The American Orchid Society has just released a book that is affordably priced, has hundreds of breathtaking photographs, and is chock full of expert advice. This handy little guide was written with the help of dozens of recognized authorities and its timing coincides with the organization’s upcoming 100th anniversary.
Orchids have never been more popular than they are now and the AOS has been on the forefront of horticulture since its inception in 1921. Back then, Cattleya corsages were fashionable and women regularly wore them in public. Today, Phalaenopsis are equally in vogue but not as cut flowers. Instead, they are grown as potted plants in everyday households.
Growers are also riding this wave of orchid excitement. The attendance at February’s Virginia Orchid Society show set records and some vendors sold out. Hawaiian wholesalers have not been able to keep up with the demand for blooming plants throughout the U.S. and there is actually a shortage of common genera in the marketplace.
Readers of this new publication will be captivated by the high quality photographs and the close-ups of the most intricate flower parts. Many of these rare species aren’t obviously in the orchid family and the authors go to great lengths to explain the connection. To illustrate their point, there is a collage showing the structural diversity of nine different orchid lips.
Newbie hobbyists will appreciate the light level chart that shows how much sun to give their plants. For example, shade-loving Paphiopedilums and Phalaenopsis do best around 1500 foot candles while brighter genera such as Dendrobiums and Oncidiums thrive at over three times that intensity. A general rule is to feel the leaves and make sure they are not warm to the touch.
There is also a good explanation of the importance of proper air circulation and humidity. It can be frustrating to amateurs when leaves turn yellow or buds shrivel up. To prevent this, the authors suggest, among other things, the use of oscillating fans and humidity trays.
The book devotes six full pages to the importance of plant labels including pictures of what they look like. The topic is, however, controversial in other circles because most orchids are sold these days without names. Mass production of Phalaenopsis has largely driven this decline though other popular genera are starting to follow suit. Recently, we received large shipments of Dendrobiums from Florida and Paphiopedilums from Holland that were devoid of all botanical identification.
Old timers and serious enthusiasts consider plant labels to be paramount. Not only is the hybrid or species name etched in the plastic, but also the variety and any awards are noted. Some growers go so far as to list the parents or even grandparents. Ultimately, it is for the readers to decide how far to take the documentation.
For all the joy that this book provides, the focus is narrowly on species – those orchids that grow naturally in the wilderness. The public, by and large, will not be exposed to these specialty plants except at shows or while trekking through jungles. Most orchids sold today are man-made hybrids and are considerably easier to cultivate. Still, it’s a treat to find so much information packed in one nearly pocket-sized reference. $24.95 www.aos.org
“Hobbyists will be thrilled to read, The American Orchid Society Guide to Orchids and their Culture which explains, in layman’s terms, the inner workings of the number one houseplant.”
Photo Credit – Arthur Chadwick