When a Senior Orchid Curator of a major botanical garden writes an orchid book, people take notice. They look again when gardening diva Martha Stewart adds her recommendation to the back cover.
Over the past 125 years or so, there have been numerous “How to Grow Orchids” publications on the market and they generally follow a similar format: General Culture Requirements such as humidity, lighting, and temperature followed by Suggested Varieties which could be limited to popular genera or as expansive as all known species within a genus. B.S. William’s all-encompassing reference book of 1894, The Orchid Grower’s Manual, contained 762 pages of fine print sage advice.
What makes Orchid Modern: Living & Designing with the World’s Most Elegant Houseplants different than traditional orchid books is the emphasis on design. Not only are readers instructed on what orchids to grow and how to grow them but they are given ideas on how best to display the plants when they bloom.
“It is designed as a book for the home orchid grower wishing to take their hobby to the next level, perfect their culture, and interject creativity into their growing,” says author Marc Hachadourian who has been with the New York Botanical Garden for over two decades. His ideas come from a wide range of personal experiences including the internationally acclaimed orchid shows that the garden hosts each spring. The book’s publisher, Timber Press, is well known in the horticulture world and approached him for this project.
One of the design areas that Orchid Modern features is the use of terrariums which have become quite popular in recent years. Hachadourian explains how to construct these miniature displays using every day materials. There are even step-by-step pictures to help readers along.
The “Jewel Orchid Terrarium” is a masterpiece and employs a type of orchid that is grown primarily for its foliage. The leaves are velvety and vibrant and fit in tight spaces. Ludisia discolor is the most common variety but there are others.
The author combines an assortment of jewel orchids along with interesting mosses into an ornate glass box which has an open top for air circulation. The finished product is pleasing and requires minimal care.
The “Decorative Orchid Terrarium” is slightly more complex and involves the use of blooming orchids which will eventually fade and need to be replaced. Compact varieties are recommended and low light, long lasting miniatures such as Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilums lend themselves well. The addition of ferns and mosses of varied textures rounds out the display.
Another area of focus in Orchid Modern is plant arrangements which have lately become a household staple. The concept involves combining multiple orchids, usually of complimentary flower colors, into a fancy container then dressing it up with everything from curly willow to peacock feathers. There is no right or wrong answer for beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Hachadourian suggests an arrangement idea that is sometimes seen at orchid shows - a grouping entirely of lady slippers. These little charmers are usually found in modest 4” pots and are ideal for small spaces. Paphiopedilums all have a similar look but, since they are grown from seed, each is unique. Accent plants, mosses, and twigs complete this “Woodland Garden Orchid Container.”
In addition to terrariums and arrangements, there are other stimulating ideas in Orchid Modern for displaying America’s favorite houseplants. Particularly noteworthy is the “Orchid Wreath” and the “Miniature Orchid Mobiles” which are both outlandish and worth exploring for those who are crafty and have some free time. The “Hanging Orchid Gallery” is more involved (requiring a staple gun and chicken wire) and is probably best suited for the advanced student.
Hachadourian’s four decades-long horticulture experience is evident in the traditional culture section of the book. Some of the high points include:
- Growing under artificial lights – for hobbyists who have limited windows.
- Water quality – for sensitive orchids such as species and lady slipper.
- Humidity – which is critical during the winter when heaters are running.
- Potting mixes – including how to make your own.
- Mounted orchids – for that rainforest vibe.
Hachadourian concludes Orchid Modern with his top 100 recommended varieties in “Easy-Care Orchids from A to Z” which he has compiled from “40 years of growing orchids on windowsills, under lights, and in greenhouses of all sizes and types.” There is something for everyone in this book and the design section is sure to give readers a new perspective. $24.95. www.timberpress.com