Tuesday, February 21, 2006



WINTER BLOOMS
(flowering cattleya, left)
My cattleya is in bloom. It hasn't produced flowers since I bought it several years ago, inspired by a visit SJG and I took to an orchid garden on a wintertime trip to Key West. When I bought the cattleya, the plant was in full bloom. But after the flowers faded and dropped off about a month later, it didn't produce a single bud or bloom again. I followed all the greenhouse directions--occasional on-schedule feedings, regular waterings and spraying with distilled water, perfect placement in an east-facing window with sheer curtains to filter the morning light during winter, and an under-the-trees outdoor life during the summer when natural rains could feed it. With no results.
I seriously thought about throwing it out. My mother, who had a magical green thumb, grew orchids with my father when I was young. They built a basement greenhouse, where they kept many different orchid varieties, bringing them into the dining room as they came into bloom at different times. When a plant gave up its annual blooming life after several years, they threw it out and replaced it with another orchid. But I couldn't bring myself to throw out my cattleya. Even though it wasn't producing flowers, it was still alive, and I couldn't bear the vision of trash can suffocation. Instead I moved it all over the house, including into the basement for a couple of winters, where even there it refused to give up.
Earlier this month, my sister casually mentioned a Swedish friend's wife, who grows orchids--in Sweden of all places. It's cold and dark there, yet this woman's orchids are blooming profusely now under what is described to me as neglectful care. I decided to try a version of managed neglect. I brought my cattleya from the basement and into the bathroom, where I placed it on the floor near the radiator and away from the windows. I figured the room's humidity and indirect light would bring miracles. If my approach didn't work, I promised myself, I would finally throw out the orchid.
But it did work, and the cattleya has been in bloom for about a week, with another four or five weeks to go. I think I'll bring the cymbidium into the bathroom tomorrow.

3 comments:

PaulD said...

You're probably even more glad than me that you didn't throe out that plant. They deserve the effort, and that one stands as proof. And you know, your bathroom is well-placed to be an arboretum. Wouldn't that be nice.

PaulD said...

Throw; I meant "throw".

PaulD said...

Oh, and I meant to note: Someone's even taking to uploading pictures! I never did buy the notion that we were dealing with a luddite.