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On Gardening: Whether in the wild or your sunroom no plant thrills like an orchid

May 2, 2016

Iwanagara Appleblossom "tri-color" defies description.

Hunting orchids reminds me a lot of hunting arrowheads. You have to find a couple and your eyes get trained to the goal or objective. I have treasured these moments as I climbed through rain forest or cloud forest on the Dutch island of Saba and in the National Park on the French island of Guadeloupe and the majestic El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico.

Plants like the tree ferns, giant ivy, philodendrons and heliconias thrill beyond expectation but to see wild orchids blooming takes the experience to a whole other level. You must agree there is just something about orchids. I am still mesmerized every time I walk into our Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens Orchid House that is maintained by the Deep South Orchid Society.

I know many of you treasure orchids but still feel mystified about how to grow them, get them to re-bloom or even question a simple repotting of your plant. The good news is that you don’t have to go to a rainforest to see or grow an orchid nor do you have to get a graduate degree in botany or horticulture. All you need to do is visit one of the American Orchid Society sanctioned orchid shows near you.

For instance we are having the 30th Annual Savannah Orchid Show April 29-May 1st at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens. But if you visit the American Orchid Society website calendar of events you’ll find shows coming up in Memphis, Louisiana, Iowa and 12 months of events further demonstrating the love of the orchid.

Right now in our orchid house there is a Laeliocattleya called Aussie Sunset ‘Cosmic Fire’ that will take your breath away with its beauty. It will make you want for all-the-world to grow this orchid. Another one called Iwanagara Apple Blossom ‘tri-color’ simply defies description.

As stunning as these are, did you know there are incredibly beautiful orchids for landscape? I remember watching the blue flowered Bletilla striata orchids flying off the shelves at garden and patio shows in Mississippi. A fair share flew off in to my shopping cart as well. I used them in a filtered light bed with ferns, split-leaf philodendrons and hostas next to a swimming pool. Believe it or not they are cold hardy from zones 6a-9b and reach close to 30 inches in height. There are also more than a half dozen Bletilla selections and hybrids readily available for us to use in the landscape.

Another group of terrestrial orchids for your consideration are selections and hybrids from the genus Calanthe which are generally cold hardy from zones 7-9. The name itself means beautiful flower and they come to us from Japan and China. Depending on the variety they reach 10-to-24 inches in height and perform well in fertile organic rich soil in light shade to filtered light.

Put on your explorer’s hat and visit an orchid show near you, you’ll see the world of orchids like you have never seen them. You’ll see the best in competition and have a once in a lifetime opportunity to purchase the most beautiful selections for your home. You’ll leave with a clear understanding of how to care for them as well.

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