Within the Igloo

by Colleen Rochette

Winter-2013-Orchid-Garden-1A few days ago, we stumbled into March and soon enough we will be blessed with daylight savings time, followed by the spring solstice. Goodness, this winter has been long! But despite the frequent snow squalls and the piles of white powder and ice that accumulate upon our city sidewalks, these chilly days have also been rather warm and bright.

Before departing for work on these cold mornings, I stand in our entryway and wrap my scarf tightly around my neck. I kiss my husband goodbye, pet the felines and gaze over at the morning sun that begins to pour through our windows. The humidifier buzzes quietly alongside the small fan as Ora and Uni patter down the hallway. While absorbing the quiet din, my heart sighs; there is so much life within our home. A dense, beautiful energy is always present.

Winter-2013-Orchid-Garden-2The first step into the brisk air each morning can be biting. But with a turn of the cheek, each delicate ray of winter sun is soaked up. Yes, life continues to hum along.

Due to my past experience with regular house plants and outdoor gardening, I have always thought that the colder months meant no plant activity and no blossoms. For some orchids, such as a handful of my Dendrobiums and my Monnierara, this is indeed true. Otherwise, this is definitely not the case. To my surprise, most of my orchids have been able to flourish regularly during the varied levels of humidity and temperature. Yes, we are trying our best.

After Halloween, it was time to think about accommodating a few additional special requests. Some of the orchids in my collection would need a little beauty sleep. This was my first winter caring for a larger portion of my collection and to be honest, such a task appeared daunting. I did not know which orchids would need to rest in order to induce flowering in the springtime. It was very strange to think about not watering some of my favorite orchids for months, or to even ignore them completely.

As I began to research each individual orchid in my collection, it seemed as if only bits of general information were available. There were no extensive lists that named every sleepy winter orchid. Eventually, I came across some helpful information. I read that if the roots on an orchid had shiny green tips, then the orchid was not dormant. Well, that made sense. By taking a moment to observe the roots and any growth on my orchids, I was able to easily determine which orchids were approaching dormancy. This made further research much, much easier.

Temperature requirements were a completely different issue that also had to be addressed. I do not monitor temperature and humidity too crazily because there are only a few ways to control these variables is our apartment. 1. Turn on the humidifier. 2. Fill the humidity tray 3. Open or close the windows. If something works, then it works. To cater to the lower temperatures that some of my resting orchids desired, I moved them into my bathroom. Even though the bathroom receives bright, southern light, the tile cools this area significantly. Only time will tell if these sleeping beauties were truly happy this winter.

While some of my orchids have been resting, my other orchids have been happily embracing this season. Daily maintenance and observation are still consistent, but fertilizer and water are given at lower levels or when needed. There have been a few blossoms, some new acquisitions and varying projects underway. I wanted to take a moment to share a few of these gems with you, accompanied by some of my cell phone snapshots.

Phalaenopsis Taisuco Glory-Bloom-March-2014-1Phalaenopsis Taisuco Glory x Be Tris ‘#32′ has unfolded her blossoms yet again. She began to develop a spike in early December. Although her spike only bears three blossoms, it will probably put out a few more flowers after the initial blooms fade. There are a few tiny ‘mittens’ present, waiting for their turn to mature and be-bop under the lime light.

Phalaenopsis-Taisuco-Glory-Bloom-March-2014-2Taisuco Glory is the only Phalaenopsis of mine that remains in the bathroom during the winter. She has ‘her spot’ upon the wall where she is constantly producing new roots and leaves. She also blossoms freely throughout the year, never tiring.

Taisuco Glory was a gift from my mother several years ago and is the eldest of the bunch. Unfortunately, my other Phalaenopsis plants did not bloom this year. I have a feeling that they may have been a little unsettled and decidedly skipped this blooming season. At one point I did harbor a love-hate relationship with these orchids, but I have decided to ‘man up’ and provide them with better care this year.

Phalenopsis-PartyIn an effort to redeem myself, I adopted one of these white NOID Phalaenopsis orchids from work. A flat of these orchids was purchased for an event and these Plain Janes were in need of new homes afterward. Free NOID orchid? Errrrrrr, sure, okay. I re-potted one of these gals in a vanda basket with some fresh sphagnum. She is currently hanging with the rest of the Phal brood in my living room.

Paphiopedilum-Transdoll-Bloom-Feb-2014-3 As my Phalaenopsis buds began to mature, Paphiopedilum Transdoll was also preparing a surprise. While watering her one day I noticed a bud emerging from her crown. This was completely unexpected.

This poor orchid must have had the worst year ever. Shortly after receiving her in the mail last winter, I had noticed red dots around the base of her leaves. I then rubbed these areas with a white cloth and red smudges appeared. Suspecting that some sort of mite may be present, I cleansed her thoroughly with alcohol and then rinsed. This process was repeated multiple times.

Additionally, I had also re-potted her on quite a few occasions. At one point she was housed in a beautiful, glazed pot. It was narrow and deep, so perfect for a Paphiopedilum. Eventually, I found out that these pots were terrible for orchids. If the pot is glazed on the interior, it can ruin an orchid’s roots. I suppose I can say that I had lost faith in Paphiopedilums until now.

Paphiopedilum-Transdoll-Bloom-Feb-2014-2Paphiopedilum Transdoll’s flower spike matured and unfurled very quickly. The fuzzy hairs that appeared along the neck and the flower bud were so interesting.

Paphiopedilum-Transdoll-Bloom-Feb-2014-1Rumor has it that Paphiopedilum Transdoll is a multi-floral orchid, producing a succession of gorgeous blossoms one right after another. While expressing my sympathies for the torture that she had endured, I could only appreciate her weary efforts this time around. A huge, single blossom quickly developed alongside of a new, healthy growth this December. “Hi, hi, hi! Over here! Yes Colleen, I’m still alive.”

Mum-Winter-Orchids-2014 After some of my orchids had settled in for a long winter nap, Christmas was already here. This meant that I had the opportunity to visit my Mum and drool over her extensive orchid collection (I always get so excited!) After arriving, we always pour a glass of red wine and poke around her house, examining the array of new growth and hearty blossoms.

The image above is is a snapshot that I had taken of my Mum’s kitchen window from outside. Nothing like a little peep-peep voyeurism on a brisk, winter night. A small portion of her orchid collection has always hung above the sink…Until Santa came…

Mum-Orchid-House-1On Christmas morning, my Mum’s beau surprised her with her very own orchid cart. Once this was set up, a majority of her potted orchids were placed within their new, humid home.

Paphiopedilum-bellatulumDuring our holidays both orchid supplies and orchids were gifted. On a mission to find the perfect gift, my sister’s boyfriend expressed the desire to find an orchid for me.

In consideration of my recently renewed faith in Paphiopedilums, we thought that Paphiopedilum bellatulum would be a nice addition to my collection. My Mum also slipped a little gift card from Orchids by Hausermann into the tree for me, but we will have to save the news of these recent arrivals for another post.

Orchid-Rescue-House-2While some of the newer, winter additions were bustling through the door, one of my little Dendrobium hemimelanoglossums was resting within a rescue tank. When I received this orchid earlier in the fall, it had no roots and it appeared to be dead. The seller sent me a healthy replacement plant, but I thought that I would try to revive this one before tossing it into the garbage pail.

In an effort to preserve this Dendrobium‘s cuteness, I made a small humidity tank for her to recover in. A narrow glass vase was used as the vessel and some hydroton and sphagnum moss were placed at the bottom. The media was kept moist to ensure that she was surrounded by constant humidity from the evaporating water.

Orchid-Rescue-House-1 After resting within the tank for about a month, a new shoot and several new roots had emerged. This photo was taken right before I removed Dendrobium hemimelanoglossum from the tank. This small fry was then reunited with her healthy sister upon a cork plaque. Today, the new shoot is about 2.5″ tall.

Ceratostylis-retisquama-Bloom-Reb-2014-1As my orchids begin to stir, my Ceratostylis rubra continues to blossom freely. I wrote about her briefly in my previous post. Since then, she has flowered two more times. Although her flowers are short-lived, their regular cheery appearances make it all worthwhile.

Oerstedella-centradenia-Arrival-Feb-2014In February, I purchased Oerstedella centradenia on eBay for a mere $19.00. She had been mounted on the exocarp of a coconut by her previous owner. She is beautiful; her thin, bamboo-like foliage, mounds of fat roots and precious little lavender flowers make my heart sing with delight. Oerstedella is known to produce keikis quite frequently. Each year they can be strapped down to the mount to promote the orchid to grow in a “bushier” fashion. Upon rising, I drench her roots each morning.

Monnierara-Magic-Witchcraft-Roots-Feb-2014Monnierara Magic ‘Witchcraft’ AM/AOS had not taken a sip of water all winter long, she has been dry and dormant. About two weeks ago I noticed a new shoot emerging from the base of her old pseudobulbs. The excitement stirred within me. She was alive! I let her rest for another week, waiting for her new roots to become longer. Finally, I pulled her from the container and trimmed away her old, dead roots. She was then re-potted in the same container and watered.

Dendrobium-kingianum-March-2014-1Last Spring one of my orchid vendor’s gave me a Dendrobium kingianum as a gift. This small orchid was mounted on cork and it is about 3″ tall. Although this orchid had produced many new pseudobulbs over the summer, she has not grown much taller.

A month ago, a larger Dendrobium kingianum caught my eye. This one was huge (and cheap!) The difference in size bewildered me. I summonsed her. Upon arrival, she was also in bud.

For the past few weeks Dendrobium kingianum has been flowering. Each morning I awaken to a strongly perfumed living room. Oh, heaven. I have not looked into this particular Dendrobium too much, but I am very curious if these two plants vary by size only due to age?

Dendrobium-kingianum-March-2014-2The photo above is of Dendrobium kingianum‘s cutie-patootie blooms. Her sparkly pastel palette is reminiscent of a kiss from Tinkerbell. The vivid colors on her lip are also so charming.

Renanthera-Kalsom-Red-Dragon-Vanda-Basket-1Amidst the excitement of blossoms and new orchid acquisitions, some re-homing needed to occur. Renanthera Kalsom ‘Red Dragon’ was originally living within a 6″ vanda basket and I had to keep her tied upright. Her height made her quite tipsy and she was constantly wobbling from side to side.

The other evening I sat down to construct a custom basket for her. I made it wide enough to accommodate the width of her bottom leaves and tall enough to help stabilize her. In order for an orchid to be truly happy, they need to be stable and secure.

Renanthera-Kalsom-Red-Dragon-Vanda-Basket-2Although the basket is quite large, only a small bit of sphagnum moss has been placed in the bottom. Each day the sphagnum moss dries out completely and it re-moistened either by watering or misting.

While constructing this, I forgot to even think about measuring the size of the finished basket. I was only focused on making sure that my orchid would be comfortable. When it was time to soak Renanthera the following day, the basket slid perfectly into my 5 gallon watering pail with no room to spare. Happy coincidence or pure intuition? I do not know.

Sophronitis-cerna-Grownth-Feb-2014And of course, there have been a few sphagnum transplants in my air garden as well. Here is a wet snapshot of my Sophronitis cernua. You could tell that it was time to remove the aging sphagnum moss from the mount. The moss had become slightly gray and tinged with green.

Removing old potting media is kind of like taking a band-aid off. You do not always know what to expect underneath, but sometimes the news is better than expected. Upon examination, Sophronitis cernua was literally glued to her mount. It felt good to take a peek underneath and then cover her roots with some fresh sphagnum.

On an even brighter note, Sophronitis cernua started to produce two additional pseudobulbs this winter. I have taken the utmost care not to let water sit within the new growths, hoping to prevent any sort of rot that may threaten these tender little babes.

Brassavola-Jimminey-Cricket-Roots-March-2014As we inch closer to spring I have become so excited by the energy emitted by my clan. New growths and new roots are appearing much more frequently now. Currently, my Brassavola Jimminey Cricket (above) is looking rather lavish.

As the days grow longer and warmer, I am sure that there will be plenty of updates to share. Until then, happy growing!