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Monday, April 16, 2007

A shot of the east corner of the master bedroom. Note the candelabra of dark red buds in the left lower corner--they'll be bright orange-red when they open. I go in the bedroom about four times a day just to look and see who's opened next. I drag guests back there almost as soon as they're in the door.

By this time of spring, the last thing I'm usually doing is ogling my orchids. There should be so much blooming in the wildflower department, so many birds coming in, that it wouldn't occur to me to be inside. This year is different. Just looking out the window depresses me. It's cold and gray and windy and wet and all the leaves are hanging, blasted black. My willow tree is a sick shade of olive drab as its leaves dry and cure on the tree. Blaaaahhh. So I look inside. Have to look at something, and the orchids are coming through for me like they never have before.

Two amazing things about this year. One, my orchids have never waited so long to burst into bloom. Two, they've never been so perfectly synchronized, so that they are practically all in bloom at the same time. I am just wallowing in orchids. And what better time to be wallowing in blossoms than when everything in my garden has been frozen back to the ground? It's 35 degrees, a howling blue gale out there tonight. I listened with incredulity as my little woodcock peented merrily away, barely audible over the wind. It's the first I've heard him in ten frigid days. It was 80 degrees on April 4, and 22 by the night of April 5. So it has gone these past ten days. So the woodcock made it through, as I knew he would. And he has enough extra reserves to sing. God love him, and bring him nightcrawlers for dinner.

Most of my orchid plants live in the master bedroom, upstairs, the one with perfect south and east exposure. They sit on tiles, elevated above long trays filled with water, so they get higher humidity without rotting their roots. Every morning, I put two pints of water in those trays--that's how fast it evaporates when the heat's on. I water the plants once or twice a week, with the scuzzy water I siphon off the bottom of the aquarium, stored in 5-gallon jugs. Fish poo in rainwater. Oh, boy, do they love that. No nasty sodium or chlorine or chemicals; no lime buildup on the pots, no root or leaf burning, just pure goodness and natural fertilizer (to which I add a half-measure of Hilltop's Orchid Food each week). Those are my secrets. That, and sacrifices to the Orchid Gods, usually made in embarrassingly large outlays of cash once a year. Oh, those orchid growers love to see me and Shila coming, our eyes blazing with avaricious delight. We get the big Halooo!! Nice to see you again! (Yeah, I bet! Ch-ching!)

I have this plan, if I ever get some extra money, to put a perfectly enormous window on the east side of the bedroom--maybe a bay that bows out, and fill it up with orchids. East windows are perfect for them, year-round. Morning sun is gentle, and by the time it might burn a tender leaf, it has moved around to the south side. If I have an orchid in the north studio window that's just sitting there not doing much, I move it to the east window, and boom! It isn't long before it buds up.

There are so many things to love about orchids. One is their extreme longevity and durability. Believe it or not, this exquisite plant (Phalaenopsis leucadia "Red Pepper" x goldiana "Zuma" lost all its leaves but one, to a mysterious ailment that turned them mushy brown and yellow. Remembering how beautiful it had been, I repotted it, sprayed it with sulfur, and put it in the downstairs bathroom in quarantine. That was two years ago. It has six leaves and ten blossoms on it now, and it's one of my most beautiful plants. I never knew what felled it, but it refused to die. And I refused to give up on it.

Here's Laeliocattleya "Rojo." Got it last year, and it's reblooming with twice the flowers it had the first time. (it has another cluster coming, off-camera). Perfectly elegant little fire-red flowers in clusters, and a lovely miniature, compact habit. I love the hot-colored orchids. Some of my favorite Phalaenopsis are the ones with species schilleriana in their parentage. They're dainty and small and often have yellow lips. Mmmm. This one has incredibly lovely gray-green mottled leaves. It's a dandy. That blush of pink kills me. Each flower maybe the size of a 50-cent piece. Got her as a seedling in Chicago in 2005, carried her home on the plane in my backpack in a styrofoam cup.I bought this one (below) at the Franklin Park Conservatory's annual orchid show and sale in Columbus, in March 2007. I fell hard for its graceful flowers. The initials on its tag read BL "Morning Glory" x BC "Macksi." Not very telling. But I knew that B means that one of the parent plants had to be a Brassaevola. This is a genus of orchids that flower at night, trying to attract bats and moths. Shila had been raving about her Brassaevolas for a few years, but I'd never flashed on one until I saw this lilac charmer. Although it had not a whisper of scent the morning I bought it, I hoped it might emanate at night. Not much happened the first few nights, as it had just opened. But along about the fifth night, I walked into the bedroom and wondered if I'd left a bottle of my Origins "Shedonism" open. Ooooooh, to be that beautiful and smell that good, and to grow happily on a bedroom dresser, now that is a houseplant what am a houseplant. I feel about these orchids kind of like I feel about my kids and dog. What did I ever do to deserve these angels? One thing for sure: they all know they are loved.
This is less than half what's blooming now. I'll have to show you the others in another post. Wouldn't want to overload you. I sure wish I could do smellovision, though. Maybe in 2015? Whenever it happens, it'll happen first on a Mac.

Baker sends his love. He is perched on my lap like a big, sweet smelling, smooth black cat. I have used this photo before (last July) but I ran across it today and could not resist revisiting it. Please forgive me. I got such a cackle out of it I had to put it up again. Kiss me, you fool. I have purple lips.


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