July Tip: Orchid Pride — Just add water!

I live in a spacious, bright, beautiful apartment, four convenient floors up from one of the newer PCC Organic Markets. I can acquire almost any ingredient I need, to say nothing about browsing the deli, hot bar, salad and soup bars, and Kombucha stand.

I don’t, however, have a balcony that allows me to tend flowering pots. While I buy flowers weekly for their color and beauty, I always have a Phalaenopsis orchid, the most common supermarket orchid, on a table near a window where it stays alive for months. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, which always has a good selection at the best price.

Over a year ago, a friend commented on how well my orchid was doing. I proudly announced that I followed the well-known instructions: water sparingly, three ice cubes, ten days apart.

“Right,” said my friend, “just like in the Amazon basin!” It took me a moment to fully register that. I did a quick mind-reset and wondered if perhaps there was something else about tending orchids worth exploring.

I remembered seeing a whole orchid plant, leaves emerging, immersed in a quart jar, filled to the brim with water. Along with the orchid, there was moss, algae, and other swamp-like growing things. I wondered at the time whether that orchid would bloom in conditions like that.

I tucked that thought away but when my current orchid finally dropped its flowers, I cut the stems to above the last blooms, fished it out of its plastic holder and stuffed it into a jar, filled it with water and put it on a windowsill with indirect light.

There it sat for months. A layer of algae and wet moss started to cover the surface, the roots grew fuzzy and the water turned pale yellow. I topped it off every week and wished it well.

About four months later, I noticed that the stems had little bumps on them. I watched with interest. Could they be buds? More time, more water, more observing, and sure enough, the bumps became tiny buds, climbing up the stems and filling them out on both sides. Another month of watching with awe and the gorgeous pale green flowers opened. My orchid had rebloomed!

Not really trusting myself – I’d always heard orchids were fussy –after the flowers fell off the next TJ’s orchid, I simply filled the container to the top and left it to its own internal business.

It did it again! I was a successful Swamp Orchid gardener.

Now, I have four orchids successfully blooming for the second time and the original jar-based one on its second reblooming, I feel confident instructing people to “just add water to the top!”

As for those original instructions, which I think can be found on websites and orchid tags, I am willing to question ‘expert’ advice provided I am not rejecting information relating to health and well-being.

My swamp orchids make me happy, which keeps me healthy. And I get to share my learning with others. That makes me especially happy!