Martha's Vineyard Garden Club Report : Everything is comin' up orchids
The September meeting of the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club was all about the orchid. Long time plant-grower Judi Worthington confessed to lacking self-restraint when it comes to her passion for collecting: "I need to go to an AA for flowers."
Noticing the numerous raised hands when she asked members who grew orchids, Ms. Worthington commented on the differences between the U.S. and New Zealand, where the speaker lives in the winter and is a member of the N.Z. Orchid Society. According to her, in New Zealand most orchid planters are commercial growers. Orchid growing is more friendly in the States.
What's most important to ask, when growing orchids at home, is, "What kind of plant is this, and where is it from?"
The home grower tries to mimic the growing conditions of orchids from South Africa and tropical countries like South America. Good wind, air movement, and sufficient humidity are conditions that must be replicated indoors.
"It's hard to meet an orchid plant's needs if you have no clue where it's from," advises Ms. Worthington. Many of the questions from the audience admitted to an uncertainty about provenance. She recommended books and magazine publications of the American Orchid Society as helpful sources for the home grower.
Oncidium papilio, a type of orchid with the identifying name of Kalihi Big, was displayed in a wooden-slat container. Bark is recommended as a plant medium along with New Zealand sphagnum moss. A recommended watering schedule is soaking a plant in the sink once a week. Lining a windowsill tray with pebbles is a good way to keep the humidity up. "Plants will flower without feeding," said Ms. Worthington, adding that it's best to use an organic food while the plant is flowering. A careful cutting under the last flowering bud can ensure a re-blooming plant. Ms. Worthington advises, "Keep plants snug in the same container."
As they grow, plants will lose old leaves at the bottom. Onsidiums are true perching orchids that go off in all directions. Avoid fertilizing too much, once a month, a teaspoon to the gallon, is the speaker's recommendation.
A treatment for infected orchid plants that is highly successful against mealy bugs, according to Ms. Worthington, is a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap, alcohol, and water contained in a giant plastic bag where the naked plant and roots are immersed.
Why bother to grow climate sensitive, disease prone, slow-flowering orchids? In the dead of winter in our grey climate, any green growing, orchid blooming plant that makes us say, look at that, is surely worth the attempt.
"Do most plants have a certain life-span?" asked a member. Judi Worthington had the final answer: "Depends on who grows them."
Ag Fair post-script:
Two Garden Club entries won Blue Ribbons as winning exemplars of the Fair's theme: Homegrown Favorites. Mary Lou Perry's potting bench display of cuttings from local gardens featured a colorful and artful arrangement of rooted rosemary from Seven Gates, lavender from Pilot Hill, native Dusty Miller from the South shore, ivy geranium cuttings from Middle Road, and Agapanthus started from seeds, courtesy of the Polly Hill Arboretum. Ms. Perry's exhibit was intended to demonstrate propagating plants and flowers from local gardens.
Kristen Henriksen's entry for the Garden Club was cited as "the best exhibit of propagation of endangered species of wild flowers." Ms. Henriksen displayed different stages of the butterfly weed from the seedling in the first year up to the third year when the flower blooms. A charming attraction to the exhibit in the body of a tiny caterpillar, identified as a Monarch. The caterpillar had attached itself to a leaf and grew with each day of the exhibition, munching, and leaving missing leaves in its wake, all under the watchful and delighted gaze of spectators in the hall.
Special congratulations to Junior entrants, Leah Pachico and Edwin Gould Hatt, who won the Garden Club's $25 Founders Award.