In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
January, 2006
Regional Report

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2001

Orchid blooms provide interest much longer than a cut bouquet.

Orchids for Everybody

I remember when old movies often portrayed some wealthy character fussing about in a greenhouse full of orchids. Such exotic and demanding flowers, it was implied, were only for those who had the time and money to pamper them with glass-enclosed environments.

Not any more! Orchids are sold just about everywhere houseplants are sold: grocery stores, department store chains, and home improvement centers offer them. Equally agreeable as their easy availability is their down-to-earth pricing. I recently purchased a lovely Paphiopedilum orchid in bloom at the grocery store for $7.95. That was less than a nearby bouquet of ubiquitous carnations, and its unusual flower will last much longer.

My new plant goes by the unwieldly name of Emulate 'Mishima' X Dragon Flag 'Green Ching Hua'. Luckily, it came with a plant tag because there's no way I'd remember that by the time I got home! Orchids in the Paphiopedilum genus have the charming "slipper" flowers, which I've loved since childhood in Minnesota. Its state flower is the showy pink lady slipper, and I remember my dad pointing out the rare bloom once when we were tramping around in the woods.

For information on growing my Paphiopedilum, I went to the Orchid Society of Arizona Web site (http://welcome.to/orchidsocietyaz) to peruse their detailed growing sheets. They said Paphiopedilum are adaptable to a variety of lighting conditions, growing and blooming in east, south, or west windows; and that moving air is a good thing to prevent rot. I put my orchid in an east-facing window in the kitchen, where the patio door is opened often to allow in fresh air. The 40- to 60-percent humidity it likes is problematic in desert houses, so I set the container inside a decorative container with water in it to evaporate and increase humidity. The flowerpot doesn't reach the bottom so it can't absorb too much water.

Unlike the carnations, when this bloom is spent, I still have the possibility of rebloom. Even if this proves difficult for my novice orchid-growing thumb, I'll be pleased if the plant just lives. Its green foliage is mottled with markings that remind me of a leopard's coat, and to my eye it's just as lovely as the flower.

If you've been afraid to try an orchid because of their reputation for fussiness and expense, you have no more excuses. As with the purchase of any plant, examine it first to ensure it is pest-free. Then, take the plunge!


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