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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.

140 Comments

  • Reply
    Sylvia Ferguson
    December 21, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    This article was so interesting. I learned so much, especially that the most effective way to solve pollution is through plants. We need to get back to our roots.

  • Reply
    Alayne L
    December 21, 2021 at 11:26 am

    I love his passion for orchids! They are so beautiful!

  • Reply
    JacquieR
    December 20, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    Just watched an old movie last night with Rex Harrison where he plays the owner of a villa which had an enclosed greenhouse. The heir of the house was standing outside the greenhouse and the gardener was trying to tell the new heir that the orchid had died but the heir just blew him off. It would be nice to be wealthy enough to have my own greenhouse close by to grow plants in a controlled environment.

  • Reply
    bn100
    December 20, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    interesting info

  • Reply
    Gabrielle
    December 20, 2021 at 11:01 am

    He really seems to have a deep understanding of the importance of plants to every facet of life. @velvetwhip

  • Reply
    Cheryl Royston
    December 19, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    I found this very interesting! His passion for plants is impressive! I did not know this about orchids! @Cher_Ann5

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    December 19, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    Fascinating! Truly brilliant piece, Dave! That’s crazy to think a company can have all that for just one line of products! Crazy! Absolutely amazing though.

  • Reply
    daniela d sborlini
    December 19, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    awesome article Dave, such a beautiul @daniela27

  • Reply
    SharonD
    December 19, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    I always feel so accomplished when I meticulously take care of an orchid in it thrives!

  • Reply
    Atul Raj Menon
    December 19, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    Wonderful read

  • Reply
    Barbara Blanton
    December 19, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Orchids are one of the most beautiful flower and I have learned a lot. I am going to try these tips to see if I can keep one alive

  • Reply
    Frankie Pinnix
    December 19, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve learned so much about orchids (which I love, but always kill) from this article! It’s also nice to read about someone who is so passionate about their work.

  • Reply
    Bev Sayers
    December 19, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    I love orchids, but I do not think they like me. I try not to overwater them, Maybe more direct sun, which is a bit difficult at my house.

  • Reply
    Meenal Rathore
    January 18, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Ummmm … My most favourite smell … orchid … One of the 3 reasons I love guerlain … @Meenal_Rathore

  • Reply
    Arge Deianira
    January 17, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    🙂

  • Reply
    Fatima Khan
    January 14, 2016 at 6:45 am

    thats my fav topics plants and flowers @sfatima786

  • Reply
    Linda Clark
    January 14, 2016 at 2:01 am

    I found this really interesting to read. Learning things like this are great

  • Reply
    Pamela Haddad
    January 13, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    How intriguing! I would love to tag along with him. Thank you for sharing his interesting story.

  • Reply
    Linda G
    January 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    What an interesting read,

    • Reply
      Somia Cavalli
      December 21, 2021 at 12:53 pm

      This is so fascinating!! I didn’t know what an enthnobotanist was!! I have only tried foil samples of this line and loved them. Sometimes i think of stopping using every single product except this line!!

  • Reply
    September Dee
    January 13, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    What an interesting profession. They are some of the prettiest flowers and they grow in the strangest places such as nooks and crannies in trees. I’m looking forward to attending the 10th anniversary Orchidee Imperial event at the Bay next week and learning more about it.

  • Reply
    Vera Boyce
    January 13, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Fascinating article Dave, thankyou!

  • Reply
    Vera Boyce
    January 13, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Fascinating article Dave, thank you!

  • Reply
    Cat Forsley
    January 13, 2016 at 9:33 am

    beautiful to read in the dead of winter xo

  • Reply
    denise
    January 13, 2016 at 8:16 am

    such beautiful flowers…there’s an orchid specialty shop in my area…I’m fortunate to live near a world famous botanical garden: Longwood Gardens

    @momof3boysj

  • Reply
    Edith Thurman
    January 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Orchids are my favorite plant/flower I love them!!

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