The Great Orchid Hunt

The Streets May be Empty, But the Blooms are Out

If the City of Coral Gables had an official flower, it would be orchid. Not only is the American Orchid Society based here, but since 2016, the city’s public works department has been planting thousands of orchids around the city – part of something called the Million Orchid Project. The goal of the project, an alliance between the city and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is to reintroduce native orchids into the city’s lush canopy. Last year, more than 14,000 were “planted” in trees.

Beyond those official efforts, there has been a community groundswell of enthusiastic orchid planters. And there is no better time than now to explore your neighborhoods for these vibrant plants, which are blooming for spring.

“We usually have orchids inside the house as decorations, and as they start to die, I plant them outside,” says publicist Leslie Pantin, who lives on Sunset Drive in the south Gables. “Mine bloom twice a year, and I fertilize them twice a year if I remember.” Pantin says that many of his neighbors also plant orchids outside their homes – and that this year they are blooming in profusion. “I walk around this area, just to see the glorious orchids in people’s yards.”

Orchid Sightings

Pantin is far from alone. Outside the offices of Coral Gables Dentistry on Ponce, purple and white orchids are blooming from the nooks in the trees where dental assistant Michelle Mooney planted them. “She’s the ‘green thumb’ in my office,” says Dr. Gordon Sokoloff. “As a consequence, I have the most gorgeous parking lot in Coral Gables.”

Brook Dannemiller, the assistant public works director who is in charge of department’s landscape division, says that his team “installs” orchids in trees around the city during the rainy season, as well as planting some in the grounds of certain parks. So far, they have tied them in trees along Miracle Mile and Country Club Prado, and are working on the median of Alhambra Circle from Coral Way to Le Jeune Road.

Many of the orchids the city is planting are varieties more exotic than the native ones you can see in bloom now, says Dannemiller. “The native ones are an inch across, much smaller,” he says. “They are all blooming right now, because it’s dry and that stresses them to flower. Everything is flowering now because it’s the dry season.” He says the other, more exotic varieties will bloom this summer.

If you would like Coral Gables Magazine to publish photos of the orchids in your front yard or those on (or near) the street where you live, please send them to: We will post all of the images on our website. The top five people who send the most beautiful photos will also receive an exotic orchid as a reward. Please also send a shot of the nearest street markers, so we know where they are blooming.