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People On The Move - Dennis Dayan
06/27/2010 - By Teja Anderson
ORCHID EXPERT AND MASTER GROWER
To say that Dennis Dayan grows orchids as a hobby would be a bit of an understatement. At one end of his backyard in Deal is a sizable year-round greenhouse filled from top to bottom with orchids in various stages of growth and at the other end of the yard, past the abundant fruit trees, is a large warm-weather arbor from which hang numerous varieties of orchids in all colors, sizes, shapes and fragrances. Inside his home are even more orchids. In full bloom, they are bright spots of color against the gray and white muted décor. The walls of his office hold scores of diplomas and certificates for his work as an American Orchid Society judge and his years of experience and accolades as a master orchid grower. For Dennis this is not a hobby; he is an orchid collector and enthusiast!
Dennis grew up in Brooklyn, attended high school at Horace Mann, and spent some time in Florida before heading back north and attending college. After graduating, he entered the Air Force’s Active and Inactive Reserves while working in banking in New York City. His mentor at his very first job, Jack Dreyfus of the Dreyfus Fund, sent him back to school for bachelors degrees in Economics and English. Later, as a lending officer at Republic National Bank and then the European American Bank, he flourished and was able to make smart investments which allowed him to retire at the early at the age of 39 - without a pension!
Four years earlier, in 1969, he had moved with his wife Linda (who grew up in Asbury Park and caught his eye on the beach) and their young three sons to Deal and it was here that his love affair with the world’s most exotic and elusive of plants began.
Now that he was in the “country” Dennis wanted a greenhouse. The first one he built himself, but a storm obliterated it. “It’s a learning process, so I had the next one professionally built,” he chuckles. “Instead of glass I used a poly-carbonate so the tree limbs would bounce off without breaking it, and it’s still standing today.”
He uses a “swamp cooler” to keep the greenhouse at the perfect humidity level and temperature for his orchids. Many people assume orchids are tropical plants needing hot temperatures when in actuality the most beautiful varieties grow in the foothills and mountains of the Himalayas and the Andes where it is quite cold at night. “Orchids need the cold weather to set flowers. If your orchids aren’t blooming it’s not cold enough in your house,” Dennis says. The other mistake that people make is to over water them; orchids need as much air as they do water as they don’t grow in soil but rather hang onto the bases of trees and canopies or cling on the sides of cliffs, nestled in rocks and crevasses. The roots need to dry out completely between waterings.
Growing hybrid orchids is not for everyone. From seed to first flower can take up to seven years, but from one seedling can come 40 to 50 plants. Perhaps that’s why orchid growers are a generous group. “What am I going to do with 50 plants? I take the biggest one and then I give the rest of them away…but, I get the chance to name it!” He chuckles again “All plants are named through Kew Gardens in London. I have had only one orchid hybrid that was awarded - the Linda Dayan ‘Beautiful Lady’ after my wife and it won it on its seedling flower; it hasn’t even had its second flower judged yet. That flower lasted about 2 ½ months,” he says proudly.
Dennis never sells his orchids. If someone really likes one he is apt to give it away. He simply enjoys showing them and sharing them. But getting these temperamental plants ready for showing isn’t always easy; “The joke goes, never put a calendar in your greenhouse because if the orchids know when the shows are they won’t bloom!” Dennis laughs while “Shadow” his black sheltie joins in with a delighted bark.
The Deep Cut Orchid Society meets once a month at the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls and welcomes orchid appreciators of all levels. For more information go to www.deepcutorchids.com (local) or www.aos.org (national).
Stella Marina, Asbury Park
I really don’t have a favorite, but I like old movies.
People who drive too slowly
THREE PEOPLE YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH
Three of my old friends who aren’t alive any more.
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