What’s Love Got to Do With It ? Confessions of Lust, Longing & Orchid Obsession…

February 14th, 2011 § Comments Off on What’s Love Got to Do With It ? Confessions of Lust, Longing & Orchid Obsession… § permalink

It Always Starts so Innocently… Water Droplets on a Pure White Phalenopsis

When I say ‘Valentine’s Day’, do you think red, long stemmed roses? Many people do. After all, roses certainly are lovely and romantic. But sexy? When I think about Valentine’s Day —and that naughty, naked, imp Cupid: flitting about and firing off poison darts laced with love potion number nine— I think about lust, longing, and mind-melting passion. And roses? Well, they seem just a little bit too buttoned-up for all that.

Now the orchid —there is a sexy flower! Exotic, fashionable and elusive; if orchids could speak, they would whisper blush-inducing phrases in breathy, foreign accents. Suggestive looking? Oh yes. And to the insatiable orchidophile, this seductive flower is a much more accurate symbol of passion and desire than a prim-and-proper rose…

Paphiopedilum orchilla ‘Chilton’ at Lyman Conservatory

Phalenopsis Beside the Bath

Paphiopedilum primulinum at Lyman Conservatory

My long-standing love affair with orchids began rather innocently —sparked some years ago, by a pure-white Phalenopsis— and slowly, it has morphed into something I can only describe as obsession. The barely-restrained desire I feel for these plants is most evident on visits to the local conservatory, where —instead of relaxing and enjoying the warm, tropical environment— I find myself breaking out in a cold sweat; mentally-mortgaging my home in mad pursuit of the ultimate orchid house. From the common, easy-to-grow Cymbidiums, Oncidiums, Phalenopsis and Paphiopedilums, to the luminous-violet, musky-scented Bollea coelestis and the fiercely-fantastic Draculas: I love them all.

A Lusty-Looking Cymbidium (C. ‘Tiny Tiger’ ) at Lyman Conservatory

Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow. And while it’s true that some of them are indeed, quite challenging —even for experts— the degree of difficulty varies by species. Choose your love wisely, and you won’t be disappointed! Phaelenopsis are not only inexpensive as orchids go, but they are among the easiest to care for and grow —there’s a reason you find them at Home Depot— and they also offer some of the most seductive, beautifully colored flowers. Phalenopsis are tolerant of low-light conditions, which makes them a good choice for those of us living up north. This Asian tropical does like moist air, so place her on a bathroom vanity or in a steamy, humidifier-enhanced boudoir and watch her glow. The roots of this plant should be kept moist, but never soggy —bark mixtures are a good growing medium— and a liquid fertilizer (one intended for orchids and other ephiphytes is best) applied weekly will result in enhanced vigor, and healthy growth. Cool fall temperatures trigger Phalenopsis’ bloom (50 F or so), and recreating these conditions will increase the likelihood of repeat flowering.

Of course, not everyone loves epiphytes the way I do, but they certainly are sexy. So, if you are looking to inspire a bit of passion in your Valentine, consider a trip to the orchid room of your local conservatory later today. Or better yet, why not wrap up an exotic Paphiopedilum or Phalenopsis, and send a message that’s just a bit more racy than a rose-is-a-rose-is-a-rose….

Happy Valentine’s Day xo Michaela

Now Here’s a Come-Hither Glance, If I Ever Saw One!

And for the true Orchidophile, consider giving the one and only ‘little black book’: William Cullina’s Understanding Orchids

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Prelude to Spring: Getting Intoxicated at the Smith College Bulb Show…

March 18th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Tulipa © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Lyman Conservatory, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

Situated in one of the prettiest small towns in America -Northampton, Massachusetts- Smith College’s crown jewel, Lyman Conservatory, is a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. This beautiful oasis has always been one of my favorite horticultural destinations. When I was in college, (at the University of Massachusetts, just a short hop across the river from Smith), I spent a great deal of time at Lyman Conservatory and the Smith College Botanic Garden. One of the joys of furthering your education in the five-college area is the number of shared-resources, (known as the five college consortium), between schools. This spectacular glasshouse at Smith is one inter-collegiate-perk I didn’t miss, and I continue to enjoy it as often as possible.

Every year in March, Smith College presents a very popular spring bulb show. Although the theme remains the same, the annual displays and tandem-exhibits vary from year to year. This time around, the spring the show included an opening lecture by Lynden Miller, author of Parks, Plants, and People: Beautifying the Urban Landscape, and continues with an on-going exhibition of photographs, The Inner Beauty of Flowers, (PDF catalogue link), by retired radiologist Merrill C. Raikes MD.  I will write more about the Raikes exhibit next week. Overall the show is extraordinary, and well worth visiting if you are in New England. But beware: the visual and olfactory stimulation proved quite intoxicating…

Smith College 2010 Bulb Show

Although spring-flowering bulbs are planted in the autumn, now is a great time to pull out a calendar or garden notebook and jot down design notes and ideas for next year’s show. I don’t know about you, but I am always far too busy in September to think about ordering bulbs. Usually, I order my spring-blooming bulbs before July in order to secure the best selection, and price. For example, you can save a bundle by pre-ordering “The Works”, (a top-shelf daffodil mix), before July 1st, from White Flower Farm, in advance. Attending bulb shows is a great way to familiarize yourself with newer bulb introductions as well as other spring-blooming beauties. Also, keep your eye out for some of the lovely plant-partners that will complement spring flowering bulbs. As foliage begins to yellow, it’s important to allow your bulbs to die back naturally. Never clip or braid or tie up bulb foliage. The best way to conceal the unattractive decay is with large-leafed companion plants, (think ferns, coral bells, hosta, rogersia, etc).

I will be paying Lyman Conservatory a few more visits over the coming weeks, so there will be more images and thoughts to share. To start, here are some photos I snapped at the bulb show. The experience may require a ‘caution, potentially addictive‘ warning label…

Tulipa II © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Fritillaria © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Tulipa III © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Primula © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Camellia © 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Smith College Bulb Show © TGE

On my shopping list: Bulb by Anna Pavord -Beautiful inspiration

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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