Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Orchid growing: first lesson

The first lesson is that, once you buy your orchid for its gorgeous and bizarre flowers, and bring it home and then after several weeks watch the flowers wilt and tumble off in the natural way, you will spend a lot of time looking at the remaining green foliage. It might be as well, then, to hunt out some orchid types that have interesting foliage. Or, to decide that the leaves even of supermarket phalaenopsis, above, are handsome enough to pass as a houseplant. So tropical. We're not the only ones who think so. Take a look at Matisse's Goldfish, below. Are there not two bereft-of-blooms orchids, phalaenopsis just like mine, on the table beside the queer cylindrical French fish tank?

Since we hope to get more flowers from the plant, I would imagine the appearance of a new leaf is a good sign. If you are like me, you are especially proud of this leaf because you have also already thrown neophyte caution to the winds, and have repotted all your orchids in pure bark and in clay pots, the aesthetics of which are so much nicer than sphagnum moss in murky white plastic. Never mind that the orchids you bought that way were in flower, and came from professional growers. And that the very kind proprietress of the dark, quaint, rough and tumble shop could prove success enough to show you one of those freakish species whose blossoms dangle from the roots at the bottom of the hanging basket. Your new leaf came on anyway, after repotting. Besides, all her prize ribbons were no better than second place, years ago in Batavia or somewhere ....

It is now only a matter of waiting. And admiring green foliage. I have five orchids, three supermarket phalaenopsis, one Maxillaria sanguinea and one Mtssa. 'Charles M. Fitch,' the last two of which I bought, from the quaint dark shop, deliberately not in flower so that I would not start out with the natural disappointment of soon-wilted blooms, but rather progress (one hopes) to the satisfaction of a first "spike." I can see why orchid neophytes become enthusiasts and then addicts. If the goal is flowering, then that is only a matter of proper light, water, and temperature to accomplish, surely. Researching the cost of "grow lights," or hunting out some receptacle to collect rainwater, is the work of a moment. Buying just one or two more plants should increase the chances of having a good, staggered display, right? -- as the several specimens recover their strength and put up new blooms through a flowery indoor year. If we don't reach Nero Wolfe territory ourselves, we at least understand him, with his upstairs "plant rooms" divided into cool, intermediate, and warm, plus a potting room. Incidentally I must say the murder in Champagne For One is the best I have ever read, possibly only excepting the murder in Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd. (Curious that both involve women, and a poisoned drink at a party.) Completely simple and cunningly-almost-spontaneous, grounded in female loathing and therefore utterly logical. Rex Stout was born to write mystery novels the way I was born to write -- well, blog posts, I guess.

Meanwhile no, not Nero Wolfe territory yet. Big city botanic gardens will have to do. 



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