Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Orchid Killer

I have tried to grow orchids in Texas several times and have murdered the poor flowers every time. My mother burns toast and can grow 5 orchids in her sunroom, while I can cook a 5 course dinner with sophisticated sauces, perfectly timed meats and homemade desserts & breads, but I kill every orchid I meet. This is probably the same reason I am so bewildered with the alien flower. I have researched them, discussed them, and tried different types, changing up watering methods to no avail. I have tried the ice cube once a week trick, the spray bottle trick, kitchen windows, side tables, peat moss, tall ones, short ones, nothing works for me. Right when I almost gave up, we sold our home and moved to tropical Costa Rica. This is it! I thought, this is my time to grow orchids. I mean, they grow on the side of the road in Costa Rica, I must have just been in the wrong climate. 
Even though Texas has tropical humidity and heat 1/2 the year, the other half of the year it is dry and often freezes several times during the short 3 month winter, so I was doomed in Texas. Now, I have moved to orchid heaven, me thinks. It all started with the beautiful Oncidium, known as dancing ladies. The first time my husband ever booked us a room at the lavish Four Seasons before a fancy dinner, he arranged delivery of flowers to the room and it was a swarray of the most exquisite yellow orchids. I was hooked.They really do look like little flamenco dancers and I had never seen anything so intricate. 
While they were beautiful in the vase, I wanted to try to grow them in my home and keep them forever, but they are extremely delicate and I only had sturdy houseplants at the time, making me no expert in growing orchids. After killing several expensive varietals, I researched a little and found out a few orchid facts. Since orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, having over 20,000 different species plus over 100,000 hybrids, I knew we would go broke before I found one that I could grow. So practice makes perfect. I began with a small garden thinking herbs and vegetables would be cheaper, and I could learn a bit during the process. Turns out, I am an excellent gardener. I grew okra, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, green beans, colorful potatoes and many herbs. Why can't I grow orchids? And did anyone know that the word orchid derives from the Greek word of Orchis, meaning testicle because of the shape of the root? And while orchids grow wild in tropical regions, they also grow anywhere except glaciers. They even grow as far South as Patagonia. I learned that there are two types of orchids, Monopodial and Sympodial. Monopodial are longer, since the stem continues to grow from a single bud, adding leaves each year, like vanilla. The Sympodial plant produces shoots which grow to a certain size, bloom, then stop to be replaced, growing laterally rather than vertically, reproducing next to the previous years bloom, like the Cattleya. 
Basically, knowing this means nothing, since the more I read about orchids, the more I don't understand them. They are like women. Each different type of orchid likes something different. I have heard to soak roots in cinnamon water, I have heard some like peat moss, some like bark. You have to constantly inspect them for mold, some need more water, while some need air. I have decided it takes a certain type of person to grow orchids; someone who is patient and caring. My mom was probably lucky and her orchids had a nice place to grow in her sunroom, but after thinking about it long & hard, I came to a conclusion. I have children and I noticed that when my kids got old enough to run and scream, my mom's orchids did not do so well. Eventually she sold her house with the sunroom and had no more orchids, and like me, gave up. I think that the reason I have not been able to grow orchids is because my kids are loud and busy and the delicate, symmetrical flowers do not like to be disturbed so much. I have lived in Costa Rica now for 10 months and have already killed 3 different orchids. They thrive here, but not in my house, just like when my kids invaded my mom's peaceful sunroom, her orchids withered with each playful scream. So I have decided to avoid orchids for several years and enjoy them elsewhere, since our home is the orchid cemetery. I guess if asked if I would prefer orchids over my kids the answer will always be my kids because they are worth it. One day, I will tell them how their mom had to forego growing her favorite flower for 18+ years for their sake. Unless someone out there knows of a hearty, tough species that can tolerate rambunctious kids, this orchid is out.

1 comment:

  1. As my daughter said, the orchids did thrive well in the sunroom, and since then we have not had nearly as good a luck growing orchids. However, as of late, I have put two in our bathroom near a large picture window near the Jacuzzi tub, and they are currently blooming, So finally, we might have found the correct enviorment to grow them. On a similar note, with all the freezing weather we have had, we lost the majority of a ficus tree that was over 8 ft tall. Freezing weather has also done significant damage to our beautiful plumarias which grow around the pool and large boganvilla's. All of these plants would do quite well in Costa Rica, but were damaged by our freezes. The nice thing for most of our US residents is that the freeze has probably taken care of the mosquito and spider population for the forseeable future, so there is sometimes a good thing about cold weather.

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