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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
    Paula S.
    December 31, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Orchids are so beautiful! So many varieties and each one is unique. I am not good with plants and have managed to kill off the orchids I did try to grow. I have given up on growing them myself but love to admire those that others grow!

  • Reply
    Doris Humber
    December 31, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Love this story. I especially love how he speaks with Elders around the world to gather valuable information on flowers/plants. They have so much wisdom and knowledge to offer.
    I have had orchids, but unfortunately I could never keep them alive, no matter how hard I tried.

  • Reply
    SCOTT BRUNSKILL
    December 30, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    Beautiful flower

  • Reply
    Deborah Dorrington
    December 30, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    I love orchids but sadly have stopped buying them as I just cannot get them to flourish. Seems they only last for so long but never reflower. I really enjoyed this article so much that it has inspired me to try again.

  • Reply
    Colleen Rose
    December 30, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    Orchids are majestic and I find their colors, soothing and inspiring

  • Reply
    Joann Higbie
    December 30, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    I love orchids but never realized how many uses there could be for them. Very interesting post.

  • Reply
    Lady_ingenue
    December 30, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    I absolutely love orchids and acquired a small collection of different types. Some of mine are scented but most are not. They bring me a lot of joy.

    @lady_ingenue

  • Reply
    Rania R.
    December 30, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    This was a great read. I am so happy to have read it.

  • Reply
    michelle fiorelli
    December 30, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    I love the orchids and this info!

  • Reply
    lorraine kirk
    December 30, 2021 at 9:55 am

    This is really interesing. I love orchids but I can’t always get them to flower again.

  • Reply
    ANNA ROSZAK-ROBINSON
    December 30, 2021 at 4:25 am

    Orchids are so pretty

  • Reply
    Susan P.
    December 30, 2021 at 3:57 am

    I grow orchids since I live in South Florida. Mine are outside and thrive even when ignored. This is an interesting article.

  • Reply
    M.S. Thompson
    December 29, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    Very informative article. Thanks for the tip about getting orchids to bloom. I had one plant but killed it off!

  • Reply
    Eileen
    December 29, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    I’ve never gotten my orchids to rebloom at home…I will try his suggestions and hopefully will have a new flower next year!

  • Reply
    Becky donnelly
    December 29, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    my favorite flower

  • Reply
    Jeanette leighton
    December 29, 2021 at 10:36 am

    Some beautiful flowers they look amazing love the colours

  • Reply
    Alicia D.
    December 29, 2021 at 10:04 am

    Orchids are so hard to keep alive and I love that he had a genuine passion and patience for them!

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Vlug
    December 29, 2021 at 7:53 am

    What a fascinating article into the plant world. There must also be a calming effect working among the plants too. Now if only I had a green thumb. Thanks for asking about the orchid tips, going to try that one. And now I want to revisit Allen Gardens, a gem in the city.

  • Reply
    Ellie Lane
    December 29, 2021 at 6:13 am

    I wish I had his golden touch, Much as I love orchids I’m often the kiss of death to them. I’ve only ever managed to get one to reflower, once….. and that was a fluke.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 28, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Orchids are the best! I loved this read!

  • Reply
    Dana Rodriguez
    December 28, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    They are so pretty. I have just never had any luck with them myself.

  • Reply
    Trisha Pedros
    December 28, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    I love this! Sounds like a wonderful career! Nursing orchids takes serious patience.

  • Reply
    Tracy Maloney
    December 28, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Great informative read!!!

  • Reply
    Shirley
    December 28, 2021 at 7:29 am

    This is very interesting to read I will have to try to grow an orchid so pretty

  • Reply
    Johanna Newman
    December 28, 2021 at 1:17 am

    I love Orchids. they are my favourite flower

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