They will brighten your life

 

by Regina Nuttall

regnuttall@comcast.net

Don White works hard showing his orchids at summer fairs,but he doesn't mind. The hot, humid conditions are perfect for his plants.

-photo by Regina Nuttall

 

 

Different orchids have greatly different scents. Some smell like coconuts or chocolate, some like vanilla.

Photo by Regina Nuttall

 

Maybe you are like me.  I love plants and gardening, but I had always considered orchids to be the spoiled aristocrats of the flower world.  They might be pretty, but I thought they needed a lot of specialized care and conditions.  Few weeks ago I met Don White, the owner of Anything Orchids at the Homewood Days festival, I got a whole different view of them.

  There are exotic species that challenge even the most experienced professional, orchids are not necessarily difficult to grow.  You just need to select the proper variety for the conditions you have.  That is the key according to Don. 

  You start by selecting the location in your home where you want to put the orchid.  Evaluate it for light, heat and humidity.  Is it a bright window or not?  Is it a particularly hot or cold spot?  

 

In the wild, most of the commonly cultivated orchids grow in the upper branches of trees.  Imagine these conditions when selecting a location for your orchid.  They need light, but not too much direct light. In their natural condition bright tropical sunlight is filtered through leaves.  They need good air circulation. 

 Depending on the variety, minimum nighttime temperatures should be fifty to sixty-five degrees, with daytime highs about fifteen degrees higher.  

 Go to an expert like Don and he will help you select the variety that will thrive for you.  One of his favorites is the Cattleya.  It is also called the houseplant orchid, for obvious reasons.  In the wild,   There are over forty species of Cattleyas which are well suited to growing indoors, and are recommended for novices.  A couple of other types often suggested for beginners are Dendrobium, Phalaenopsis, and Paphiopedilum.

 Don learned about orchids at an early age.   While other kids were going to ballgames with their dads, Don's father took him to the Botanical Gardens.  He learned to respect and admire all kinds of plants, but especially orchids. 

 

If you have walked through our local forest preserves or woodland parks, you might have come across examples of the Lady Slipper, an orchid that grows wild in our region  Orchids are amazingly adaptable to many different growing environments, and it is not hard to understand why it is entirely possible to find one that will be happy in your kitchen.

 Even an expert like Don doesn't try to grow orchids from seed.  “You need a laboratory to grow from seed”, he says.  “It's better to purchase small plants from a reputable wholesaler.”  He then nurtures and raises the small plants to where they are mature enough to survive in the average home.

 Don cautions that wild orchids are just that – wild.  If you come across one in the forest, don't try to move it into your kitchen.  It will not survive.  Cultivated varieties are all hybrids, crosses between different strains that take some characteristics from each of the parent strains.  Plant scientists have been working for decades to develop varieties that will thrive in the indoor environment, so never imagine that you can just move a wild species indoors.

 So you want to start growing orchids.  How do you go about it?  First go to somebody who knows what he is doing, and has the knowledge to recommend the correct plant for you.  It may be cheaper to buy something from the local grocery store, but a grower like Don help you get started with the correct plant and he will be there when you need help or advice down the road.  This is especially valuable for the beginner.  Always buy the largest, most mature plant you can afford.  This will give you the best chance of success.

 Although most of the orchids we are used to seeing as house plants are native to the tropics, members of the orchid family grow in almost any climate, from the tropical to the arctic and and anyplace in between. 

Even a casual visitor to the booth can find himself involved in a passionate discussion of orchids.

Don White and his part time helper Tammy Henley.

photos by Regina Nuttall

 

Taking care of orchids is a little different than taking care of many houseplants because they do not grow is soil.  They are usually potted in a potting mix made of shredded bark.  Do not over water.  Orchids don't like wet feet.  Remember their natural habitat is in the treetops.  Be sure you are watering correctly for the species of plant you have.  For varieties like Paphiopedilum, Miltonia, Cymbidium, or Odontoglossum, keep them evenly moist, but never soggy, at all times.  For Cattleleya, Oncidium, Brassia, or Dendrobium, keep them moist during their active growing season, and let the dry out between waterings during the rest of the year.  For Phalaenopsis, Vanda or Ascocenda, always let them get nearly dry between waterings. 

Fertilize every time you water.  Most plants get nutrients from the soil they are growing in, but since your orchid will not be rooted  in soil, you need to feed it 

It is also important to repot an orchid once a year.  If you do it yourself, be sure to use a good orchid potting mix.  If you are not sure how to do it, Don will handle it for a very modest charge.

Orchids are fascinating plants.  If you have ever even thought of raising them, you could spend a very interesting afternoon visiting Don and his orchids.  He is located south of Frankfort, on Center Road.

For more information on Anything Orchids go to  23027 Center Road, Frankfort, IL 60423 or call  815-469-3774. Email info@anythingorchids.com and see their website at www.anythingorchids.com

 

Oncidium Sharry baby

Photo by Regina Nuttal

 

Cattleya

photo by Regina Nuttall

 

 

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Phaleonopsis

photo by Regina Nuttall

 

Lady Slipper

photo by Regina Nuttall