Gift #1154: Orchid Fever

My mood can best be summed up with the following quote:  “Now is the winter of our discontent.’  About the second week in February I start to lose it – I’ve had enough of winter and I can feel my sanity starting to fray and shred around the edges.  As Feb progresses, it just gets worse (February is one of the hardest months for me).  Come March 1st, I demand fair skies, sunny weather, warmer temperatures, and I literally expect green growing things to magically emerge from the ground as I watch.  Every year I’m sorely disappointed because there’s a great lack of green in the outdoors.  Sigh.  And so the deterioration of “winter madness” continues.  Fortunately, the art museum comes to my rescue when I think I can’t take one more minute of winter.  In February they host an orchid show, which is utterly dazzling and enchanting and makes one almost completely forget there’s winter going on.  These jeweled beauties are so refreshing in their bright color, green foliage, and exotic shapes!

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It’s only been a few years since I started adoring orchids.  I shall explain our budding relationship as follows:  most of my adult life was spent disliking orchids as upstart, showy things with no sense of propriety.  I grudgingly start attending the orchid shows in winter because of desperation to see something green and blooming.  I slowly come to admire a few of them that look like natural wildflowers.  Then Bam!  two winters ago, it happened and I was shocked to find I really liked them just for who they were.  I asked for books on orchids for my birthday and spent several months that year reading everything I could get my hands on about the bewitching orchids.  I became obsessed and started dreaming of having one of my own to love (or a whole greenhouse full).  Last spring I moved locations at work to a new building where I sat close to the windows – as a moving present I decided to purchase an orchid.  I bought a lovely white phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and proceeded to nurture and watch over it with all the dedication of a new parent.  I took pictures of her frequently and emailed/texted them to trusted family members who wouldn’t think I’d developed a mental instability about orchids.  I’ve worried over her (and believe me, orchids can give you plenty to worry about) and tried to make her as happy as I could (our communication is limited because unfortunately orchids are nonverbal). And I tell her “I love you” every day.  I think she knows this because she’s bloomed out fully twice and even today, with her current set of blooms fading, I saw that she’s already got buds going.

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So that’s where I’ve come from in a matter of a few years:  complete indifference to orchids to now hovering around them as obsessed as if I were a pollinator of them myself.  Given my current mindset, I was giddy about the orchid exhibit and couldn’t wait for it to come.  Here’s the stats on what I experienced.

  • 4 visits over 3 weekends
  • 1 special tour
  • 1 lecture
  • 434 pictures
  • 3 talks with the head orchid gardener
  • 8 orchids added to my collection
  • 1 bag of sphagnum moss gifted to me
  • countless hours of joy in the company of orchids

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One of the interesting things I’ve learned about orchids is that they can be found in every single color except black.  They are one of the very few plants that can naturally produce a true blue bloom.  One of the exhibit rooms in the greenhouse had a lovely display of orchids grouped by color.  I’ve tried to mimic that in the collage pictures of this post.  The orchids range from dark purple to true pink, to a yellow/pink mix of hues pictured above.  The bottom right is a lycaste orchid, which I first saw last year and I love it because such a delicate pink.

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Then they merge into all yellow orchids.  Just like liquid sunshine.  The upper right ladyslippers were some of my favorites in this show.  They had long twisted petals of a pinkish hue that drooped down from the main flower like a mustache.   I photographed them an embarrassing number of times.

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Some of the most fascinating orchids are those with green blooms.  My opinion was only further reinforced by seeing so many green ladyslippers.  These are my very favorite orchids, and yes, it is because almost all of these are forest/woodland flowers.  The ones on the top left are a variety called “Bulldog” because they have been bred for extra broad petals.  The ones on the top right make my heart all a flutter because I have a weakness for the striped varieties.  This one with the white and green was especially striking.  The ladyslipper on the bottom left also is white and green but with a bit of bronze burnishing on her petals which make her quite the belle of the show.

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And finally, the orchids fade into white – a soothing and striking color.  The bottom left is a ladyslipper about to open.  The orchids in bottom center were among the tiny Japanese orchids on display – each bloom was about the size of my fingernail.  And the bottom right was perhaps the greatest surprise of the show.  This is Darwin’s orchid, from Africa.  It was in a display in the African galleries and the plantings were all of African decent.  The Darwin orchid is famed for the story that it was sent to Charles Darwin (who also was obsessed with orchids) and he proposed that only a moth with an exceptionally long proboscis could be its pollinator.  If you look closely at the photograph, you’ll see a long green stem-like structure underneath the bloom.  Nectar collects at the base of that spur.  Darwin died long before any such moth was discovered but 21 years after his death, the elusive moth was discovered  – the Madagascar sphinx moth – with a proboscis of 12-13″!  This is just one of the spellbinding stories that fill the history and biology of orchids.  My favorite book on orchids is Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen and it is full of entertaining and riveting stories of adventure, lust, lunacy, crime, and the strangest ice cream made from orchid roots…..

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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2 Responses to Gift #1154: Orchid Fever

  1. Christy Herbert says:

    So beautiful. Yes, this time of year we need to see something green and growing!

  2. Sarah Sieradzki says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful photographs. Cindy and I visit the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s orchid show every February through early March, and we take 100’s of photos too. The colors, shapes, and variety of fragrances are so inspirational–especially in the depth of winter.

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