Amateur Orchid Care–3rd From the Top

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Third From the Top.” (March 25th)

In the Reader’s “Blogs I Follow”, from the third post in the list, work the third sentence into your own post.  So I pop to the reader (often forgotten, sorry), and there, third from top, is Avalon-Media. And the third sentence is:
“From creating to storing, the following tools are not essential for making your own herb and spice blends, these tools are not just practical but convenient and useful.”
I am Not a Cook, so this will take some “working”, methinks.

I’m an amateur Orchid lover, and only a few years ago realised for how long I’d been touched by orchids. Firstly at age eighteen in 1970, boarding with a beloved aunt, Edie – a Master jeweller – who had orchids in her garden, and every Monday throughout the year would take a spike of blooms into her store, to create a corsage for every woman brought in by her fiancé to purchase their engagement and later their wedding ring. Now, with an extending collection, I can call myself an Orchid Amateur.

One of the distinctions between an Orchid Amateur and an Orchid Enthusiast: Enthusiasts want to know the whole scientific name, from Genera down to variety. We Amateurs don’t bother–we like the blooms, and don’t really care that the lack of the name won’t win us any prizes.

I joined the Orchid & Bromeliad Society in our new city, and have joined in on trips to visit shows in other towns, nurseries, a native orchid reserve, and attended demonstrations of care practices. I’ve fallen for Bromeliads, especially Bilbergias and Tillandsias.
But I’ve learned Cymbidium orchids are my best success stories in terms of blooming and easy care.

From creating baby orchids (observed and learned only, not practised) to displaying blooms, the following tools are not essential for having success with your orchid as an amateur, but these ‘tools’ are not only practical but convenient and useful.”

  1. The right place. Cymbidiums need coolness in winter when not in flower, so the bulb can be shocked into realising it will have to bloom come late spring. A place on the polar side of the house is best. This is subject to the next point…
  2. The right medium. Cymbidiums can be established in the ground–if you live in a warm climate. Otherwise, a bark or pine chip mix, in pots you can move. (Check the bag for warnings about using a dust mask, please.)
  3. Feed specific to orchids’ needs. My Dad (this horrified our society president) only ever fed his Cyms with the rinsings from an empty milk bottle.
    Commercial products do give you a more balanced feed, but seek advice on how strongly to mix it, and when, how often, and how to apply it – it all depends on the variety.
    Basically, Nitrogen feed leaves, Potash feeds roots, Potassium feeds blooms.
    Plastic Shadehouse 2014-05 18
  4. Shelter from summer’s extreme heat. Under the eaves, under a shade-cloth affixed to the fence and draped over a frame work will do. A car-port is perfect. One friend had the local sail maker create a covering shaped to fit her rotary clothesline–it worked, but interfered on laundry day.
  5. Deterrents for bush cockroaches, slaters (known as pill bugs in the US?), earwigs, and other diners on roots, bulbs and flowers. (Copper tape around the top edge of a pot apparently “fritzes” snails and slugs trying to cross it on their way to eat the petals, but it can be expensive.)
  6. A place in the house. When my Cyms start to open their first blooms (late spring to summer), I shift the pots into my bath room. Actually, into the bath tub. Once finished flowering, I move them back outside.
  7. A rubber, raised-edge mat. I use one which was designed for the garage, to collect any leaking car oil. It sits inside the bath tub, and prevents staining from the bark colouring when watering the plants. In the bathroom (which has plenty of natural light) I can check them every day, they are not too hot in summer, and I can select one to put on display.
  8. Old wire coat hangers and wire cutters. (Huh?) Use these to form pieces of the coat hanger into sticks with a curved hook on one end, to be rammed into the pot beside a new flower spike to force it to grow upwards. Sideways growing spikes get too heavy to support the weight of their blooms, which end up dropping down to the soil and become ragged. (It’s possible to buy these ready made, btw.)
  9. Secateurs – and a sterilising liquid. Use these to clip dead flower spikes ‘way down at their base. Don’t try pulling them out, as they’re likely to tear the plant apart, or out of the soil. Sterilise the secateurs between plants – avoid spreading disease.
  10. Spare pots. Recycle old ones, by all means–but sterilise them.
  11. A hooked garden hand-fork. When the time comes to lift a potted orchid to either repot for health or to divide and repot when crowded, this makes it much easier to gently separated the tangled roots from clinging bits of old potting mix.
  12. A piece of broom handle. Use this to tamp down the newly potted plant’s medium to secure it firmly.
  13. A camera. What’s the point of working hard to help your Cymbidiums to flower well if you can’t brag about it?

2 thoughts on “Amateur Orchid Care–3rd From the Top

  1. That was interesting. I live in Switzerland, so our climate is a little different to New Zealand, but I have found a few tips on orchids in this useful blog. I am also an amateur,very much so. I buy them in flower and when they are finished flowering I keep them and look after them and hope to see a flower again. It has happened, but more by luck than judgemet. I wish we had an orchid society in my town. You have given me a few tips. At the moment I have 16 orchids, a few in flower and the rest ready to go. I put them outside in the warmer months, which are now approaching. And yes, they love being photographed.

    1. Thanks for popping in for a read.
      Want a tip for photographing your orchids? Put the pot on the bathroom bench so the bloom is right next to the mirror. Check the reflection doesn’t reveal the rack of drying undies {joke} or clutter.
      Snap your pic from an angle to include both the blooms and their reflection. Double the glory!

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