My father, A.A. Chadwick, is a collector of historical cattleyas - many of which are more than a century old. Over the years, a small number of these heirlooms have acquired a virus which is a disease that can adversely affect the flowers or foliage and is highly contagious. He quarantines these infected plants on a separate bench in his greenhouse where they can’t come in contact with the rest of the collection.
Once shunned by growers for their persnickety culture, Dendrobium Nobiles are enjoying a rally rarely seen in orchid commerce. It all began with the quest for an alternative to Phalaenopsis that could be mass produced and distributed with little damage and have a good shelf life. Thus far, the public has responded by snapping up the plants like hot cakes.
There is a long standing joke among hobbyists in which they collect so many orchids that a greenhouse is required to hold all their plants. This humorous scenario is coming true for many people now that working from home has become the norm. Tropical plants of all kinds are having a renaissance and growers simply need a place to put them.
Hobbyists who now find themselves housebound have an opportunity to whip their orchid collection into shape like never before. Somewhere between the Victory Garden being planted and the flower beds being mulched, there is a sizable wedge of time that can be set aside for the “great move” in which indoor orchids are relocated outside. Tropical plants, after all, are happiest when they are exposed to nature’s breezes, humidity, and warmth. The “great move” can’t officially begin until night temperatures are at least in the mid 50’s which for most of us are in a month or so.
The introduction of Phalaenopsis in grocery stores about a decade ago brought the orchid hobby to millions of Americans who might never have gotten involved. Many plants were sold with limited or incorrect growing instructions, however, and owners were left to experiment. Most Phals survived, but reblooming has been hit or miss.
Hobbyists who are keen on orchid history find themselves yearning for the early hybrids which filled the pages of The American Orchid Society and The Royal Horticultural Society magazines long ago. The story lines are captivating: a plant explorer returning from the Amazon with a never been seen species, a breeder who has paid a month’s salary to obtain a prized stud plant, a grower who has developed a breakthrough technique that could revolutionize the industry.
Orchid hobbyists, by nature, can’t resist buying one more plant.
The lure is too great. Every few months, new varieties hit the marketplace. Fantastic colors, patterns, and fragrances – each designed to entice.
And when that new plant is obtained, it has to fit in someone’s house. Yet each windowsill, plant rack, and bay window may be full.
Orchid fanciers love their plants. They spend hours tending to them, offering words of encouragement, and even shining the leaves. But when it comes time to repot that overgrown Dendrobium or Oncidium, suddenly the laundry looks more appealing.
My daughter gave me a lovely Miltonia last fall and I am afraid that I have hurt it. I have it on the porch facing east but there must have been too much light as three of the six leaves have turned brown. What can I do to prolong its life? Maggie B.
How should we care for our orchids during these cold winters? Diane F.
One would think that tropical plants and snow storms are highly incompatible. Yet millions of orchid hobbyists across America are able to bridge the gap to successfully grow and bloom a wide range of orchid genera by creating healthy horticultural microclimates within their homes. The months of December, January, and February offer the greatest challenges, as well as the greatest rewards - if executed correctly.