Cold is still gripping the outside with frost that doesn’t melt off in the daytime and ice on the ponds, even the Koi pond! Raking the debris from storm damage has broken my bamboo rake while the leaves and branches remain stuck to the ground. Time to turn my attentions inside and put away all the Christmas decorations. Time to start with a clean palate. Inherited with my crazy house is a ‘garden window’ in one of the bathrooms. Quite large and deep (12 X 3) it houses my orchid collection. The only direct sun it gets is late afternoon and the glass on the top has some sun deflective film. Since I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it, the orchids were given a temporary home there. Two years later they still remain and, despite a neglectful orchid grower, they seem to do well.
Orchids are hard to understand. I have wonderful clients who nurture, monitor, feed, change temperature, mist, and coddle orchids. I’m not that person. I buy them on a whim, enchanted by the possibility of something exotic possibly growing. Each year at the garden show I will invest (or throw away) a little bit more on a chance. Not a gambler, I say, but with orchids I wonder if I’m not doing just that. My orchids don’t have an understanding gardener, they have a hit and miss, I wonder if it’s dead, gardener. January is the time when against all odds (the gamble again), they will send out a spike, and then a bloom. Some are easy like Dendrobiums. They are happy to just be undisturbed and watered well after just getting barely dry. These usually sit in a pot with water collecting dish beneath them. I often water the dish and the clay will wick up and moisten the orchid bark. Occasionally I remember to mist the whole lot of them but not that often. Without central heating in the bathroom the heat comes from a radiator near the window. Not exactly the perfect conditions for orchids.
This January a gamble taken 4 years ago paid off. Remember I’m the ‘I wonder if it’s dead’ gardener, and this one did not die. It did nothing else, but it did not die. In December I noticed a spike starting to form. A spike looks different than the air roots around the pot, being fleshy and soft instead of rough and hard. This week it bloomed. Amazingly enough I could still read the tag, turns out it is an Angraecum sesquipedale. It has several common names including Christmas orchid, Darwin’s orchid, and Star of Bethlehem orchid. As usual, since it is not dead, research is required to know what neglect gave it the perfect conditions to bloom. It has an amazing story behind its lovely blooms and the moth that pollinates it in Madagascar, its native home. Darwin predicted that a moth with a 12” proboscis was the pollinator for the orchid. Years later the discovery of Xanthopan morgani praedicta proved him right. Here is a link to a video that shows the pollination of the orchid by the moth.
Moved out into the main room, the Angraecum has a lovely fragrance at night, and the ghostly blooms are so beautiful. It appreciated the bright light, not too much heat, lower temps at night and drying of bark between watering. Perfectly, by accident, what I gave it.
Also traveling to the living room from the garden window is a prolific blooming oncidium spider orchid. This is an easy to grow orchid with repeat blooming throughout the year.
Another oncidum (mendenhall ‘Hildos’) is in spike right now (referring to the flower spike sent out with a bud on it). It has bloomed once already this year and is amazing. I cut off the flower but did not cut the entire spike down and now it has two more spikes coming from the first stem.
While bringing these beauties out I was thinking of how to display them. The lanterns that were filled with Christmas balls and candles were empty so why not try and use them as mini greenhouses. Two Paphiopedilum Maudiae ‘Napa Valley’ went into one along with a Tillandsia Usneiodes or Spanish moss. These do form good displays although not completely air tight for moisture.
These bright things help to relieve the winter boredom and get me ready for spring.