I was sitting up at the court house, nervous as usual, when a group of lawyers walked in. I have done nothing wrong but fear of the unknown always evokes the same panic response. One of the legal team must have picked up on this and asked me a question from right of field. Should she put her orchids into full sun? I relaxed. This I could answer.
If the orchid plant has large flat leaves it is likely to be phalaenopsis, the butterfly orchid. It requires at least 45 % shade. If the plant has thin stubby leaves it is most likely to be a spider orchid. These love being in the sun. Then there are those that are in between. They like the sun during the dry season and a little shade during the hot wet season.
There is another family of orchids that are not designed to live in Vanuatu. These are cymbidium orchids. The plant may grow but it will not flower for two reasons. The days are not long enough and the winters are not cold enough.
All orchids have one thing in common. They love good drainage. Some will even feel smothered in pots and will prefer to attach themselves to the outside of pots, trunks of palms, or anchor themselves in stones or chips of wood. The roots of orchids do three things, breath, drink and convert sunlight into food. They are both sensitive and tough. The delicate tips are the growing points that will respond to diluted liquid feed.
Propagation of orchids is another one of those “ it depends” topics. An orchid flower has thousands of seeds inside a pod; think of a vanilla bean, which is the pod from the vanilla orchid. Other orchids have short fat pods and they too have thousands of seeds inside. Orchid breeders are very patient people because growing orchids from seed takes care and a long waiting period before they start flowering. Most home gardeners will multiply their orchids by dividing clumps, in the case of dendrobiums, or by stem sections if handling spider orchids.If one has an orchid addiction then buying them in bulk as tissue cultured plants in a flask might be the best way to build up one’s collection.
Orchids are often killed by kindness. Cane dendrobiums have a dormant period and trying to water or feed them when they want to rest will cause them great confusion and allow rot to set in. Cane dendrobiums should be removed from the pot, laid out on a bench in light shade. They will shrivel and look like they are dying but as the cycle continues the young pups will burst from the base and new plants will develop. Resisting the temptation to pot up too soon will guarantee less damage to the fragile roots.
Feeding orchids on a weekly basis applies to their active growing period. When the orchid is preparing to flower, weekly fungicide and miticide sprays should be applied. A miticide should clean up and keep at bay spider mite. These barely visible pests do the greatest damage to plants and flowers; they are extremely difficult to get rid of and will hide in every crack and crevice, including the walls of the shade house. When the flower is opening be careful to use a fungicide that does not leave spots on the flower.
The orchid is a treasured plant: even a single stem of flowers is appreciated by all. Maybe I should offer to pay my legal team with blooms from the orchid house; they obviously appreciate them as much as I do.
By Cornelia Wyllie. Cornelia s the caretaker of Rainbow Botanic Gardens. She is well-known for her in depth knowledge of tropical plants and gardening. Rainbow Gardens Nursery and the Botanical Gardens is open Monday to Friday 7.30 am to 5 pm, Saturday 7.30 to 12 pm and after hours by appointment. Take a tour of the Gardens to view Vanuatu’s fantastic range of tropical plants. Contact Tudsie on 7726720 to book a Garden Tour. Contact Cornelia to arrange functions and catering on 7724720.
ISLAND LIFE MAGAZINE