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Tony's greatest passion

SEA OF BEAUTY: Orchid Grower Tony Buckeridge has 70 or more orchids in bloom.
SEA OF BEAUTY: Orchid Grower Tony Buckeridge has 70 or more orchids in bloom. Fallon Hudson

TONY Buckeridge has his own piece of country in the city.

His backyard is filled with vegetables and exotic fruits, a couple of chooks and his most prized possessions - his orchids.

As you walk through Mr Buckeridge's garage you turn the corner to be mesmerised by the picture perfect 70 or so orchids in bloom, which are every colour of the rainbow.

They take your breath away and there are so many colours.

"I have my own extravaganza in my own backyard," he joked.

His orchids, which started out as a hobby nine years ago when he retired, are now a labour of love.

When asked "why orchids", he replied, "why not?"

"I think God and his creation made orchids and he did a marvellous job," Mr Buckeridge said. "They are really beautiful and I don't think mankind could have done that.

"They are so diversified. Just look at the swamp orchid and how tall it is," he said.

Mr Buckeridge is a member of the Pioneer River Orchid and Plant Association and the Rare Fruit Australia since 1979.

"I love to grow things, things you can eat and look at," he said.

His front and backyard is filled with exotic fruit trees black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit), star apples, jack fruit, granadillas, dragon fruit, pineapples, Brazilian cherries, custard apples, macadamias, passionfruit, grape vines and strawberries, to name a few.

"We have been here since 1966 and I came up with the idea. God designed a forest and in that forest you have trees and birds and it falls down and decomposes it self. No one does anything to the forest, it just survives.

"If I cut down a tree I put that through my shredder, it goes into the compost, it breaks down and use used it in the garden. You use it to revitalise your garden, you get your worms going.

"If you are cutting down your tree and taking it to the dump you are getting rid of your top soil and depleting your garden of nutrients.

"With a couple of chooks you get the manure off them and it works all together really well."

Mr Buckeridge gets his orchids from a flask that can have anywhere from 14 to 30 plants inside.

"It is a cheap way of getting them. People are going on the internet to get them but I don't do that, I buy them off those who do. But that is basically how you get them.

"Orchids are put into the flask in a sterile environment, they have different sizes when you get them. The orchids look like little lettuce leaves."

"They are allowed to bring them from overseas because they are sterile; they come from Malaysia, Singapore, South America, Thailand."

While it easy to get your green fingers on some orchids, Mr Buckeridge said the real secret was learning how to grow them.

He said you had to read books and talk to people and find out where they grew. "We have got humidity and heat - that is two important factors. And here in Mackay we have that, we can grow orchids; by just chucking them outside they will grow," Mr Buckeridge said.

"You try and do it down south you can forget about growing them."

He said orchids could come from the same mother and father, with each "child" orchid, so to speak, taking after its mother or father when it came to their pattern and size.

"They look like totally different orchids but they are all related," Mr Buckeridge said.

"My plants look pretty healthy, they look like they are on steroids, the idea is to try to grow them with out too many chemicals, and I don't use poisons but natural products.

"I have organic orchids so to speak."

Topics:  orchids vegetable garden