Orchids aRn’t us


Orchid names don’t roll off the palate. Try pronouncing phalaenopsis, paphiopedilum, dendrobium, phragmapedium and oncidium quickly and you’ll find your tongue in knots. Try making the orchids you once fell in love with re-bloom, orchids you carefully transported from a nursery into your house, and lovingly admired until the last blossom had fallen, and you’ll imagine you’re waiting for Godot.  And we all know that Godot never arrived.

I have always been fascinated by orchids and have lived with different kinds in hopes that sooner or later the blooms I loved when I bought them, and which delighted me so long ago that I have forgotten what they looked like, will someday return.  One time I was so frustrated with the Rip Van Winkle-length naps several of my orchids were taking that I latched onto a service guaranteed to make them re-bloom.  All you had to do was deliver your uncooperative, undisciplined, disobedient plants to a particular nursery, which would send them home only after they had returned to the beautiful state they were in when you bought them.  I told people I had sent my orchids to summer camp once I figured out how much each orchid’s vacation was costing. This was based on the quarterly bills that started appearing even as my obstinate orchids happily dozed in a tropical, green-house climate.  When I fully understood the total cost of this intervention, like other parents of campers, I found myself calling them home suddenly, but unlike other parents I eventually transformed my campers into compost.



Three newer orchids had been sitting in sloth on the fireplace mantle for months when I saw an announcement in the paper last Saturday that an area nursery would be hosting an orchid lecture.  The speaker was very knowledgeable and like enthusiastic experts in any field dismissed concerns we had based on past experience.  “If they aren’t blooming, you just need to change the conditions. Move them to a different room, let them access light coming from a different direction, water them less, water them more, stress them out.  The right course of action will make any orchid bloom.”  What he didn’t say was that for some orchids transporting them to the Amazon jungle was likely to be the only right course of action.

Thanks to the lecture, our three persistent non-bloomers have been shuffled off to the upstairs bathroom and four newcomers have settled into their predecessors’ homes downstairs. Despite the cockiness of the speaker about our ability to keep these new orchids a-blooming, it’s pretty clear that the nursery was trying to send a different message in telling us that we could return those we couldn’t get to re-bloom for a twenty percent discount on our next orchid purchase.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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3 Responses to Orchids aRn’t us

  1. Karen Clark says:

    I thought Horst Momber was an orchid expert – perhaps he could help you

  2. EGN says:

    Love it! I remember summer camp for the orchids and to think that in nature — they grow like weeds? Maybe they are not intended to be domesticated house plants.

  3. Jill Turnell says:

    You have confirmed what I always suspected – don’t buy those orchids! They are so pretty and always blooming – but I had a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t be able to keep them blooming – so I have never succumbed. Now I never will. (Now that I think of it, Joanna Omstead has orchids and I think they do bloom. I’ll ask her what her secret is.)

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