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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.


“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.


  • Reply
    Denise M
    December 27, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    Orchids are a beautiful flower. However, they are a very delicate flower so I admire those that can care for these flowers.

  • Reply
    Paula S.
    December 27, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    Orchids are so beautiful! I love them, but I am a failure at growing them!

  • Reply
    Becky donnelly
    December 27, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    orchids are my favorite flower!

  • Reply
    Corry L.
    December 27, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Orchids are my favourite flower. So many beautiful varieties!

  • Reply
    December 27, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    It’s amazing how important the study of plants is becoming. @velvetwhip

  • Reply
    Katie Harmer
    December 27, 2021 at 11:57 am

    I absolutely love orchids, and what a fascinating job he has. I never knew orchids were used for their anti-aging properties, so beautiful too, and completely sustainable. I have a friend who has a fabulous gift for growing plants. She has placed large clear quartz crystals next to her orchids and they bloom fantastically.

  • Reply
    Donna Doyle
    December 27, 2021 at 11:32 am

    What a talent! And to think it could be a job! I have had no luck with orchids but they are beautiful.

  • Reply
    Terri Shaw
    December 27, 2021 at 9:59 am

    I love orchids. They are so beautiful. I tend to get real nervous cutting them back so far to the bottom of the plant.

  • Reply
    December 27, 2021 at 9:06 am

    Orchids are so beautiful!.. I have tried multiple times to have them in my home but always mange to kill each one 😞

  • Reply
    Jennifer B
    December 27, 2021 at 8:51 am

    So many interesting facts. They are such a beautiful flower.

  • Reply
    Sandra Deffner
    December 27, 2021 at 3:22 am

    My late mother loved orchids and before she fell ill, we went to the orchid show in San Franscico. I was amazed at the sheer number of orchid varieties. They didn’t have every type of orchid, but they had a lot even one that smelled like chocolate. My mother had a way with orchids that I do not have, hers flourished for years mine die within weeks. I learned to enjoy them buy not buying them.

  • Reply
    Theresa C.
    December 26, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article! We bought a few orchids for our mother last year, but she found that they were just so delicate that she didn’t want to be responsible for their care – so we kept them at our home and enjoy them every day 😉

  • Reply
    Jennifer Davis
    December 26, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Very interesting and intriguing facts about orchids, I never knew they regulates energy in skin cells. Powerful information!

  • Reply
    Bobbi Pentney
    December 26, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    I would love an orchid for my bedroom, however, I can kill a cactus and I wouldn’t want to do that to such a beautiful flower.

  • Reply
    Dana Matthews
    December 26, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    I enjoyed this post. It is full of interesting facts that I didn’t know. I love orchids as they are beautiful to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Eric Starr
    December 26, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    I didn’t know that orchids had properties that were desirable in beauty products, I feel like we need to keep an abundance of plant species cultivated for use in beauty but also medicine.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    Orchids are a very beautiful plant and there are so many to chose from.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    What an interesting job. I believe we need to know so much more about the plant world.

  • Reply
    Lisa Reid
    December 26, 2021 at 2:23 pm

    Wow, this is so interesting! I love orchids but tend to kill them.

  • Reply
    December 26, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    I love orchids & have some that are two years old & still blooming 3 times a year. They are in a front window facing west & seem to like this spot. They are dear to my heart as one is from my hubby & one from my daughter.

  • Reply
    Margo Imecs
    December 26, 2021 at 10:25 am

    Same here I need to be around flowers and plants. Great information, thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Terri Baker
    December 26, 2021 at 8:12 am

    I love orchids. I have killed a few, but others have thrived. This is great information.

  • Reply
    Shannon Bruce
    December 26, 2021 at 5:57 am

    I have always loved orchids for their exotic looks and fragrances.

    I find it extremely interesting to know there are over 500,000 species of plants in the world, and we use only 20-30 of them. It begs to wonder what medicinal plants we may be missing out on, that could be vitally important.

  • Reply
    Lynn munger
    December 26, 2021 at 3:46 am

    I love orchids. I have one plant that starts blooming in March for 5 years. Many people overwater them and kill them. My mother taught me to give them 4 ice cubes a week. It works!

  • Reply
    Lesley T
    December 26, 2021 at 1:21 am

    Having studied some botany at university, I found his discussion of ethnobotany, and tapping into the knowledge of indigenous people very interesting. There is still so much that we don’t know about our planet.

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