Friday, January 11, 2019

My Year of Orchids: What I started to learn

I started to learn that we can’t replicate the conditions orchids experience in nature. But if they are planted as epiphytes you can’t mist them too often. Most of them evolved in rainforests or cloud forests.

The hand mister that I stole from Janet’s kitchen supplies really gave me a fine lovely mist. It was a romantic scene. Me stretching to reach my new green babies, covering them in gentle moisture as I counted out fifty or a hundred squeezes. Yes I convinced myself. Foolishly. They are experiencing a cloud forest. After less than a week the mister stopped misting. It just refused. It leaked. It lost pressure. And I started switching hands. How could such a light load strain your tendons so much? Count to one hundred times a dozen or so plants and do it three or four times a day. You will learn what I learned.

So I started my trips to Lowe’s, where I was looking for a sprayer I had seen online. “Only online” I was told. I bought a couple more hand sprayers and no surprise, when the first one stopped working I was back at Lowe’s. Learning. Why does it take so long? I bought the one gallon “Round-up” hand pumped sprayer that my friend Yi-Wen suggested. Would you know I got a dud that leaked air? Back to 22nd Avenue North only fifteen minutes away, but which seemed at the time a major schlep. You see, in Cambridge I almost never drove!

Within a week I was back at the Lowe’s return desk. They are nice there. But I was suspicious. So across 22nd to Home Depot where a very interactive person in the garden department promised me the “Round-up” sprayer was best (Reader do you also cringe at this brand?). I looked and I thought and plunged into a new dimension, the two gallon sprayer. Didn’t think I’d want to drag that baby all around the garden but did like that it was more sturdy looking than the one gallon. Took the contraption home, proudly did the minor assembly, and started misting. I knock on wood humbly noting that it has worked perfectly since then. One thing. When things get a little green in there I pour in some water and bleach, use the mix to clean off some of my pavers, then push the sprayer to “continuous” let the whole thing flush out with plain water a couple of times.

What else did I learn? It took months before I released the roots of most of my plants. Poor Dockrillia teretifolia, a native of the Australian rainforest where I once did fieldwork (and named a new genus of lichens) was imprisoned on a high stump with a cave of rocks around its roots, trussed down with string. Is it any wonder it stood still for the whole summer? When I finally came to my senses and released it into the wild, placing it high up in some thin branches next to a trailing pink hibiscus, it pumped out a handsome dangling root system within a couple of weeks.

Dendrobium anosum never got totally free of the huge piece of rotting wood I had attached her to. Partly it’s because she started to root around in the cracks and develop several keikis that were attached to it. But I moved the whole kit and caboodle onto and within the sturdy dappled-sunny branches of a fire bush. There are bees and butterflies every day encouraging Dendrobium anosum to enjoy life.

We enjoy life when we learn. And lucky me, there is still a long way to go.

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