-year deciduous canes. Some species will reflower from old canes for a few years providing even more bang for the buck. Most bloom only once a year, but healthy mature plants of some species such as Den. bullenianum can produce an explosion of color in the early spring and smaller puffs of flowers either before or after the main bloom. Some intersectional hybrids such as Dendrobium Kuniko (goldschmidtianum × victoriae-reginae) may produce flowers throughout the year.

The species pictured here is from the Philippines where it is found in low elevation coastal swamps at elevations below 985 feet (300 m). The species was first flowered by Stuart Low & Co. and sent to H.G. Reichenbach who published his description in the Botanische Zeitung of 1862. It was named after Low's head grower, Mr. Bullen. This name predates Oakes Ames' later name of Den. topaziacum by some 53 years. The closely related Den. goldschmidtianum is a variation on the theme with similar plant, flowering habit and flowers, but with a flower color of bright orchid-magenta. There is an accepted natural hybrid between the two species known as Dendrobium ×usitae. While their ranges seem to barely overlap in the north, the influence of Den. bullenianum would certainly explain some of the color variation found in Den. goldschmidtianum, which can range into pink or brick-colored tones.

Growers in temperate climates can grow Den. bullenianum in plastic pots filled with fir bark or fir bark mix. In South Florida we grow species from this section in open baskets of sphagnum moss. Regardless of what pot-medium combination you choose, plants must be kept evenly moist while in growth. If plants are allowed to thoroughly dry between waterings, optimum growth will not be achieved. For this reason we find mounts to be a lessthan- satisfactory choice. When temperatures begin to drop in the autumn, plants should be given a cool, dry rest until flower buds appear in late winter or early spring. Gradually resume watering at that time. Lower-elevation species can tolerate quite bright light and grow best when given 2,000–3,000 foot-candles of light. Fertilize once a week while in growth with half-strength fertilizer.

© 2011 American Orchid Society. Reprinted by permission.

February 2011 article

This article appeared on NewsWorks, February 2011:

Jim and Lois Duffin
Photo by Chris Satullo for NewsWorks

Philly-grown flowers, even in winter

By Nicole Juday for NewsWorks

It started with one single plant on a windowsill. Lois Duffin had always been interested in houseplants, and in 1981 she decided to give orchids a try.

"At the time I thought that if I could grow an African violet, I should be able to succeed with an orchid," she recalls.

Within a few years, the windowsill plant led to a thousand orchids under lights in the basement, and around 1990 Lois Duffin Orchids became a business.

>> View the entire article at NewsWorks.org.

February 2004 article

This article appeared in the Chestnut Hill Local, February 2004:

Jim and Lois Duffin

Good health flowers for Mt. Airy former CEO,
Beauty rescues area's largest orchid grower

by Len Lear

Mt. Airy resident Jim Duffin began working in 1966 for the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, a city-chartered non-profit corporation which has rehabilitated and sold more than 1,000 houses in the inner-city to low-income families. Federal subsidies have helped families purchase the homes for less than $25,000.However, Duffin, now 75, insists that high-level jobs at the agency were "incredibly stressful". In the mid-1970s the CEO of the non-profit corporation got into an angry confrontation with a man he had just fired. Minutes later, the 52-year-old CEO suffered a heart attack in the office and died right in front of his co-workers, including Jim.

Duffin was then elevated to the post of acting CEO. Two years later in 1981, however, Duffin, then 52, also had a very serious heart attack that nearly took his life, even though he was thin, had never smoked and had appeared to be in good health.

Jim then retired because of ill health and was unable to take a job for 10 years, although still only in his 50s. You might say, however, that Jim's health was completely restored by the smallest, most beautiful therapists imaginable — the colorful orchids grown by his wife, Lois.

Mrs. Duffin, who grew up on a dairy farm in Bowling Green, Ohio, had been a stay-at-home mom, guitar teacher and director of the Guitar Mass at Holy Cross Church in Mt. Airy, where she has been a member for 36 years.

In 1980 Lois, who had always had lots of houseplants, purchased an orchid for $25. "Ten months later it flowered," she said, "and I was completely hooked. The beauty is overwhelming. I had to get more of them. Orchid people are like that. There are so many kinds that you can never get them all." (According to experts, there are more than 24,000 different orchid species and hundreds of thousands of hybrids.)

For 10 years, growing orchids became an increasingly time-consuming hobby for Lois as she continued to teach guitar and give classes and workshops at area churches on how to conduct a Guitar Mass. In 1990, however, Jim and Lois decided to make orchid growing a full-time occupation. They went to Bruce Robertson of Robertson's in Chestnut Hill and began vsiting the homes of some of Robertson's customers to care for their plants.

The Duffins also sold plants at the Philadelphia Flower Show for five years for Waldor Orchids of Linwood, New Jersey. The Mt. Airy couple grew more and more orchids on their own in spaces rented in New Jersey, Pottstown and elsewhere. In 1990 they rented greenhouses from Robertson's in the firm's huge growing facility in Wyndmoor.

In the year 2000, the Duffins built two greenhouses of their own on land leased from Robertson's in the sprawling Wyndmoor complex. It costs a small fortune just to keep the gigantic enclosures heated at the proper temperature, 24/7. "We have thousands of plants here," said Lois. "Some are in two-inch pots, and some are in two-gallon pots. Most orchids cost about $25, but there are some very rare ones than can cost hundreds of dollars."

The Duffins also board plants belonging to others, including people from New York and Connecticut who occasionally come down to visit their plants. The Duffins work at the greenhouses seven days a week to care for the inhabitants, even when they are not in flower. The plants all have to be watered once or twice a week, and the temperature, light, humidity and fertilizers all have to be monitored as well. Most of the plants are in flower once a year — some more often — for about one month or more.

For Jim, who some people say bears a striking facial resemblance to former President Richard Nixon (but Jim has never been impeached), the orchids have been a virtual fountain of youth. "Ever since I began working with orchids, my health has improved consistently," said Jim. "My doctor even says they are a great stress-reducer. To be surrounded by such beauty every day is clearly good for the heart.

"Also, they give off pure oxygen, and many of them have such a fragrant aroma. When a new flower blooms, it's always a thrill. I guess you could say I 'pump orchids.' These plants reward you without your even asking."

Lois is now president of the Greater Philadelphia Orchid Society, which has about 100 members. They bring in speakers from all over the U.S. and the world to talk to the membership. Those experts who come from other countries stay at the Duffins' home in Mt. Airy. For example, a doctor of botany from St. Petersburg, Russia, who frequently travels to Vietnam for his plants has stayed there as well as visitors from Brazil, New Zealand, Venezuela, Japan, the Himalayan Mountains in India, Ecuador, South Africa and Colombia. "The man from India bought a lot of food at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market and made a very nice meal for us," said Lois.

The Duffins are now the biggest commercial growers of orchids in the Philadelphia area. They sell plants to Robertson's and other florists as well as garden shops and horticultural consultants. They also rent orchids on a monthly basis to clients who just love having them around, and they even rent some plants for parties. "There are some plants we don't let out of our sight, though," said Lois, "because they are too delicate or expensive."

The Mt. Airyites even have hybrids registered with the proper authorities in their own names, such as the Cymbidium Jim Duffin. For the last 10 years they have exhibited at the New York Orchid Show and for the last 15 years at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Last year they won a trophy at the New York show for the "Best Phragmipedium" out of hundreds of entrants. Three times in recent years they won the "Best Orchid Display" award at the Philadelphia Flower Show. One year their names were listed second on a plaque of winners, right under that of Walter Annenberg. (But the Duffins have yet to have a university building named after them.)

Last week, from February 5 to 8, the Duffins and other growers exhibited their plants at the 21st annual Orchid Show and Sale, sponsored by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society, on the first floor of the Court of King of Prussia Mall.

© Copyright 2004, The Chestnut Hill Local

© Copyright 2017, Lois Duffin Orchids