Afraid to grow orchids?

The Sooke Garden Club hosts a orchid expert at next meeting

  • Feb. 15, 2012 1:00 p.m.

Orchids are the topic at the Sooke Garden Club's next meeting.

During the 30 years I lived in Saskatchewan, it never occurred to me to try growing orchids. A neighbour grew them, though — pots sitting on gravel under lights in an alcove in his small 1950s bungalow. His collection of a dozen or so plants varied in size (although none were huge), growth habit and colour, and they bloomed for months on end. They were mesmerizing.

Maybe it was the delicacy of the flowers that intimidated me. Maybe it was their obvious need for ‘special’ treatment clashing with my belief that all plants are created equal and deserve equal (okay, and minimal) care. Grow lights? Gravel? Bark? Misting? Surely only a small, elite segment of the population had the wherewithal to grow orchids — the Nero Wolfes of the world. In any case, it was obvious to me that such exotic specimens would never be happy under my care.

Nevertheless, about six years ago I finally summoned up the courage to buy not one, but two orchids: a purplish phalaenopsis, the ubiquitous moth orchid, which passed away after three years of heavy-duty blooming; and an intoxicating vanilla-scented zygopetalum, which remains alive and perfumes the entire bathroom when it flowers. I now have a cymbidium orchid as well. It’s showing a number of healthy buds, leading me, perhaps irrationally, to be optimistic about its future.

Fortunately, not everyone is timid when it comes to growing orchids. Joe Chow certainly isn’t. Joe has been growing them for 22 years and has been a busy member of the Victoria Orchid Society for just as long. Like most people, he started with a few orchids, growing them inside his house. But then it happened: he became addicted.

“The addiction didn’t start until year three or four. In the early years I would buy anything that looked attractive. But as time passed I found that there are orchids that do not do well for me. I now grow mostly three genera, and I use a greenhouse,” states Chow.

Joe Chow is this month’s speaker at the Sooke Garden Club. His presentation, “Orchid Culture” – How to get the best from these beauties, will focus on the basics of growing orchids in the home — watering, light, temperature, humidity, fertilizing and repotting. A question and answer period will follow, and Joe will also look at and discuss problem plants that club members take to the meeting.

Note to the orchid novice: There are thousands of orchid species, so becoming a successful orchid grower may well have less to do with adjusting conditions to suit particular types and more to do with choosing types that suit the conditions in which they will be living. Be brave.

Please join the Sooke Garden Club on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., in the Sooke Legion Hall.

The meeting will also feature a Parlour Show and the Annual Seed Exchange.

New members are always welcome. Membership is $15 for the calendar year and can be purchased at the door. For more information, e-mail   to: sookegardenclub@yahoo.ca or phone Jane at 250-646-2573.

Submitted by Loretta Fritz

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