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Orchidophilia

Sunday, March 11, 2007

It dawned clear Sunday morning. Chet chased two deer across the meadow, he a little black streak in a flying gallop, all four legs stretched to the max like a horse in an old Currier and Ives print. The does, huge and floating, unconcerned, their hard hooves hitting the ground with measured thunks. He stopped before running into the briars and watched them enter the woods. I always wonder how they manage to avoid putting an eye out when they plunge into the woods like that. I know they don't go far, only far enough to be sure Chet isn't following.

A robin started singing at first light, the first robin song of the spring. I listened to it for more than an hour, reveling in its simplicity and beauty. It's so much louder and clearer than the bluebirds' congested little song, which rings from treetops and fenceposts all along the meadow. Tufted titmice are singing, nuthatches are whirring, Carolina chickadees are fee-beeing, woodpeckers are drumming. The song sparrow is in full voice. Jays call, cardinals whistle, and mourning doves give an oboe's note to the symphony. At last. Finally. I've never had to wait until mid March for all of this. The tree buds, normally in full flower by now, are tightly closed. No peepers sing. Perhaps they'll start by next week, when water temperatures hit 50 degrees. The frozen earth is taking awhile to thaw.

It occurs to me that a Latin scholar might take my blog title to mean "love of testicles." Now, they are all well and good and have their place, but I'm talking about plants here. My orchids seem to know that it's way past time for them to make a showing. They're late in blooming this year; the show normally starts in January and February. But there seemed to be so little sun all winter. It was mild and gray until February, and then it got ridiculously cold and snowed a lot (still no sunshine). And so, like the birds and the maples and the frogs, the orchids are a little behind. And like the wild things, they're doing their best to make up for it.This is one of the first two plants I ever bought, at a home-improvement store that shall remain unnamed, because they torture their plants and thus I hate them. They get huge skids of gorgeous orchids in and then they NEVER water them and when they finally dry up and wither away they throw them all on a wheeled rack at half price, just ruining perfectly good orchids because they're too lazy to care. Yes, I am the testy odd person who goes and gets a new watering can and fills it at the hose tap and waters these things, muttering under her breath as she does it. Hello. I'm doing your job for you, you witless dudecicle, so don't look at me like that or I'll water YOU. Can't you hear these plants sobbing? I can. Back to the employee lounge with you now. Be off.

Shila gave me a little baby off one of her favorite phalaenopsis orchids about five years ago. It has grown into one of the best plants I have, and I'm so proud of it. This lovely, maturing plant will have 20 blossoms on a triple-forked spike. Wow.

"Lava Glow" is a fabulous little mini-phalaenopsis with a fiery red-magenta lip. This one four-year-old plant will have more than 30 flowers on two spikes. When I bought it as a seedling, the grower told me to expect upwards of 50 flowers on a mature plant. It's such a pleasure to keep orchids for years. Most of the ones you see for sale in the home improvement stores, while impressive and floriferous, are truly just babies. Orchids can live for decades, even centuries, getting bigger and producing more flowers with each passing year. Keeping plants alive and thriving until they're all grown up is incredibly rewarding.

Spikes of promise, from seedlings. I don't know how I'm going to accommodate all these plants when they're mature. Put in bigger windows? Probably.

Shila gave me a cattleya for my birthday last year. She apologized as she presented it, saying, "I know. The last thing you need is a huge sprawling cattleya. But the grower told me it was fabulous, and fragrant, and I got a good deal on it, and I just had to get it for you." That was July '06. Eight months later, having lovingly tended it as it claimed an honored post just off a south-facing window, the grower's prediction has proven to be an understatement. It threw out two banana-shaped buds while we were in Guatemala, and they grew and grew until they opened into these peerless creatures. It has yet to emanate any scent, but I figure if I check it ten times a day, I'll be there when it finally does. I Mo Be Ya.

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