often become more than just plants; they turn into loved
orchid growers like Joelle Miller feel exactly that way.
San Diego, her first phalaenopsis orchid quickly turned
into several and then into a dozen, until her second
bedroom was a plant nursery. Then, she expanded her
orchid collection outdoors.
fabulous landlord at the time even went so far as to
adjust the sprinkler system to help water my ‘babies,’"
says Miller, now a Tropical House gardener at Norfolk
Botanical Garden in Norfolk, Va.,
became the person people would give their ailing plants
to and "expect me to fix them," she recounts.
"When my husband got orders to relocate to Great
Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago, I knew I couldn’t
take them with me, so we had a garage sale and I
screened prospective owners before I allowed them to buy
broke my heart to leave them behind, but I felt good
knowing that I passed them on to people who would love
them as much as I did. I feel like I’ve come full
circle in my horticultural career in that I’m now
taking care of more orchids than I ever dreamed of when
I started on this crazy journey."
the Tropical House, Miller helps care for more than 150
different orchids on display with begonias, gingers,
palms and bromeliads. The orchids are there on loan from
members of the Tidewater Orchid Society, including its
president Frank Drew, who has about 1,500 in his
Virginia Beach greenhouse. Orchids in the Tropical House
also come from the Kaplan Orchid Conservatory at Old
Dominion University, also in Norfolk. The display is a
great chance to see the different kind of orchids that
can thrive in your own home.
tried to choose the types that will do best in the
conditions we can offer ranging from low light- needing
lady slipper orchids to bright light-demanding reed
orchids and everything in between," says Miller.
the Kaplan Conservatory, orchids thrive in
climate-controlled greenhouses that opened in 2008 with
about 750 plants that the late Norfolk physician Arthur
Kaplan donated from his personal collection. Frank
Kirchner, who cares for 500 orchids in his backyard
greenhouse in Norfolk, says he’s forever indebted to
Kaplan for his mentorship and friendship.
friendship started at a New Year’s brunch," he
writes in an email.
had managed to not kill one of my first five or so
orchids. Arthur, with a famous twinkle in his eye said,
‘Everyone has to lose a few orchids before they learn
how to grow them.’ He then asked if I poked around and
looked at the roots. Responding affirmatively, his eyes
twinkled even more as he looked at his beautiful wife,
Phyllis, also an expert grower, and said, ‘He’s
and I would spend wonderful summer mornings at his
beautiful greenhouses repotting orchids; exploring
different light intensities, different growing media,
the same orchid growing in differing conditions,"
he said. "With a little attention and loving
neglect orchids thrive and give back so much more than
Richmond, Va., the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s
conservatory features an entire wing dedicated to a
collection of 1,500 orchids, according to spokeswoman
Beth Monroe, and there are 200-300 orchids always in
bloom at any given time. "It’s a lush paradise
with a waterfall and tropical companion plants,"
the common moth orchid, a phalaenopsis, is the variety
you typically see in garden centers and grocery stores,
there are other orchids — the familiar corsage-like
Cymbidium and Lady slippers, or Paphiopediliums — well
suited for home environments, according to orchid
general, most orchids do well with daytime temperatures
65-85 degrees Fahrenheit and low to medium light — no
direct sun, according to growers. The worst thing you
can do is overwater an orchid because its roots will
quickly rot. Instead, let your orchid get almost dry
before watering it thoroughly, and then let it drain
completely. Use a good orchid fertilizer according to
directions on the label, and consider having an expert
assess and repot it as needed.
the best recommendation is to join a local orchid group
to learn firsthand from members who have already been
successfully growing these beautiful plants, according
to Corinne Holland, a member of the Peninsula Orchid
Society of Virginia.