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Mission Creep in the Orchid Room

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It all started innocently enough. I took a hard look at one of my orchids, which seemed to be dying again. An orchid in my house can visibly die, dwindling down to one or two withered leaves, and at that point any normal person would simply throw it out. I respond by pulling it out of the pot and looking at its roots, to see if there's any chance I can salvage the plant. So I took said orchid (one I call Lazarus, because it did this before, three years ago), and dumped it out on the front lawn. The potting medium (bark and charcoal) was dried out on top and soggy toward the bottom of the pot, and all but a couple of the orchid's roots were dead. This is Lazarus, in better days:Here's the thing with orchids. Oxygen is even more important than water to them. That's why orchid potting medium seems so coarse and dry. You pot this thing up in chunks of bark and your natural instinct is to water it a LOT because the medium doesn't hold any water. But that is exactly the point. Orchids need to dry out between waterings, or their roots rot. And after 15 years of keeping orchids, I am still watering them too much.

Worse than that, the medium was absolutely seething with tiny white insects, or maybe they weren't insects. The Science Chimp did not know what they were, but she knew they were bad news. Sometimes her taxonomic curiosity fails her and she just wants to get rid of the damn things.

So I sighed and immersed the infested plant in tepid water, taking all the medium off the roots, and got out my potting medium and a new clean pot and sprayed the plant, roots and all, with pyrethrins and let it dry in the sun before potting it up again.

And it occurred to me that if Lazarus was suffering so, well then the five or so plants next to Lazarus likely were, too.

And it was a warm day, really nice and sunny, and it was already November, and when would I get this kind of weather again and maybe I'd just take a peek at Lazarus' neighbors to see if they had bugs and were miserable too. So I carried four more plants out onto the lawn and dumped them out and yep, there were tiny white bugs crawling through their rotten soggy medium too so I sighed and immersed them and got out some more fresh potting medium and sprayed the plants with pyrethrins and left them to dry on the lawn while I went and dug up some more pots which then had to be washed in hot soapy water.

While those plants were drying I went back inside and took a hard look at the dozen or more plants on the other bureau in the bedroom and hmmmm. They didn't look so hot, either, and it was a warm day and it was already November and when would I get a day like this again so I hauled them out and dumped them out on the lawn, too. And before you know it my entire orchid collection was out on the lawn, roots up, and it was overload, and it wasn't cute.I began to sing loudly, to take my mind off the abyss, the pit of hell into which I now leapt.

Mama said there'd be days like this
There's be days like this my mama said
Ai yi yi yi yi yi yi...

Next: Zick leaps in and finds redemption in the mess.


Can we sit down a sec?--I'm pooped!

As if you need just one more thing to do?

I doubt Meg's ever had a picture of an orchid pop up on CuteOverload.

Don't you just love it when "projects" mushroom into something much more than you originally intended. Paging Doctor Zickefoose... paging Doctor Zickefoose...

You need to move to Florida. We hang our orchids in trees and they are on their own. No pampering at all. One day, you just walk by and there is a lovely bloom which you had nothing to do with creating.

Laughing tears here, Julie! I'm so sorry... I don't mean to laugh at your mess on the lawn - I'm laughing at your sense of humor and the way you told your horrific story that turned into an all-day, unwanted project, that's all...

Heather made me laugh louder... "paging Doctor Zickefoose".


Ahem. I wish them a new, healthy life.

Laugh. I have two orchids that I was inspired to get by your successes. My lovely orchids are doing wonderful things like sprouting new leaves and the like. I'm so excited. And, I must say thank you for posting your problems with orchids because now when I have problems, I'll feel a lot better about it knowing that you've got some problems.

I have pretty orchids (for now, anyway) but I want ones that smell good. What should I look for?

Holy cow... and I have ONE to care for... I can't imagine. Hope this took care of the root/unwelcome guest problem and that they will rise again against all odds. :c)

Hi Ivy,

To get into the fragrant orchids, you'll need to go beyond the Home Quarters or Lowe's and get thee to an orchid show and go around sticking your nose into flowers. That's what I do. Pretty much everything I buy has to have fragrance.

There are some fabulously fragrant man-made orchid crosses. The genus will be Brassaevola, or BLC, which stands for Brassaevola/Laeliocattleya, which is a trigeneric hybrid of three genera, Brassaevola, Laelia, and Cattleya (the classic corsage orchid). I have one called "Morning Glory" that has tremendous pale lavender flowers that stink up the room all night and into the morning. Many of the cattleyas and laeliocattleyas are fragrant. I have an LC (Laeliocattleya)called "Appleblossom" that's just wonderful (and currently deciding whether it's going to live or wither away). LC "Burana Beauty" is powerfully fragrant and heavenly. Mine put on a display such as you've never seen, with 14 flowers, and croaked two years later. Rot again.
There are a few fragrant Phalaenopsis orchids, and most have P. violacea in their parentage.

"Sherry Baby" is an Oncidium that smells like vanilla and chocolate. It is unbelievable. I always kill it, but I may try it again with my new secret weapon.

I hope I have proven that I am anything but infallible where orchid growing is concerned. Some orchids like the conditions I offer, some don't. But I do have a secret weapon, which I'll reveal...

da dumm..


Every now and then, I get into a project such as you describe--sadly, my projects usually have to do with cleaning out the basement. The project just grows and grows and grows. . .
It looks as though you have had a plant explosion on your lawn.
Breathlessly awaiting the next installment. . .

Upon re-reading--thrips?
Vermcomp? No--that would be my word verification.

How did you ever make out with the orchids, how many lived?

An orchid destroying storm ripped through south eastern Ohio yesterday.

Pots were strewn ever where and plants were uprooted. The worst of the damage was near Whipple.

In other news........

verification word ZOOMER - the storm was a real zoomer, moving very rapidly throught the area making a large zoom-zoom noise.

I think somethins up.

I'm exhausted. What a job.

Arrrrggghhh!!!! The most dreaded and incipient of common household tasks, the creeping chore. I absolutely hate those time sinks, but they feel great when you have vanquished white bugs, too much paper, slain whatever dragon was plaguing your house.

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