In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
February, 2013
Regional Report

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Mary Ann Ulmann admires her Blue Vanda - Ascd. Princess Mileasa 'Sapphire' orchid blooming in late December 2012. Photo by Charles Ulmann

Exquisite Orchids for All

Orchids were once rare, expensive, and mostly limited to collectors. Now most everyone can find beautiful, long-blooming, budget-priced orchids at the local grocery store. Mostly are easy-care, bi-colored Phalaenopsis or showy Cattleyas, says Mary Ann Ulmann of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

"I picked my first orchid just because I loved the way it looked," Ulmann adds. After filling the windowsills, she and her husband bought a small lean-to greenhouse. Several years later they added a 10 x 15 foot greenhouse. Two years ago they built a 20 x 32 foot greenhouse for their hundreds of orchids.

"It's very addictive. Once you have a few, you need more," says Ulmann, a retired teacher. Curious about orchid care, she joined an orchid society and won awards even as a beginner.

If you're inclined to indulge, research to find an orchid suited to your home. "Choose something you like. Make sure that you have the right light and temperature conditions in your home for that type of orchid," advises Ulmann.

Fortunately this April 12 to 14, there will be dozens of experts eager to chat at the The International Orchid Show and Sale at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. This is a new collaboration with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society, says Sara Hertz, academy Vice President of Public Experience and Strategic Initiatives.

The whole museum will be given over to the show, including extended Friday night hours. More than 30 spectacular exhibits will showcase beautiful, sometimes bizarre, often fragrant, always interesting orchids in full bloom, Hertz adds. Lectures and children's activities will capture the interests of families, collectors, and newbies.

The academy has arranged for $6/day visitor parking at nearby lots. Show entrance is included in the $15 regular adult admission fee. See www.ansp.org for details.

Ulmann will be among the volunteers happy to share their experiences. In the meantime, she shares a few of her basic how-tos for success growing orchids.

  • Use orchid pots made of clay, old terra cotta, or plastic with holes for best drainage.
  • Plant orchids in bark mix.
  • Water with warm water, not cold. (Some experts recommend rain or distilled water.)


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