I love orchids and my husband although every now and then, it's hard to tell which one ranks first on my list. Both require specialized care and attention; yet, both of them keep me delighted and entertained with a minimal amount of effort. Yesterday, hubby retained the number one spot because of an orchid.

I've always had a green thumb and have loved growing plants ever since my high school days. Back then, my bedroom was filled with the most popular plants of the 70's: pathos, spider plant, ivy, creeping Charley, wandering Jew, asparagus fern, ficus, and coleus. Plants lined the shelf under the window and dangled from the ceiling in macrame hangers that I made for them. The only plant that I recall having no success with was the African Violet. But I have conquered that obstacle and now have one, along with several of its offspring, that my sister gave me in 1996. I figured that if I could keep one of those temperamental plants alive for such a long time, I was ready to move on to the more serious blooming plants. Enter the orchids.

It started with a miniature phalaenopsis that I purchased six years ago. The magic of my green thumb has worked its charm on that plant, too. It has produced at least one spike of flowers every year since I brought it home. This blooming season, it has surprised me with a double spike -- surely a testament to my ability to provide adequate care. But as much as I enjoy that plant and its pretty little flowers, I truly prefer the showy cattleya orchid.

Cattleyas are neither cheap nor easy to grow. Whereas the phalaenopsis likes water once a week or so, a spot under the kitchen window where it gets plenty of sunshine, and a bit of fertilizer every once in a while to produce the blooms that you see in the photo on the right, cattleyas need humidity, frequent and regular fertilizing, and a specific watering schedule in order to bloom. Give them too little or too much of water, humidity, light, or fertilizer, and the plant dies. The thought of spending a hefty amount of money on a plant that I might inadvertently kill due to lack of knowledge or experience has prevented me from getting one and reduced me to admiring them from afar. That is, until a new business moved in next door to ours.

Our new neighbors own a wedding planning and floral service business. Their warehouse is filled with incredible bonsai trees, fantastic smelling roses, baby's breath, corn plants, hanging pathos, and -- you guessed it -- orchids! These people grow the most amazingly large phalaenopsis orchids I have ever seen. Yesterday, when I saw the Valentine's Day display they had prepared, I decided that Ali was going to get me an orchid as a symbol of his affection. Bless his heart, he never questioned me; he just went next door with me while I chose the plant I wanted. It's not quite the showy cattleya that I adore, but I'll settle for a stunning cymbidium for the time being. The blooms look similar to the cattleya, but the plant doesn't require as much hardcore care.

For now, I will enjoy the seven -- yes, count them! -- spikes of blooms on this new plant and learn what demands it will make of me. And when I've learned how to care for this one properly, I'll move on to the grand prize in orchids. I've already got the grand prize in husbands.
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2 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    They're gorgeous! I have several with the larger leaves - some I've had for years. I know nothing about orchids but they keep growing and produce flowers year round so I guess I'm doing something right :-) Glad you enjoyed the day! Ours was quiet too.

  2. Carleen Says:

    Thanks, Prof S, I think they're quite stunning, too. :) I've been reading up on the care of cymbidiums and think I can probably keep this one thriving. I'll know for sure next year, though. . .

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