Friday, August 17, 2007

My secret growing obsession

Allow me to introduce you to Pinocchio, other wise knows as Paphiopedilum Judge Pinocchio
(P. Judge Philip X P. glaucophyllum)
Paphs are also called slipper orchids, for obvious reasons. Pinocchio's slipper shape doubles as a very large schnozzola, all pink but more waxen than wooden.

My orchid arrived via US mail from a grower in Texas. I found it on Ebay, ordered it on a Monday and it arrived three days later, elaborately wrapped in newspaper shreds and sheets, so that the bloom was completely protected. I gave it a good long drink of water, and then set it under the grow lights I have set up . The first bloom dropped within days, but a new bud appeared almost immediately, which is the one you see in these photos.

Underneath this bloom, another bud is beginning to develop, so apparently it has made itself at home here.

The appeals of orchids are many: their amazing variety of shapes, exotic colors and blooms that last for weeks. They don't grow like "normal" house plants, in that you don't stick them in a pot with dirt and drench them with water. Their roots are usually used to attach themselves to tree trunks and branches or to piles of leaf mold and bark on the forest floor. So they must be potted in bits of bark, coconut hull chips, or sphagnum moss. Their roots often grow up over the lip of the pot, reaching out for moisture in the air, so it is wise to place orchids on a tray filled with pebbles and water not to the top of the pebbles. That way, you can set your plants on the pebbles so their roots don't get waterlogged, yet there is plenty of moisture wafting up from the tray.

Nero Wolfe, the famous fictional detective, has a roof top orchid green house in atop his building in NYC. He would take the elevator up to the plant rooms where nobody was allowed to disturb him. For an interesting take on Wolfe and his orchid obsession, read this.

When Rex Stout wrote his Nero Wolfe stories, orchids were not readily available to most people. Nowadays, you can find them at your local home improvement big box store and at various specialty nurseries and event florists. Dendorbriums and phaleonopsis are the types usually on display. They are easy care and quite adaptable to the home environment. And although some rare and collectible orchids are very expensive, most are quite reasonable in price.

I guess I got into orchids because I have had a variety of houseplants over the years, and I was getting bored with the same old plants. Living in this climate, house plants are absolutely essential to maintain my sanity during the cold winter months! Just looking at plants growing happily in my windows gives me comfort and alleviates stress when I come home from work.

Pinocchio is my first paph, but not my last. I just ordered another with a very dramatic name -- Lady Macbeth! She is blood red and arrived yesterday with an enormous bud. I will be posting her picture soon, I hope.

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