Orchid tests the grower's patience

Jan 21, 2010

About two years ago, when our garden club took a trip to Chadwick’s, the well-known orchid grower in this area, I had to remind myself not to yield to temptation. That is easier said than done, for seeing benches after benches of neatly arranged potted orchids, some already in bloom, is like being a child in a store full of toys!

Moreover, what better way to beat the winter doldrums than by bringing home an orchid ready to put forth its spectacular flower or flowers, as the case may be. And so, eventually, I gave in, and with the help of the knowledgeable staff opted to get, in the bud stage, a lovely Paphiopedilum. It is also known as the “Lady Slipper orchid” or nicknamed “paph,” since the proper name is quite a mouthful. Incidentally, the “paph” orchid, though a distant relative, is not to be confused with the native Cypripedium, an endangered species and hence illegal to move.

They are pretty in general, but one of the reasons “paph” orchids fascinate people is the unique appearance of their flowers, mainly the pouch that reminds one of a carnivorous plant. Besides, while I do have some of the other types of orchids in my so-called collection, I haven’t had the honor of owning a “paph.”

Although I was initially a little concerned about taking care of my new possession, I have learned and experienced that as delicate-looking as orchids are, they are, in general, not all that prissy. Basically, for healthy growth and re-blooming, what orchids ask for is a regular watering and fertilizer schedule, and to be provided with the appropriate warmth and light levels, which depend on the type of the orchid. For example, a “paph” is considered low-light requiring, meaning no direct sunlight should fall on the leaves a good part of the day. But, in spite of the fact that I tried to comply with the needs as best as I could, my specimen, once the flower faded, refused to show any future potential in terms of new growth, let alone a flower bud, the following year.

Orchids, however,  seem to have a mind of their own; to my delight, just when I almost gave up, the plant has produced a healthy flower bud this winter, proving that in some matters patience is indeed the key. Nevertheless, if a need for help arises, I either resort to experts for their valuable advice or refer to the time-tested book Orchids, published by the Sunset Books Inc., which includes a very user-friendly chapter on trouble shooting.

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