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Repotting Orchids

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There followed almost five hours of crouching, carrying, washing, spraying, potting and groaning. Anybody who says, "Oh, I stay away from orchids. They're so much work!" will no longer get a breezy dismissal from me. They are a LOT of work, especially when your collecting gene kicks in and you allow your little family to grow to 38 plants, none of which is getting any smaller as the years go by. And I am still on the steep part of the learning curve where orchids are concerned, still trying to figure out which potting medium, from sphagnum to bark to a fabulously expensive medium called Aussie Gold, works best for me. Naturally, it is the fabulously expensive medium called Aussie Gold.

Because, as their web site crows, "You cannot overwater Aussie Gold!"

Well, good. Because I try like hell to overwater my plants and sometimes succeed. Just ask Lazarus.

At the end of four hours, my front yard looked like this:
Everybody's in a pot, everybody's clean and sprayed and, we hope, deciding to grow new roots to replace the rotted ones, and their benevolent overlord has decided to go ahead and spring for Aussie Gold for everybody for the big repotting in two years. Another round for the whole bar!

Bark as a potting medium is comparatively inexpensive, and great if you have all kinds of time to devote to your orchids and you enjoy repotting once a year. But if you have a life that includes a lot of other things besides diddling with your orchids and repotting them at the first sign that their bark medium might be rotting and getting sludgy, Aussie Gold is the way to go. It's soil-free, made of ground-up rocks and diatomaceous earth among other good things, it doesn't deteriorate into oxygen-choking sludge the way bark does, and I noticed that there were NO BUGS in any of my plants potted in Aussie Gold. That was a startling revelation.

Diatomaceous earth, made from microscopic fossil diatoms that once floated in primeval oceans, has sharp silica edges in it and it kills bugs that try to wriggle through it. It's like writhing around in broken glass. That's my Science Chimp theory, and I'm sticking to it. Oddly enough, though the Aussie Gold web site mentions practically everything else about the benefits of diatomite, it omits this key point. It's murder on nematodes and mealybugs and whatever those little white things swarming in the medium might have been. I threw a handful of prophylactic Gold into each pot, and used pure Gold for my most precious plants.

The Psychopsis mendenhall "Hildos" which has been blooming since early June is STILL blooming, on its sixth successive flower, and I took a deep breath and repotted it too. You're not supposed to disturb an orchid in bud or bloom but at that point I had blood in my eye. And I'd heard that a good Psychopsis might throw blossoms off the same stalk for as long as seven years before sending up another one. With all care, I peeled its pot away from its roots, soaked it in rainwater, and gave it fresh medium. Hildos got pure Aussie Gold in its new pot.I'm so glad I did--the plant's pseudobulbs were alarmingly withered, and they've plumped up nicely since repotting. There appears to be no transplanting shock with this medium, since it retains so much water yet allows air in, too. Old Hildos needed help. A week plus later, it's hanging on to its flower and buds and looking better all the time. The happy flamenco lobster dude bobs and smiles. I smile back.

The aftermath--yuccky pots and piles of buggy medium. I cleaned it all up, even though my muscles were weeping by then.
Before carrying the plants back inside, I washed all their humidity trays. Bleh. The fifth hour of labor ticked by.

The whole time, I carried visions in my head of the ultimate reward for the work.
Come April and May, I hope for a shower of blossoms like last year's.
Yes, orchids are a ton of work, but they say thank you so nicely.

And now I leave for Guyana, having spent the last week paring my suitcase down to 34 pounds, my optics backpack to 16. I'm hoping to use the marvels of Mac technology to teleconference with Bill, the kids and Baker at least once while I'm gone. It's like something out of the Jetsons, to open your computer, activate i-Chat, and not only talk to but SEE your husband and babies there on your screen, for free. Cross your fingers for me that we're able to make it work. Bill has to remember to activate iChat every day...I think I'll put Phoebe on that detail.

I've been cooking and storing food like a crazy squirrel in fall: brisket, chicken pot pie, chicken chili, leaving love sealed in Tupperware.

Don't worry. The BlogSquirrel has cooked for you, too.


The last pictures are more like it, nice photos, the work was worth it.

Those are some lovely flowers you got there, Julie. I'm sure they thank you for all your love and care. Have a safe and fun trip to Guyana.

Yes, your incredibly beautiful blossoms are worth the work! I was stunned when you said a disturbance on a blooming stalk could halt the next bloom for seven years. That's high maintenance!

Travel safely to Guyana. Tupperware meals sealed with a kiss are the best.

Congratulations on your orchids. And about your trip, I can say you sound incredibly organized. That combined with your stash of love gifts, should make your journey a grand one.

The marvels of modern technology--to be able to embrace across the miles.

I would almost consider trying orchids again --the reward of that dancing lobsterman--I'd smille, too!

Travel safely and be well!

I do hope you have a fantastic reward for all the hard work.

And may your trip be interesting and fruitful. Just stay away from the Kool Aid.

Is poluouse a word in French? Just wondering if word verification has gone Euro.

I remember, years ago, describing my mother's collections of bears, spoons, bells, etc. to you and you saying you either have that collecting gene of you don't. Looks like you found yours! I love orchids, but for now I'll just drool over yours - I'm not at all ready to take that leap into caring for orchids yet. Maybe when I don't have three little "orchids" of my own to care for anymore.

Oh, and if you ever have an issue with flees, diatomaceous earth works wonders sprinkled over the entire house. Punctures those little exoskeletons and dehidrates perfectly. Wonderful stuff.

Where's my editor? That part of my brain is asleep. I meant dehYdrates, of course.

That's a lot of work! We live in orchid country down here in south Florida.

Naturemama, may I keep "flees?"
Because they do flee when you try to pinch them.

On expression of the collecting gene: guilty as charged, but aware of the heavy cost, at least until the next orchid show. And all I can say is WATCH OUT when you get your collecting gene going again!

Just imagine the blooms come spring and this will all be a distant memory. My little Nobby's Amy is leafing like crazy, but still no new bloom stem since I bought it. Maybe I need some of that magic medium. :c)

Isn't the iChat amazing? I was having an on-line chat with a friend in Guernsey (the Channel Islands) when we stumbled upon that video icon, and poof... there we were face to face. It was amazing, let me tell you! Oh the blessings of the iMac.

Jayne, I understand the video chat has been the salvation of troops in Iraq who, by its graces, have been able to see their spouses and kids--what a balm that must be to both sides.

I have never used it before this, mainly I suppose because few of my friends have new Macs with built-in cameras, but also because I'm actually spooked by it, like a grass-skirted native in an old movie, looking at the new volcano god and wondering whether to worship it or...flee.

Three Things:

1. You're going to Guyana! I'm so jealous. I've been twice. I love it there!! I am Guyanese reborn. Where are you headed? I've been to Georgetown (of course), Kaituer, and various parts of the bush. Have some black cake if you can and bring me back a bottle of El Dorado or XM...haha

2. mom and I use to go this great park along the river in Memphis (where I grew up) that had lots of old growth trees. We would pick persimmons..Aah, memories.

3. I hate I caught you so late, but I would really appreciate your support - and your readers - for a Blog Scholarship. I was selected as one of 20 finalists for my essay about why I started blogging. I could really use everyone's support. Please check out my page, info about the scholarship and my essay are there. It is a nature blog, too - an Urban Ecology blog, so I hope you all enjoy it.

OK, am I the only one who read it first as iChet?

You really scared me: Crazy Squirrel in Fat. What type of meal is that?!

Then I reread the post.

Beautiful orchids, and I'm sure worth the work.

Love that green and white paph!

So, diatomaceous earth kills mealy bug? If so, do you put it on top of the soil, or mix it in? Let me know...

One of the places I work at has an infestation of mealy...brought in on an infected plant we bought from another nursery.

Hi April,

Mix it.
Mix it good.

I also notice that I have none of those annoying black fungus gnats when using diatomaceous earth. Yayyy. It's death on any soil-based pest such as nematodes, fungus gnats, and mealybugs (I think that's what my tiny white things may be).

Little Orange Guy,

We had our first test iChet last evening. I was in Columbus, and we managed to have a garbled, unintelligible conversation. Chet was cornfused by hearing my voice, refused to look at the screen (dogs don't trust technology) and kept going to the foyer to see if I was coming in the door. Did me a world of good to see my babies and Bill, though. Hope it works from South America!

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