Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Year of Orchids: The dead of (Florida) winter

So for weeks I’ve been struggling with the question: when to let the orchids rest? Even a few days ago a balmy afternoon convinced me to give them some attention. A few I even fertilized. Then yesterday things changed. 

The sky went from thin clouds to leaden. A few peeks of sun and light suddenly felt welcome. The sky thickened. You could see and feel the moisture building. But a damp cold moisture. The polar vortex sank into the Midwest a few days ago. This is the cold air leaking southward all the way to us across the Gulf of Mexico. In response, a mass of suppressed moisture pushing northward. We are in the middle. 

Dark gray clouds puffed in among the lead color of the sky. A drop or two of rain, just a taste of the next day to come. All around the garden, a place that had become dark, red and yellow leaves, bare bark, muted greens. 

The orchids it seems are a kind of canary in the mine. Their leaves changed weeks ago, at least a lot of them did. Not a thorough change or I hope, a permanent change, but a subtle shift from vibrant to not so vibrant. From bright greens to dull, to yellows and a few almost grays like the tillandsias. The air plants too have given up some of their vibrancy. I know they are happy because all of them have sprouted healthy pups at their base. Like the healthy orchids that have put out roots. I sense the garden is healthy. Not even dormant. Not hibernating. Just slowing. Waiting. Gathering into itself a new energy.

It’s pouring rain today and we expect several inches. This is the natural state of things and since my orchids are all outside in trees and on twigs, they are experimenting what they would experience in nature. But that’s nature. The signal of yellowing they have sent me says we are in the dead of winter. Even if it lasts a week or two it’s too cold to shower us with water. Time for a real rest.

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