Thursday, April 21, 2011

Way too much work

As an orchid hobbiest, I assume that is what you call one who pays dues to a local orchid society (and never attends the meetings), has invested an inordinate amount of time and money into a rather diverse orchid collection as well as two small greenhouses (complete with a misting system), and endures the thrill of the bloom and the agony of blight, season after season, I have always prided myself on caring for my plants until their dying day. And, I have always been concerned about making sure I had "quality" specimen from top breeders.

Both of these traits are apparent in my greenhouses. There are gorgeous blooming catlayeas in unbelievable colors that fill the room with exotic fragrances. And, there are pots containing brown nubs with the only indication of survival being only one or two small green leaves. It just pains me to get rid of a plant if there is any sign of life. I just cannot pull the plug and toss the pot. 

One lady I know has a professional greenhouse keep her orchids and then deliver them to her when they are blooming. When the blooms start to fade, she simply calls the greenhouse to come remove the plant and replace it with a fresh blooming one. I cannot decide if this is cheating or the ultimate in luxury. Either way, she is out of my league and her style is way above my non-blooming plants, much less those on life support.

I walked into the kitchen of one of my friends and commented that he always had beautiful orchids. They weren't necessarily exotic types but they were all in bloom with healthy green foliage.  After I checked (very discreetly) that they were real and not very expensive silk replicas, I commented, "You always have such beautiful blooming orchids. I'm scared to ask what your secret is." 

He laughed, "It's real simple - Costco and Lowes. When you can pick up blooming orchids for $19.00 I try to keep fresh ones in the kitchen all the time." "And, when they stop blooming?" "Trash them." "Just throw them away?" I asked thinking of the guilt I would have. "Have you ever seen an orchid plant without blooms? It's not a very attractive thing."

That afternoon I went home and walked into my greenhouses (not through them - they're too small). Suddenly, I knew I did not need to hold on to these terminally ill plants. Reality hit me, they were not going to come back to their glory days. So I went through and tossed all the plants that did not look verdant and hearty. (I swear I could hear little voices saying "Help, help, save me, save me." as they went in the trash.) 

When I finished and looked around I was surprised. My greenhouses were no longer cluttered but instead filled with lovely orchids, some blooming some not. (Personally, I still have a place in my heart for a healthy non blooming plant.) Now I knew when those times came when nothing was blooming, I could run to Lowes or Costco and with a minimum investment add blooming plants to my greenhouse to tide me over until my other plants graced me with their spikes and blossoms.

I had to come to terms with my actions. It had been a mercy killing not herbicide. Bless me father for I have sinned. And, to think about all the books I read about only raising the exotic species, how certain types were so "pedestrian". Suddenly, I was back to enjoying the hobby. I have the best of both worlds - exotic specimens that I pray will re-bloom with a guarantee of delightful blossoms year round from the more "popular" types. Now if I can just stop having nightmares about plants screaming in agony as the trash can is emptied into the dumpster.  

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