Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jewel Orchids: Blooming!

If you don’t think you can grow orchids, guess again. There’s hope for you! But don’t get too excited—the types that produce large blossoms of intense pinks and yellows, say, the cattleyas and phalaenopsises, still require special substrates, special moisture, and special temperatures. I’ve tried growing them, and the humidity requirements were always more than I could fulfill.

But you can still grow orchids, if you choose an easy terrestrial type such as the “jewel orchid” (Ludisia discolor). I guess it’s named for the remarkable leaves, which are velvety deep green with pink veins above, and burgundy-rust on the bottom. The flowers, however, are smallish and white—fortunately they form in clusters.

The reason these are “doable,” even for a lackadaisical houseplant grower like myself, is that they are terrestrial, as opposed to epiphytic. (The epiphytes don’t grow in soil like the terrestrial types do—instead they have adapted to life perched on a tree branch or some such, in a tropical situation—which is why I have such trouble with them. They need humidity. And this time of year, especially, the house gets so dry, my sinuses just—well, you don’t want to know.)

If you’ve ever grown a “wandering jew” (Tradescantia pallada or T. zebrina)—these are very popular houseplants—you can grow a jewel orchid. Like them, the jewel orchid roots easily from cuttings and is attractive year-round because of the colorful leaves. We put ours in the backyard in the summer.

Anyway—I’m telling you about this now for two reasons. First, it’s January and they’ve started their annual bloom, so, Huzzah! It might not be spring, but we’ve got flowers anyway!

And second, I wanted to remind everyone that the annual orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Garden starts today. This is your chance to see some of the huge variety of tropical orchids in the Garden’s permanent collection. Here is a link to MoBot’s Orchid Show page.

Each year they have a “theme”; this year it’s “Flora Maya”—thus the Orthwein display hall has been transformed into a Mayan jungle, with decorations evoking Mayan and Aztec ruins:

The Garden’s annual orchid show will feature 800 blooming orchids in lush, tropical display infused with an eclectic mix of Maya-themed accents.

The Garden maintains one of the world’s premier orchid collections and this is the only time of year when a vast, rotating selection from our historic collection is available for public viewing.

Now, doesn’t this look like a perfect way to spit in the face of nasty old bone-chilling winter? We’re planning a trip to St. Louis to see this—well, once the roads are cleared of this next big dump of snow they’re predicting . . .

I’m even thinking of bringing a change of clothes—shorts and a tee shirt—so I can luxuriate for a few hours in the hot and humid Climatron!

The orchid show lasts from January 29 through March 27; here are the show’s hours:

Monday through Friday
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (last weekday entry at 2 p.m.)
Saturday and Sunday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $5, on top of the general admission to the garden. (Yes, it’s totally worth it. Bring a camera.)

No comments: