(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.