Watering Orchids

I love to garden as you may know by now and my blog conveys my passion for orchids in particular. Today I want to be instructive rather than tell a story of success or failure. I promised blog readers information on the care of these tender but gorgeous plants. I approach it differently if they are housed indoors or enjoy the rich soil of my flower beds or patio pots. The same principles apply and I use a watering can so as not to flood these precious blooming gems, Mother Nature’s pride and joy. I go very easy on the water and if I have time, I will use a mister; but it is hard if you have a lot of plants. You wouldn’t selecting orchids unless you live in the right damp climate. The dry desert wreaks havoc on the buds.

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Most people do better inside and having taken a random poll, I find that one or two are found in homes or offices at best. Nevertheless, they need loving care—and not too much of it. Overwatering kills most plants. The stem will live, but the buds will fall off, and they are the crowning glory. My advice is to start off right with well-drained fresh potting soil and to place your plant in the best possible location. From there on it is simple: water sparingly, mist, and fertilize as needed most of the year (and somewhat less in the winter). Experts like to repot their orchids after they bloom. If you don’t want the hassle, make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Put bark or charcoal at the base of the soil if it doesn’t have a slit. By the way, you will find a special potting mixture at any nursery.

I mentioned a good location and this means an east window, for example, with only partial sunlight. A humid environment is desirable and is easily created with pebbles and water on a tray upon which you place the orchid in a pot. I can’t say it too many times: water judiciously and mist as needed, usually not more than once a week. If the soil is very dry, occasionally give it a bit of a soak. I put my plant in the kitchen sink under the pull-out faucet that I purchased from https://www.kitchenfaucetdepot.net/. It has an adjustable sprayer. Perfect for orchids. During the growing season, which is obvious, fertilize once a week. As mentioned, everything calms down in the winter so stop this process, but continue to mist with water. Every orchid owner has the perfect mister. They come in plastic, glass or retro brass as meets your taste.

If you follow these basic instructions, your orchids will thrive and provide you with their beauty for a long time. Once a bloom or two wilts, it will fall off; don’t panic as the plant will generate new buds later on. I find that this may be months, but it still happens. If you take good care, you will have good luck.

How to Recover Quickly from a Long Day of Gardening

There are lots of blogs about planting, both vegetables and flowers. I hope this one is a bit different since it has a focus on a particular species. Gardening is for anyone—all ages, all creeds, all ethnicities. Anyone, anywhere, at any time.  There is the universal appeal of watching something grow and thrive whether it is in a pot in your office or a bed in your backyard. It is the favorite pastime of millions. But there are fewer people tackling the cultivation of orchids, one of the most challenging plants of them all. It takes patience, a gentle touch, and an absolute avoidance of too much watering. That can be instant death to a delicate plant. It is tempting to treat them like all thirsty stalks, but it is a big mistake. The biggest tip I can give you, although there will be others, is to limit your interaction to a gentle infrequent mist.

You must know what you are doing. Orchids are not for the novice, even if you think you have a natural green thumb. It can turn black in no time if you insist on raising this most difficult of plants. If you do succeed, and it is rare, you will be generously rewarded. A beautiful, long-lasting and vigorous bloom, like no other, will grace your presence. I can stare at them intently when they are in their prime. If a bud falls, I am grief stricken. I am in terror that more will follow.

I work in my garden a lot. When I get started, I can’t seem to stop until everything is done. I have lined several flower beds with potted orchids and the display is simply glorious. The problem is that I suffer from swollen feet if I am crouching to look closely at the plants and all my weight settles down below. I regularly use a foot soak to help relieve fatigue in my legs and feet from kneeling and standing while tending to my beauties, and it also improves swelling/circulation.

You can add a scent, like citrus or lavender, to the foot spa, or a bit of essential oil. You don’t want the water to be too hot or you risk scalding your skin. It is best to use nice warm water and refresh it as needed. If you toes start to wrinkle up like prunes, you know you have been in too long. It is heavenly to end a gardening session with a foot soak. It is even better than a massage. A good foot spa can operate like a mini Jacuzzi and provide natural pressure in every part of the immersed foot. Treat yourself after a session at the gym, a long walk, jogging, or any other activity that stresses the feet. Most everything you do ends up causing some ultimate discomfort. A foot soak is the answer to your prayers.

Finding a Compromise

While I usually devote my blog to orchids, their color, variety, and care, today I just have to share a few moments on the joys of having grandchildren. They are actually my first passion, right there above orchids on my list of loves and priorities. I love to watch them and revel in their amazing progress. I treat them to cookies, buy clothes and toys and am there on every birthday. So I was very sympathetic when a friend came to me with a dilemma. She watches her own grandkids and they have asked her to put a trampoline in the yard. They are all of a sudden into this popular pastime and want to be part of the new playtime trend. She doesn’t want to indulge them, as she usually does, because it would compromise her garden. What do I do, she asked?

I, above all others, value the role of a garden in one’s life. It is the first thing I look for in a home, or at least room to put one in. I know that I can’t do with it, especially my beloved orchids. When I want to relax and unwind, I tend to it with great care. Watching flowers bloom is a gift from heaven. Maybe I was the wrong person to ask. But adoring my grandchildren, made me want her to accommodate them.

Looking online I saw that not everyone must install some huge behemoth in their yard. While it certainly would be fun, and kids could jump together, it is not the only solution. Most families limit themselves to a mini version that fits in the garage, on the patio, and even in the house. In fact, you can move it about with ease given the light weight and small size. When it rains or snows, it needs a parent to lift it and find a better spot. I told my friend about it and showed her a few descriptions, reviews, and photos. She was thrilled. A good compromise could, in fact, be reached. Everyone ends up happy as with most resolutions.

I was invited over to witness the new acquisition and had great fun watching the tots bounce up and down, endlessly it seemed. I will have to get one of these gems for my own grandkids. Do I get the same size? Of course. Even an adult can jump on a mini trampoline for exercise and fitness. Gyms are now including them in regular routines. They are fun and burn calories so you go away satisfied that you have had an energetic and effective workout.

For fabulous fun and frolic, and a good way to entertain kids of all ages, yours or your grandchildren, gift the family a mini trampoline right away. It is easy to find a suitable spot and you may even have room in the backyard. Not all of us have enormous gardens!

The Sun Sets on a Long Day

I could write odes to orchids as I love them so much. Or maybe a haiku. It is shorter and would tell how I feel quickly and succinctly. This Japanese form of poetry is simple with only three lines. You must include five syllables in the first, seven in the second and five in the third. It requires considerably creativity and word play to make it work. Experts can capture special moments in time using haiku. I am going to try my hand at it.

My garden is rich
Beauteous blooms greet my eyes
Purple pink glory

So there you have it. I have always wanted to express my love for this miraculous plant in more than a blog. Having a wonderful. Colorful garden is not enough. I would like to share the fruit of my labor—and this doesn’t mean giving them away! I am taking photos for Instagram so that the world will know, or at least a small group of people. In any case, some days I work very hard at gardening and can’t wait to grab a beer from my beer fridge. If you haven’t seen it before, here is a photo. I watch the set over the garden and drink to celebrate my handiwork.

The blooms closes their eyes
The sun sets on a long day
It is time for rest

Are you surprised that I enjoy a cold beer and that I house it in a special fridge? I have loved beer for some time since a friend introduced me to homebrew. He gives me samples of his output which I immediately place in the small unit for safekeeping until I am ready for a taste treat. I bought the under-counter fridge so I could have more than would fit in my normal refrigerator. It is full of normal things like fruits, meat and vegetables. Beer will keep a long time if in proper containers and I love that it comes out at the perfect temperature.

A beer fridge is a nice luxury if you have some space. Others like a wine cooler instead but this is not my preference. I stash a few bottles in the pantry on a rack for guests. My friends are happy to try the latest home brews. If you like to entertain in a man cave or on a patio in the warm summer air, put out a few snacks like chips or pretzels—anything with salt—and go for it. Good conversation and camaraderie will ensue. There is nothing like beer and a ball game. You can throw a comfortable club chair into the mix to make it extra relaxing.

I am going on and on about beer today rather than orchids for some reason. I could write a haiku on this subject. I have not yet run out of steam.

Cold bright frostiness
The foam will tickle my tongue
The beer stein is full

New Dendrobium

I get excited about new species of orchids in my collection. I can wait a long time to fill in a missing gap. I like to vary my array of this delicate flower by including some rare items now and then. I have a dendrobium on my list right now and am looking for an orchid grower in the region to supply my need. I heard of someone about an hour away, which in my book is very convenient. I put in a call. Meanwhile, I have my watering and misting to do. Life is wonderful. Try living with these blooms and see what I mean. They relax my body and fill my mind with pleasant thoughts. It’s better than any medication.

The grower was pleased to offer me the perfect color—white tipped in a deep fuchsia. It is a kind of reddish purple typical of orchids that is beyond belief. I have plenty of yellow, pink, violet and two-tone. Sometimes I group them, and at others I mix it up. It is a game that only an orchid grower would understand. When I arrived at his “farm,” I took in the beauty and splendor of his greenhouse. I didn’t want to leave. Only the enticement of taking home my dendrobium motived me out the door. It was an amazing experience, except…

Now there was something wrong with this almost perfect picture. The grower is a heavy smoker and his clothing and hair just reeked. He lit one up as I selected six plants and he wrapped them up for transport. I was hopeful that it wouldn’t take much time. I was absorbing the smoke minute by minute. When I got home, my clothes (like his) stank to high heaven. I set them out to air on the back patio. I expected to wash them in a few hours. No one wants to walk around smelling like a chimney. Only a nonsmoker doesn’t notice. Wherever you go indoors, you are a source of odor pollution. No one wants you around. The grower didn’t greet many people, so he felt quite content to indulge as often as he liked.

I am not around smokers very often so ridding clothing of the musty stale smoke smell is not something I understand. I washed my hair and face and then changed to a fresh outfit. The shirt and pants outside still had a telltale odor. I brought them in to assess the need to wash them. The answer was yes. After reading https://www.nomoresmokesmell.net/hard-get-cigarette-smoke-clothing/, I put them in the machine by themselves, so they wouldn’t tarnish other items. I added the soap and some eucalyptus oil. People often use it in a vacuum cleaner to get rid of heavy odors like cigarette smoke in upholstery and carpets, so why not clothing.

The trick worked, and the shirt and pants were good as new. I made a vow on the spot not to visit that orchid grower again. Maybe I would send my brother who smokes.

Creating a Garden Sanctuary

Gardens can be a lot of work, but there is something so calming and almost spiritual about being so close to nature. You can create a beautiful, tranquil space in your yard to retreat to when you want some peace. With some careful planning and some smart plant choices, it will become your favorite place in the yard!

First, close your eyes and think about what you want: is it a bench under a shady tree where you can read a book, a beautiful array of colorful flowers where you can watch butterflies dance, or maybe a quiet spot near a little pond to meditate by? Once you know what you want in your garden sanctuary, you will be able to look around your yard and find the best location to fit your needs.

Then it’s time to measure. Carefully determine the space you are going to use and write down all the measurements you take. Using either design software or some graph paper, draw out what you want your space to look like. It is important to draw it to scale, so that you know exactly how much room you have for all the aspects you want to include.

Next, the actual labor starts. You need to clear the area you are going to use. You may need to clean up your garden space by removing any overgrowth and anything else you don’t want in the new area. This is also a good time to do any tilling or ground prep you might need to do for the new plants. If you want the area to be enclosed, add a new fence or other barrier (like a terrace you can train plants to climb or even a row of bushes or hedges) to set this area apart from other sections of your yard. Make the area as secluded as you need to feel like this is a real retreat.

Then comes the fun part: making your vision come to life! Select your plants carefully based on your soil, climate, lighting, and preferences. Be sure to add some plants that are light on maintenance to make things easier on yourself. You can also add a small artificial hill to create visual interest or to draw attention to a specific plant or tree.

Add some comfortable seating, lighting (solar lighting works well because your garden does not need to be near a power source, nor do you have to run extension cords), and any décor you find appealing. Remember, this is your special place to retreat and relax. Dress it accordingly! Decorative stones around plants, as seating, or to create a pathway, will accentuate the natural feel of your garden. The same thing goes for a water feature – the sound of running water is typically a very relaxing sound.  

The last thing on the list is probably my favorite: sit back in your garden, admire your hard work, and relax!

Tending the Flowerbeds

Those who know me, understand my passion for orchids. I talk about them incessantly. People get cards with these flowers on the front and gift wrap paper strewn with their graceful forms. To me, they are the most beautiful flowers on earth, bar none. I know they are found in any grocery store, but I am sad to say that people don’t know how to grow them and the blooms fall off in no time. You are left with a simple bare plant. Orchids will not thrive if you drench them with water. They like to remain dry or at best experience a loving and gentle mist. I keep my mister close at hand. They are not for those with a black thumb, but you can learn to work with them if you want their stunning beauty in your life.

When they bloom, it should last for a long time, more than most flowering plants. I consider myself somewhat of an expert having grown various kinds for years. You will find me in the garden at least a few hours every day, rain or shine. Being outside with the plants feeds my soul. Try gardening if you suffer from stress and/or burnout. It will cure what ails you.

When you spend a lot of time doing something on your own, it is nice to have some music to accompany the activity. I use portable outdoor speakers from Outdoor Light and Sound to bring me my favorite tunes. I am not into wearing earbuds connected to my iPhone. The sound is muffled and blurry. I want the sound to be all around—rich and full. Orchids make me think of certain types of New Age music that feature natural sounds. This is perfect to keep me focused and on track. Really noisy music is not my preference (no heavy metal rock!), at least while in the garden. I fear it will disturb these delicate flowers. When you have to do some real labor like turning the soil, which isn’t the fun part of gardening, the music makes it a lot easier. Time goes faster and before you now it, the job is done.

Tending the flowerbeds is a frequent chore that must be accomplished at least a few times each year.  I do it myself. No cheating by hiring a gardener. If you do this groundwork, literally, the orchids will be happier and show their appreciation in more blooms. Even when not flowering, they will draw enrichment from the soil and sprout long and thick green tendrils, usually several at once, the source of future buds. It is like a cocoon that opens mysteriously and suddenly when you don’t expect it. In a few days, the plant has come to life. It can grace your kitchen counter, become the centerpiece of the dining table, turn into a gift with a ribbon wrapped around it, or sit politely on your desk at work.

My Favorite Types of Orchids

If you are just a casual fan of orchid flowers, you may not be aware that there is such a variety of blooms available within the family ochidaceae. Here in this post, I will talk about some of my favorites.

I love the Oncidium orchid, especially the ‘Sharry Baby’ variety. It smells like cocoa, is fairly low-maintenance, and the flowers themselves look like dancing ladies. I love their rich red-violet hue and the even deep colors of their sibling ‘Sherry Baby’ variety.

Another variety that is downright adorable is the Anguloa uniflora, otherwise known as the swaddled babies orchid. If you’ve ever seen the blooms, you will know how the plant earned this nickname! The flowers really do look just like a smiling, joyful baby wrapped in a soft blanket made of petals before they fully open.

My first orchid was the very popular Phalaenopsis orchid (otherwise known as a ‘moth orchid’ and it is probably the flower you most think of when you picture this species. They have long lasting flowers, come in a variety of colors, and are absolutely beautiful. Another common orchid found in homes and florist shops are the Dendrobium Orchids. They grow large amounts of a smaller white and purple flower, and are a little more forgiving when it comes to too much sun or water. However, they are equally as stunning as the moth orchid.

I am also a big fan of tulips, so the Anguloa Orchids, commonly called tulip orchids, are another one of my favorites. Born out of the South American rainforest, these beauties require significant humidity and grow especially well in greenhouse or with a mister set on a timer. I’ve never grown these myself, but I love looking at pictures of them and dreaming of my own greenhouse.

Another beautiful flower that also comes in yellow is the Laeliocattleya. They are great for those who occasionally forget to water, as they like to dry out between watering. Personally, I love the way the petals almost look like stars. These orchid hybrids are beautiful. I also adore the ‘Puppy Love’ flowers. Sweet name, beautiful flower!

The Cymbidium orchid is a great option if you cannot provide a high-humidity environment. This particular type of orchid has lots of hybrids available and the flowers last an incredibly long amount of time – we are talking months. And they bloom about 30 flowers at a time, especially in the Cascading varieties, which can be absolutely breathtaking.

There is an incredible amount of diverse plants in the orchid family and I could spend all day writing about the seemingly endless varieties of these beautiful flowers. If you are interested in growing your own orchid, talk to a grower and explain your level of skill as well as the environment you plan to place the plant in. They should be able to direct you to the types of orchids that will grow best for you.

What’s in a Name?

There are many different types of orchid and orchid hybrids, probably more so than with other flowering plants due to their ability to crossbreed at the genus and species level. Rules have been developed to help distinguish hybrid plants from their originator orchids. I’ll go over a little about it here so that it might make things easier for you. It’s believed that there are over 100,000 hybrids in existence at this point, creating an almost unlimited variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of orchids.

Some hybrids occur spontaneously in nature, but others are man-made. If it is believed the hybrid occurred naturally by the cross-pollination of bees, butterflies, or other means, they are denoted with an X in the name – for example, Dendrobium Xruppiosum (meaning D. ruppianum X D. speciosum).

When they are a man-made intergeneric hybrid, the names are combined as a contraction. In other words, if you are talking about a hybrid of Odontonia and Miltonia, the hybrid is known as Odontonia. The same rule follows if three flowers are mixed, and the longer the potential for the name – take Brassolaeliocattleya for example. It is a hybrid of Brassavola, Laelia, and Cattleya.

This system would have gotten too complicated with anything crossing more than four, so there is another system for those: the name is chosen usually as an originator’s name (or a new name) and the suffix -ara, to give you the ability to determine it is a hybrid instead of an origin species.

Sometimes you will find an orchid hybrid’s ‘parent’ plants listed in parenthesis after the name. This helps people who are not familiar with naming rules and will also give you an idea of what qualities the plant should possess.

A few quick notes on hybrids verses origin plants: one isn’t necessarily better or easier to grow than the other. As a general rule, hybrids are easier to care for: often, origin plants are selected for their heartier traits just as much as they are chosen for their appearance. Hybrids are often cheaper to purchase and grow than origin species, because propagation is easier. Another thing to consider is that origin species tend to be more forgiving because they have adapted to their environment, learning to compensate for missing nutrients, lighting (or lack thereof) and growing material.

With so many varieties out there, you are sure to find a plant at a skill level, size, shape, and color that you want! This little cheat sheet explaining names as well as asking questions of your local orchid society or grower should get you all the information you need.

Beautiful Day at the Botanical Gardens

My daughter offered to take me to the Botanical Gardens today. Honestly, I haven’t seen much of her lately, she has been so busy with college and her job and her friends. When she mentioned it last night, it seemed like a sincere effort on her part to make a connection. I was delighted that she thought of me and of something she knew I would enjoy, since she knows how much I like flowers. It was very considerate of her.

We headed out there early and got a map. I asked her what she wanted to see first, since it was her idea. She chose the Rose Garden, which I thought was perfect. What a beautiful place it was! We could smell the fragrant roses long before we saw the first signs of the garden itself. I typically find drawn to varieties of tea roses but my daughter pointed out some breathtaking English Roses known as The Poet’s Wife. They were such a bright yellow and had such a lovely scent I fell in love with them. I might look for some to add to my own yard!

From there we walked through a meditation garden. My daughter took one of the sand rakes and made a pattern. I took lots of pictures when she wasn’t looking, her face so serious and happy at the same time. She was remarkably pleased by the pattern she made. It just looked like a lot of swirls to me but I was happy because she was happy.

Next, we went to what seemed to be more of a greenery garden instead of a flowering garden, My daughter laughed at the very strange looking Monkey Puzzle Tree. It looked an awful lot like a very sad pine tree. I thought something was wrong with it at first but apparently no, that’s how it should look.

After that, we both enjoyed the Butterfly Garden. There were several kinds of Asters, Black Eyed Susans, Daisies, Columbine, Zinnias, Marigolds, and Lilacs. It was so colorful and full of life. My favorite was the Sweet Pea, which are always so delicate looking. We watched the butterflies feeding for a while. One even tried to land on my daughter’s brightly colored shirt. She captured some nice pictures of these beautiful creatures with her phone.

The last garden we went to visit had some lovely orchids. My daughter was especially impressed with the brightly hued and beautifully patterned Vanda Coerulea. I found myself staring at some Lady Slipper orchids for quite a while. They were just amazing to see, and so colorful. However, both of us agreed that the prettiest orchids we saw were labeled as Dendrobium Cherry Song. While not necessarily as flashy as the Lady Slipper, they were so perfectly colored and shaped.

At that point, we had nearly looped around to the parking lot and we were both getting hungry. I am so glad that we had this time to spend together. On the way home, my daughter was talking about her favorite flowers and how she wanted to plant some in our yard as a reminder of this nice day together. How sweet is that?

From Sprout to Bloom: Orchid Care

Orchids require quite a bit of time in order to get the results you want. Here I am going to talk about some general tips to make sure that your orchid grows healthy and blooms happily.

Orchid seeds are nearly impossibly small, so it is best to get an already established plant. Repot it in a fast-draining medium that also holds water. Good options are bark based or peat based mixtures. You want it to drain easily to prevent rotting of the roots, but retain enough water that the plant doesn’t dry out quickly.

To get your orchid to grow properly indoors, you will need to use south or east facing windows to give them the proper amount of light. Windows with northern exposure don’t give enough light and those with western exposure can be too hot.

Feed your plant a balanced fertilizer regularly. Stay away from anything with urea. Many growers use a diluted solution in water once a week, others fertilize once a month. But never fertilize a dry plant, as it could burn the roots. Water first, and then fertilize.

Troubleshooting your orchid:

If your orchid fails to rebloom, that is a sign it needs more light. Look at the leaves. If they are the color of grass or have slightly yellow tones, then it is getting the right amount of light and it should continue to bloom. If the leaves are too yellow or they turn white, your plant is getting too much sun and its chlorophyll is being destroyed.

When your plant has shriveled leaves, it signals a lack of water to the plant. This could mean a few things, and requires investigation. Look at the medium your plant has been living in, because it might need to be replaced or it might not be holding enough water. You must also look at the roots of your plant to see if they are plump and either white or green in color. If the roots are not in good shape, it cannot take up water no matter what you do. To try and save the plant, you must raise the humidity in the air around the plant and repot/replace the plant medium and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, wet growing conditions along with too-high levels of humidity can bring on fungal or bacterial rot. There are many sites online where you can compare what signs your plant is exhibiting to common diseases and issues as well as giving you tips on what to do to correct the problem.

If you notice that buds are falling off before they open, there could be several reasons. Sometimes changes in the temperature can affect the blooms (for example, check to see if there is a heating/cooling duct aiming at your plant). It could be that you are under- or over- watering the plant. Maybe you moved the plant somewhere new before the buds opened, that can also cause them to fall off. The air around your plant might be too dry. Another issue could be pests – common culprits are mites, aphids, thrips, or mealybugs – or even ants, although ants are usually attracted to a food source and are often a sign of another infestation.

I hope you have found this post useful!