Harriett M. Clarke, Contributor
It is my father's love of orchids that drives his insistence on watering them. This simple chore is critical to the welfare of your orchid as there is a tendency for many orchid owners, and I must speak for myself, to allow their plant's medium to dry out considerably more than is tolerable. "You will start to see brown spots on the leaves" he says ,"Which is a definite indication that you are giving it too much water. In diagnosing the problem, my Dad advised me to "Check with the dirt," and by this he means feeling the medium in which the orchid is potted to see if it has dried out or if it has enough dampness to sustain its nourishment.
Overwatering is a hazard for these plants, Dad tells me, but for some reason, I can't seem to resist the urge to dump heaps of water on my orchids, especially if I had forgotten to do so for an extended period. It is this forgetfulness that causes my thumbs to be dubbed 'brown thumbs'
I recently acquired an orchid from a roadside vendor and inquired of my father about this rare dark mauve, almost black, gem of a plant. I was sure I had seen it hanging somewhere in my father's orchid house and, to his surprise, I was right. He was surprised I even noticed these gems with my seemingly disinterest in plant life. I assured my Dad that, regardless of the fact that my thumbs were of a hue other than his, I was still his daughter and the love of nature still resided in me somewhere. To this he gave a hearty laugh and informed me that these grew wild in the bushes and that they were called Octopus orchid, Cockleshell or Clamshell orchid.
Incidentally, this orchid has two names and either goes by the scientific name of Prosthechea Cochleata or Encyclia Chochleata whichever is easier for the tongue to pronounce.
Also known as the national flower of Belize, my father insists that the Black Orchid responds better when hung high under a shaded tree, and I have often witnessed him spraying its roots with plain water or water mixed with the occasional Miracle Gro fertilisers.
The Cattleya orchid is my father's pride and joy right now. Its unusual hue of what may be lavender or pink catches the eye immediately with its radiant abundance. To hear him boast about his masterpiece brought a tinge of envy as I pondered the countless times his praises brought great delight to me.
I noted that he had actually planted this one in the ground, packed with stones and coconut trash, and tied it to a dead branch as if her sacrifice was all that was needed for her radiant blooms to thrive. Great as corsages, this specie does not need its medium to dry out completely, and Dad's advice is to water them twice weekly.
When all is said and done, even though my fingers are a bit brown in comparison to my Dad's green ones, I can still find favour with my orchids by applying some of my father's advice. So, thanks, Dad, for an orchid education.
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