Saturday, August 13, 2011

Orchid Mania and Ludisia discolor

Do you like Orchids?  If not, have you ever wondered why so many people do?  I had to ask myself that question a couple years ago and found some interesting reasons for my seeming disinterest in them.  When it came to Orchids, I confess, I was ignorant by choice and held to the attitude that they are hard to grow and people who like them are crazy.  I was being an all out plant snob about it and boy was I in for a surprise.

Now this is just dye?  I was having a hard enough time.

Orchids were a bit too prissy for my taste, all the big flowers that looked, well, gaudy. Other than the species that produces the vanilla bean they seemed to have no real value to me.  I was always poo pooing those who sang their praises, oblivious of what they saw, but again...I never bothered to look at what it was that made them fascinating to others.  To be honest, I think it was the whole mania thing that turned me off.  But then who was I to even think that? I am that way a little about herbs and growing veggies...seems we all have our weaknesses.

Love me...

Another hurdle for me was that Orchids are houseplants and houseplants are not really my thing.  If you are a houseplant, you are pretty much on your own, so why would I ever want a fussy Orchid.  Besides they are expensive and I am a budget mined shopper...I have my standards when it comes to money and plants.  I was not going to pour my money down that rat hole for Orchids.

Then I began secretly wanting to try them, just to see if I could grow them...a true plant addicts weakness...but kept shying away because I did not see anything that really captured my interest enough to push me over the edge.  I was such a snob! I began looking for bonus buy plants on the clearance racks not wanting to dish out the real money for "them".  (Don't mock me...I know you do it too or your wouldn't be laughing right now!)

My first Orchid and I'm so proud!

As fate would have it I was destined to own an Orchid in spite of my resistance.  A GardenWeb forum pal, Travis, gifted me with my first Orchid at a plant swap I was hosting.   It was a start from his Ludisia discolor, an Orchid he assured me would be easy to grow.  When I saw it I didn't even recognize it as an Orchid.  I had no idea they could even look like this one did...all moody with dark green velvet leaves and stylish red pinstripes.  It really got to me and I realized I had been so snobbish I didn't really know what it means to be an Orchid.

Velvet green leaves with pinstripes and a budding stem emerging.  JOY JOY JOY!

Wow, was I hooked!  My stony heart melted into a puddle of Orchid addict goo and I couldn't take my eyes off of my new little plant.  I was in love and the last thing I ever imagined happening started to take root in me...I was becoming one of "them", an Orchid lover.  What a fabulous little plant, so unlike other Orchids I had seen.  It wasn't a fussy little pile of leaves in a pot.  It had a trailing habit and looked more like "Wandering Jew" houseplant.  That meant if no one asked I wouldn't have to tell what it either.  I was safe from ridicule of those, who like myself, were clueless as to what all the fuss was about!

I remember my first year as an Orchid mother.  I loved doting on my new baby, setting it up next to the kitchen sink where I would give it little drinks of water when I would get one for myself; making sure it was getting good diffused sunlight, talking to it...well more like cooing over it.  I even purchased two kinds of fertilizer, a pretty Orchid pot and Orchid bark to plant it in.

Travis had told me it probably wouldn't bloom that first year so I wasn't surprised when it did not.  But that second year when it did I was even more over the moon than ever before, even calling my garden gal pals to report the happy event. (I didn't have Facebook back then)

The flowers were surprisingly small and so delicate, so pure, so perfect; it was as if their goal and purpose for being was to draw me in, steal my heart and seal my fate as another fallen conquest, smitten by their beauty.  Such sneaky little flowers, evil little plant...look what they have done to me!  How does such a thing happen?  They somehow changed me and now I cannot look at an Orchid but what I long to be close to it!
Such sweet faces...sigh.

My mania for Orchids became painfully apparent when I worked for a local department store garden center the spring following my plant's first bloom.  Orchids really hit our flowering plant market here big time in Oregon that spring.  There was no way I could walk past the Orchids displayed at work without drooling over way too many of them.  It was pure unadulterated Orchid lust.  Even sitting here as I'm writing this I am thinking about the different ones I really liked and that if I get the chance to purchase them at a good price I will do it without blinking!  I have become pathetically enamored with them...and I am enjoying every minute of it.

Why the leaves have red pinstripes.

One of the reasons I think I've done so well with my little Ludisia discolor Orchid is that I have it right next to my kitchen sink where I see it all the time and won't forget about it like I do so many other houseplants. It gets sufficient humidity, bright diffused light all year long in this spot too and I can slip it a sip of water when I get a drink, a good thing since I am pathetically remiss at remembering to water plants indoors.  This kind of happy accident of the perfect plant and perfect location I have been thankful for since I received it...and thankful that I met Travis who was so generous as to share this little gem with me.

Perfect delicate little flowers in white and yellow to cheer my sunny window.

I have decided the first time it bloomed was just dumb luck for me as the next year it did nothing again.  And after that year's bust I determined to learn what it needed in order get a bloom.  I didn't follow the information I read to the letter but went a little more by feel on the watering and with a little fertilizer, it worked!  That was so easy and I'm so happy!

I think we need a different container here.  This little guy is really going crazy!

My little Orchid has done so well it is now in need of re-potting.  See all those little sprouts emerging out the sides of the orchid pot and those holes will eventually choke its little branches before they get large enough to bloom.  Looks like a good opportunity to take starts to give as gifts...more research needed here for the best timing on that one though.  I would hate to lose a good little plant like this Orchid.  Now who do I know that needs an Orchid?

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