The Living Dead

by Colleen Rochette

More than one post in a month, mmmmm, it must be spring. Happy Vernal Equinox! I will bypass the figurative language concerning the weather and make this sweet and to the point.

As an introduction to my fascination, I thought that I would offer you a fun tidbit. We do not own a television, but I do watch some shows on our computer from time to time. The one television show that I love is The Walking Dead. I absolutely adore zombies.

Thunia marshalliana, Habenaria rhodocheila ‘Orange’ and Monnierara Magic ‘Witchcraft’ have been ‘dead’ aka resting for the past 5 months. This seasonal sleepy time obviously occurs elsewhere in nature too. Bears like to take long, fatty winter naps and outdoor wildflowers and garden bulbs get their rest as well. This sort of cold-induced dormancy and hibernation makes me think of the living dead. I find it so fascinating that plants and other living beings can alter their life processes in such a way.

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I purchased Thunia marshalliana in early October of 2014. At this point she had a few leaves, but she was ready to be tucked into bed. This particular eBay seller normally imports their orchids from Ecuagenera, an orchid supplier in Ecuador. I have purchased from them before and sometimes it take a bit of patience and love to make these ladies comfortable.

At this point in the season, Thunia was shedding her leaves upon arrival. Nothing was to be expected except for her oncoming dormancy. When I tugged her out of her pot she was completely root bound. These roots were fresh from the recent growing season. Unsure of what to do, I decided to place her in a larger 6″ pot and stuffed some sphagnum around her. I also used a ridiculously large dowel to support the growth from the current year. I was not going to get ahead of myself, I had some time to think.

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About 3 weeks ago, this sleeping beauty decided to awaken. I examined her new growth with excitement and then let her be. To water or not to water? I skipped off, choosing to look into this very soon.

Last night I decided to do some research to see how my Thunia should be re-potted and I was overwhelmed that there were so many methods. Unfortunately, the cow dung and the leaf litter was not an option at the moment. Some folks repeatedly mentioned “soil.” Others grew her in sphagnum and worm tea is not my cup of tea quite yet. I decided to go with my gut feeling.

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I had a few bags of different potting media in our studio and picked out what I thought would be suitable. In response to all of the information that I read, I prepared my own little mix. Ancient forest hummus from Alaska (so in love with this stuff,) pine bark mix, a gritty mix with small granite chips and hydro leca.

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As I had mentioned, this orchid was very root-bound. Once I un-potted her, I found that these roots had died during her dormancy. I cleansed my scissors and got to work.

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Pictured above, the debris from our late night date.

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Alongside the larger growth, I found a second growth getting ready to start. I cut off all of the old roots from the previous year and removed the very thin husks from the older cane. After these new growths mature, this tall one will die back and shrivel up. Mature canes on this orchid usually do not last for more than two growing seasons.

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Thunia marshalliana is now in her new pot. In consideration of the roots that were removed, I decided to put her in a smaller 4″ clay pot. I placed a hearty layer of rinsed hydro leca at the bottom and then filled the pot with the mix that I made. I also opted use a long wire as a stake. When she begins to grow quickly, extra support may be necessary. Although Thunia will not be watered until the new growths are a few inches tall, she will probably receive a misting or two to moisten the top of her media.

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Hello lanky green friend! I will say that I adore the blue tinge of her greenery. And yes, on a celebratory seasonal zombie note, I do suggest The Serpent and the Rainbow, a film directed by Wes Craven that was made in 1988.

Will share some of my spring orchid arrivals with you soon.

With Love,

Colleen

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