Thursday, February 7, 2019

My Year of Orchids: Happily glued to their trees

It rained and poured straight for more than twenty four hours. How could such a prodigious amount of moisture come down in such a plain wrapper as raindrops? There was so much rain and it was so uncomfortably cool we couldn’t take our guests from up north into the garden, let alone look around the neighborhood. And I couldn’t muster up the will to check on the orchids.

Next morning it was still damp, dripping water from the roof, thick dew condensed on the car and plants. I stepped gingerly over the damp shells. It was still cool and only a tiny bit less raw than the evening before. The garden however was shining.

Seems to me the epiphytes, orchids, bromeliads, and airplants, even the few epiphytic cacti in our garden, like nothing more than a good soak. It takes care of whatever ails them. Flushes the salts off their bodies, replenishes ambient moisture. It’s like the rain feeds them.

The only drawback is heavy rain knocks some of them out of their perches almost as readily as wind. When I sense someone missing I have to ask myself what trajectory it might have taken in the way to the ground. Then I can zero in and find it. As far as I could tell the other morning only one bromeliad had fallen. Everyone else was in place.

Gradually the sun came out, patches of blue sky and a lighter cast to the day, still chilly though. I did a closer inspection of the orchids, which seem to have not moved an inch. I got a little closer and put my hand around Cattleya labiata, who I’ve noticed is propelling herself out of her tree crook at the same time as sending roots in all directions along the branches. I was surprised. She seemed glued in place.

I tried a few more of the orchids, which I should tell you I rarely do. Just don’t want them to suffer from whatever’s on my hands. Don’t want to disturb. This time though everyone I felt seemed happily glued to their tree. It was as if this rain and the gentle winter light that went with it held a promise of growth and establishment.

I’ve only had most of these orchids since late July or August. And as I’ve told you I moved most of them as I got a better idea of how they wanted to grow. Seeing them tightly bound to their woody substrate, seeing that they had been nomads themselves, now truly at home in the garden, was a wonderful discovery. I think now they can really grow.

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