An Old Friend – a 10 year relationship with an orchid

by Teresa Stoker

It has been so many years, I cannot recall where I acquired the white Phalaenopsis orchid that sits on a potting table in our greenhouse. Sometime in the past, a purple oxalis popped up in the same pot and seems to enjoy the partnership.

Orchids intimidate lots of gardeners. My mother was successful at growing just about anything and orchids were no exception. I followed her lead and believe that one just lets the orchid settle into a comfortable spot and stay there for years. I have been rewarded by my old friend reliably blooming every spring for at least the last 10 years. There are usually two flower stems that start peeking out of the base of the plant around February and slowly extend out about 12 – 15 inches as the buds begin to form. The stems, if straying off at an odd angle, can be gently encouraged to stand at a more attractive position by inserting a small bamboo stick in the pot and, with a soft tie or clip, attaching the stem to the stick at the desired height

Patience is necessary when waiting for the blooms to form and open. You are royally rewarded by clusters of blooms that last two to three months. A word of warning – the petals of the blooms do not like to be touched as the oils from your hands hasten the bloom’s dying. After a long blooming period, the flowers begin to fade. The first to go is the flower furthest from the tip of the stem. Each day or so another bloom will droop and drop off the stem until the last bloom at the end of the stem. I do not remove the stem if it remains green. Often, it will bloom again at some point along the old stem. If the stem turns brown, simply cut if off near the base of the stem.

The orchids I have had like filtered light, a quick mist every day or so and water no more than once per week. The potting medium is bark and drains very quickly. Choose a fertilizer specific to orchids. I have had success doing so only once per month, if that often. This orchid has never been repotted. I would only do so if it became excessively crowded in the pot. Often, orchids do not bloom the first year after being repotted.

Each spring when I walk into the greenhouse, the first thing I see is the orchid in all its blooming glory and it makes me very happy that I chose it long ago. It represents many of the things I love about gardening: It gives me more than it requires of me, quietly rests until it’s time to dazzle, shares its space harmoniously with others and just looking at it fills me delight.

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