Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Orchid Obsession

Most gardeners have at least one plant they're obsessed with... and for me it's orchids. Who can resist such beauty. Given the right conditions...dappled sunlight..humidity..water..good air circulation...they reward their owners with a bounty of beautiful blossoms. Here are photos of some of our 50 plus plants.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them for better viewing)

Here are some large gorgeous cattleya blooms.

These phaleonopsis are pretty in pink.

What about some purple and green beauties. The green cattleya is one of my favorites and it blooms about 3 times a year. I've actually had that orchid for over 20 years and it's HUGE...

And, don't forget the hot-colored yellow and orange orchids. They really make a statement.

I photographed this orchid as it opened from a bud to the full-fledged flower. It was really neat to watch its progress each day.

Our orchids seem very happy to live beneath the Live Oak tree that shades our deck. This is the best location we've ever had for them, and fortunately, we can view them from inside the house...an added bonus for us.
 Remember that green flowering orchid I mentioned before. In this photo you can see how large the actual plant is.

A large majority of them are kept on a plant stand located on our back deck.

The others are hung on various metal and wood holders as the one below. My neighbor Nancy came up with the design and my husband built it. It works great for holding a number of large cattleyas.

Taking care of them is really easy. They're planted in a regular orchid potting mix. Anywhere from 3 to 4 times a week...depending on whether it rains or not...I spray them with the garden hose. Every six months I add a new packet of slow-release fertilizer...like Osmocote. The packet of fertilizer was my mother's idea.

Since you can't toss the fertilizer pellets on top of the bark...because they'll fall out..she came up with the idea to place them in a small piece of netting fabric...close with a twist-tie...and, voila' you've got a nice little fertilizer packet to place on top of the bark. Now, every time you water, the plants get fertilized...resulting in dark green healthy leaves. See, anyone can grow orchids!
 You can see the fertilizer packets sitting in the pots in this photo

One very important thing you must do...after the blooms have faded on newly purchased orchid plants, repot them with a prepackaged orchid bark mix into an orchid pot...clay (see photo above...the clay pot has large drainage holes on the side) or wire basket with a coconut liner. Most store bought orchids come in a plastic container that does not allow for good drainage. To leave them in the plastic container is surely the kiss of death!

In winter when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees we must bring them inside for protection. To make the job easier and less time-consuming, we place as many as possible on the table and cart shown below. We can easily bring them inside the house...and just as easily, place them back outdoors when the temps warm up a bit.

Growing orchids really is easy...but don't say I didn't warn you...buying one leads to another and another...next thing you know...you've developed a new obsession!


Ami said...

Wow, Susan! I envy all of your orchids! I only have about 6 of them, very small collection compared to yours :) I don't have a perfect location for them yet. Right now the only place that outdoor has the shade is my front porch. I need to find some location as shade garden... I am waiting for my very first cattleya bloom. I bought one month ago, don't know what is the color. It will be a surprise for me. Eagerly waiting...

Floridagirl said...

So I have your secret now!!! I like that "netted fertilizer" idea! I love orchids as well, though I am an "emerging collector" with only about 20 different orchids and only a handful that have actually reproduced so far. Received my first orchid as a gift when I moved here 5 years ago. Since then, it's become well known that these are great gifts for me!

The Rainforest Gardener said...

You have so many beautiful varieties! I personally prefer the encyclias and oncidiums since they're so darn easy. Do you happen to know much about growing encyclia tampensis or butterfly orchid? I have some that I started as seedlings and they've got long leaves now and are doing well, I just don't know if theres anything I should be doing for them.
They're mounted on driftwood with a little bark thrown in and they seem to do well. I hardly ever gave them water this winter but they don't mind!

ChrisC said...

Susan-you're orchids are outstanding!
You're right.They are sooo easy to grow.It took me awhile to learn to listen to my dad and quit fussing over them.We've only brought our's up to the house only on the very coldest nights.Otherwise they sit under our oak trees,all year round..
And I love your critter on your tree!

NanaK said...

Thanks for all the info on growing orchids. You certainly have a lot of beautiful blooms. I only have a few (4) and this is the 3rd year for me to have them. Last winter my phals were blooming like crazy, this year they don't look so happy. I'll have to try your fertilizer packet trick.

sanddune said...

Your Orchids are spectacular! I too have a collection because they are so addictive. The Phals that are under my Avocado tree have been attacked by hungry Squirrels who ate off the bloom spikes.It's the perfect filtered light space but the squirrels won't leave it alone. Always something!

Susan said...

Ami...Believe me it won't take long for your 6 to turn into 12, then 24...you know what I mean? I look forward to seeing a photo of your cattleya bloom. Surprises are always fun!

Floridagirl...Yes, my secret is out. I see you are well on your way with 20 orchids.

RainforestGardener...I wish I had one of those butterfly orchids. There's a nice profile page on it at Floridata.

Chris...Yes, they really are non-fussy plants. Glad you like Carlos our tree face. I see my daughter turned his mouth upside down, usually he's smiling because he likes to have his picture taken :-)

Kay...You're welcome! You can't beat the phals...they bloom for soooo long. The foliage on my orchids improved greatly with the fertilzer.

Sanddune...Oh dear, sorry to hear about the pesky squirrel problem. Luckily, I haven't had that problem...yet, anyway. That's quite annoying. I wonder if they like the particular growing medium you're using.

Meems said...

Oh dear. You really just keep posting these beauties and I'm sure to begin a new obsession. Between you and Chris I'm bound to catch on with orchids. I don't know why but I've never jumped in with them. They are so lovely and exotic. I must try a few this spring. Add it to the list.

Deborah said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I killed all my orchids, but I might have to try again.

SiestaSister said...

I know the feeling. I had 1 orchid when we moved back to Florida from a 4 yr. stay in NC. Now I have 17. Think it is an addiction?

Susan said...

Meems...Proceed with caution - a new addiction is hard to cure :-).

Deborah...Do try again - they're really quite easy. I read your blog about your new house - WOW, what an experience. I look forward to following along. Best wishes to you.

Siesta Sister...I really like your name, and I'm assuming you live on Siesta Key which is really nice, too. Glad you stopped by...I'm always happy to find another orchid obsessed gardener.

africanaussie said...

Hi I found your blog from a link Kimberley posted on Garden in Paradise. How lucky I am to have found you! I love all your orchids and have a few scattered around under my lychee tree. You certainly have some lovely vairieties - I love the green one best!

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