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The Orchid Whisperer

The Orchid Whisperer: Francois Gerard loves orchids. He really, really loves orchids. In fact, he loves them so much he’s made a career as one of the world’s foremost experts on the rare flower. Gerard is an enthnobotanist in charge of Guerlain’s Experimental Garden in Geneva where he searches for orchids with powerful anti-aging properties that can be used in Guerlain’s Orchidée Impériale line.

orchids

“An ethnobotanist studies the relationship between human beings and plants,” he says enjoying an early morning breakfast on a quick visit to Toronto. “As a child, I was attracted to nature. I was fascinated with mushrooms and learned as much about them as I could while in high school. I studied agricultural science and was most attracted to minor cultivation practices.” Instead of going to the mall for shopping or the movie theatre, Francois would visit gardens and hike through parks observing the vibrant plant life.

francois gerard“There are over 500,000 plant species in the world,” he says. “We use so little of the plant world – only 12 to 30 plants in general. I was fascinated early on with all the different kinds of utilization for plants.” He also works for several food brands searching for new fruit varieties to put in yogurt. He also works for LVMH searching for new scents to be used in designer fragrances.

gold orchid“We need plants to survive. Few people realize that the most effective way to solve pollution is through plants. They de-pollute our environment and regulate the climate. Trees even protect against high winds and storms.” He says that planting trees can quickly improve humidity levels and lead to more rain solving droughts.

One of Gerard’s favourite pastimes is to speak with the Elders of Indigenous Peoples around the world. These peoples have learned how to use plants to solve all kinds of human conditions and concerns. “I like to go to the villages in Thailand in particular and find older people who will speak with me. I learn so much from them.”

orchidsWhen the ethnobotanist is searching for plants with possible skincare benefits, he looks for those that are thriving in the most extreme conditions. If they can be strong and grow in difficult conditions, then they may have strengthening properties in human skin. That is the case with the gold orchid which survives for seven months of the year with almost no rainfall. “Orchids are one of the strongest plants on the planet,” he explains. “They have a very unique biology. They grow on top of trees with a unique physiology and special metabolism to protect themself. The roots themselves are green and can act like leaves. The Native Population has used them in medicines for hundreds of years. “We learned in our lab that this particular orchid regulates energy in skin cells.

orchid gardeningMuch of Francois’ expertise and study has led to one of the most advanced anti-aging skincare line: Orchidée Impériale. For more than a decade, Guerlain has offered a luxury anti-aging regime that taps the most powerful orchids. It boasts 8 patents, 3 PHD theses papers and over 40 international scientific publication studies. The products work to improve skin firmness, density, elasticity, evenness and radiance tackling fine lines and wrinkles in the process. The texture is unlike any other on the market.

guerlain orchidee imperialeYou could say that Francois needs plants to survive in a more direct way than most of us. “When I land in a foreign city, I need to visit a botanical garden. I need to be around flowers and plants.” That was the case in Toronto when he drove directly to Allen Gardens where he walked amongst palm trees, fountains, and yes, orchids.” His very favourite orchid is the Aerides Rosea whose flowers look like a multitude of doves. They bloom in pink and purple shades.

“For men and women wanting to enter the beauty industry, this is an area of expertise that will be in high demand in the future. My advice to students is to study plant physiology and microbiology. We are learning so much about the importance of tiny microorganisms. We have over 27,000 microorganisms in our bodies at any time and they all work together to keep us healthy. Yet we know so little about them. Microflora on our skin is so important. It is the next big area of science in skincare and beauty.”

orchidsAs our meeting wraps up, I ask the secret to getting orchids to bloom at home. He says that after the bloom is over, cut back to the bottom of the plant and place it in a cool place about 12 degrees in temperature. Allow it to rest for 3 to 4 months. Then place it in a brighter location that gets morning light. “Orchids like morning light.” Orchids will bloom twice a year. Water once a week.

129 Comments

  • Reply
    Janice Cournoyer
    January 29, 2022 at 7:19 am

    Orchids are stunning. I do buy myself one each year in January to help my mental health. winter on the Canadian prairies can be cold and all white. It makes me think of summer trees, green grass and the aromas and beauty of the forests. I have never tried growing them. Such an interesting article!!

  • Reply
    Barbara
    January 25, 2022 at 1:41 am

    Couldn’t resist this one – I love forests, I am never happier than when I am amidst the trees and I find them very comforting. To my amazement this is not simply an emotional response – the phytoncides produced by trees to control microbial predation reduce depression and improve mental health in people. As your post indicates there are so many ways we benefit by nature.

  • Reply
    Nancy Jachcik
    January 21, 2022 at 9:43 pm

    Love orchids although I have never been successful i growing them! Exciting to hear that they are being used for an anti-aging skincare line.

  • Reply
    Sandy Weinstein
    January 21, 2022 at 3:26 pm

    i love orchids but they are so hard for me to keep alive, as well as so expensive. i love there are so many different varieties. @evietressa

  • Reply
    Babciann
    January 16, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    Love that the gold orchid lasts up to 7:months without any water.
    We are destroying our planet.
    Here in Myrtle Beach South Carolina builders cut down most of the trees to put up houses.
    Then after the building of the houses is done the landscapers plant a few palm trees.
    No oak trees, no magnolia trees no pine trees. Very sad.

  • Reply
    PAULA BONACCI
    January 11, 2022 at 5:14 am

    Great article I wish I good grow orchids they are so calming and beautiful

  • Reply
    Maria Lontou
    January 5, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    Love orchids, too. It’s a beautyful, unusual flower with unique colors

    • Reply
      Melissa Darrow
      January 5, 2022 at 3:37 pm

      Orchids have always been one of my flowers. I have never been able to keep one alive for more than a few months. I am impressed by anyone who is able to grow such beautiful flowers.

    • Reply
      Catherine Pierce
      January 8, 2022 at 10:58 pm

      Orchids are absolutely beautiful but very hard to keep them blooming, but still love them.

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    January 5, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    Fascinating! Truly brilliant piece, Dave! If I knew what I know now when I was in University, I’d do EXACTLY what Mr. Francois’ suggested. I would absolutely study plant physiology or micro. I also believe that it is the future in skin care. I’d love to do this and also grow orchids! They’re such beautiful flowers. I just have a black thumb. But I love all the tips he gave about keeping them pretty at home. Great article, Dave. Thank you for sharing this with us. And happy New Year! Here’s to 2022! xoxoJJ
    @BaBy_J_55

  • Reply
    Linda Bragg
    January 5, 2022 at 9:34 am

    Very interesting article and I love orchids. Only ever had one and it grew a long time then eventually died… not sure why. Loved the part about the gold orchid which survives for seven months of the year with almost no rainfall. Amazing! @ldystetson101

  • Reply
    Avery Little
    January 5, 2022 at 8:22 am

    This is such a beautiful written article about someone who took beauty from Gaia and spread the beauty to humanity in even more ways than one. I can easily sense the passion he has for the orchids as well as all the other living beings in our soil. Loved learning about his work in this article and loved reading your words.

  • Reply
    Sherri Gelbart
    January 5, 2022 at 1:40 am

    I admire Francois Gerard and his dedication. It is people like this with passion and drive who will help us move forward in innovating in the skincare and beauty industries, and for the betterment of the world in general. Thank you for this great article!

  • Reply
    Roberta MacQuarrie
    January 5, 2022 at 12:19 am

    So interesting how Francois works with orchids and that he has been studying rare orchids. It is incredible that he takes the time to speak to indigenous people to learn from them.

  • Reply
    Kirsten
    January 4, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    Now I know what an ethnobotanist is! Fascinating.

  • Reply
    Liz G
    January 4, 2022 at 8:08 pm

    Very cool interview! I always wonder where the skincare scientists come up with which plant (or flower) to use as star ingredients. I was lucky to try some samples of Orchidée Impériale eye and face creams and can attest they are very special, but I didn’t know about the orchid’s unique properties. My aunt grows them on her trees in her garden, but the tips on how to care for them at home was also very useful! They are beautiful to see.

  • Reply
    Kelly Freeman
    January 4, 2022 at 8:08 pm

    A girl at my work is good with them too. I love it when they bloom!

  • Reply
    Angela Citrigno
    January 4, 2022 at 4:16 pm

    I love orchids and have own many different varieties. I currently own a common orchid variety that is just sprouted another sprig of flowers. I feed it 2 ice cubes a week and it seems to be loving the North exposure. I know I’m doing something right because this is the 4th time it’s going to bloom for me. I love visiting The Niagara Parks Commission in Niagara Falls the beautiful greenhouses. When you go to enter there is a line of orchids that are thriving and when you go inside there are even more orchids to marvel at. I always take pictures of the orchids in bloom. Thank you Dave for this wonder article. Micro flora and good gut health is only the beginning to health skin. @959angela

  • Reply
    Marilyn C.
    January 4, 2022 at 10:25 am

    I just got my mom an Orchid last year. How neat to know about all the ways plants and flowers can solve so many problems within ourselves and within our environment.

  • Reply
    sarah robinson
    January 4, 2022 at 8:36 am

    pretty

  • Reply
    diane sabatini
    January 4, 2022 at 5:43 am

    Love to see this; it’s so interesting how they are bloomed again.

  • Reply
    LILLIAN BROWN
    January 3, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    Love how delicate the orchids are. ig lillianmb23

  • Reply
    Becky donnelly
    January 3, 2022 at 10:23 am

    Orchids are my fav!!

  • Reply
    Emily Ar
    January 3, 2022 at 3:37 am

    I really enjoyed seeing the way that orchids grow in their natural habitats. It is always interesting to see the difference between our indoor houseplants and the way they grow indoors versus in nature. I’m excited to see how the field of ethnobotany will change the beauty industry in the future as we turn to nature for inspiration. We ourselves are a part of nature after all 🙂

  • Reply
    Jeanette Leighton
    January 2, 2022 at 8:42 am

    Great article , orchids are a beautiful flower

  • Reply
    Vittoria
    January 1, 2022 at 10:58 pm

    Great read! Love orchids and now I know how to make them bloom again.

  • Reply
    Shirley
    January 1, 2022 at 7:15 am

    Orchids are beautiful flowers

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