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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
    Jennifer
    December 25, 2021 at 8:02 pm

    they are so pretty, very interesting article!

  • Reply
    Ruth Marmora
    December 25, 2021 at 3:47 pm

    So beautiful. Didn’t know a lot of this info. I wish I had a green thumb!

  • Reply
    Brittany Gilley
    December 25, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I love orchids, I didn’t know about the other uses they have

  • Reply
    gloria patterson
    December 24, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    I love orchids they are so beautiful . BUT I just don’t have the green orchid thumb!

  • Reply
    Laura
    December 24, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    What an interesting read – I didn’t realise there were so many varieties of flowers we don’t use, it sounds like there are a lot more new products that can be made by experimenting with different flowers

  • Reply
    Gabrielle
    December 24, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    I think it’s amazing that there are half a million plant species! @velvetwhip

  • Reply
    Pamela Chambers
    December 24, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Gosh I learned so much reading this! It’s always a pleasure to read about someone who is truly passionate about something and hear what they have to say about it.

  • Reply
    Canida Williams
    December 23, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    Now see i can get with this. I love plants but orchids and lotus flowers are my passion. I really want to become fluent in growing and taking care of them but I don’t have the patience. Maybe one day though. Green house full of orchids and ponds on ponds or lotus flowers.

  • Reply
    Anne Marie Carter
    December 23, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    I had an orchid that lasted for years but, it finally went to orchid heaven with it’s buddies. I miss the smell of them.

  • Reply
    Brandy Crabtree
    December 23, 2021 at 6:48 pm

    I LOVE orchids! I’ve had quite a few orchid plants and I’m still educating myself on how to care for them. It’s a fun experience. I’ve had them grow new leaves, new roots, a keiki, and even a new stem developed 5 buds that all bloomed. I’m ready for more luck!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Cann
    December 23, 2021 at 3:39 pm

    Great article…so many different kinds of orchids. I have three orchids that keep blooming every 4-6 months. Took a while to understand how to care for them properly and I got special pots and orchid fertilizer and soil for them. @CherylJ12234

  • Reply
    Rebecca Alcorn
    December 23, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    Orchids are gorgeous. So many varieties!

  • Reply
    Kat B
    December 22, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    I need to smell an orchid now.

  • Reply
    Susie Wilkinson
    December 22, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    @SusieWilkinson
    I know orchids must be very strong plants, I’ve had one for years, the only houseplant I haven’t managed to kill!

  • Reply
    Karolina
    December 22, 2021 at 5:22 pm

    I had few orchids in my life, killed them all. Very interesting read! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Debbie Auliffe
    December 22, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Orchids are so beautiful , but my black thumb kills them off every time

  • Reply
    Linda L
    December 22, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Long live Francois Gerard! Love my orchids and waiting for my next bloom in March or April! @linmarlett

    • Reply
      Misty Deibel
      December 23, 2021 at 7:00 am

      The smell is already so Devine for orchids. I wish I could grow them.

  • Reply
    Donna S
    December 22, 2021 at 11:05 am

    A very interesting read. I do love orchids. They are so beautiful.

  • Reply
    Barbara L. Wallace
    December 22, 2021 at 11:01 am

    What an interesting and I formative article. Thank you so much for sharing Dave. Off to talk to my two orchid plants and give them their weekly drink

  • Reply
    Michelle Conn
    December 22, 2021 at 10:13 am

    ♥️ I once brought an orchid back to life … waiting for it to begin it’s next life (again).

    True story.

    Needless to say …. I loved this article!!

  • Reply
    Jamie Johnson
    December 22, 2021 at 10:03 am

    This is such a fascinating read! I mean, I didn’t even know that job existed! It just goes to show you to never give up on your passion. You might even be lucky enough to get to live your dream job, even if that means working with flowers. I think that is so cool! And only Guerlain would have a enthnobotanist on staff! So cool! Thanks Dave! Happy Holidays!! xoxoJJ

  • Reply
    Antoinette M
    December 21, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Very interesting! Orchids are so beautiful!

  • Reply
    Sarah Murphy
    December 21, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    Very interesting. I find it fascinating that there are so many uses for plants.

  • Reply
    Emily
    December 21, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Very interesting read! I admire his love for Orchids.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Oliveri
    December 21, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    I found this very interesting. Orchids are so beautiful. My mom loved flowers and plants. She made me have an interest in learning about them too.

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