Tuesday, December 04, 2007

For color in winter, try orchids

Though it's technically fall, winter weather has descended upon Portland. We had our first big storm over the weekend, with high winds and enough rain to cause considerable flooding. And it's been cold, dark, and dreary for several weeks. When daytime highs don't break 50, it's winter, regardless of what the calendar says. With the dark days and no more pretty fall leaves, I appreciate any spots of color I can find. Aside from the beautyberry and one camellia, there's nothing but green and brown in the yard, but my kitchen windowsill is starting to look like a tropical paradise. There's nothing like orchids to brighten up a Northwest winter.

I don't know what species this one is. I got it on sale after it had finished blooming, and the tag was missing.

Oncidium Mtssa Royal Robe 'Jerry's Pick'

Cymbidium, variety unknown. I forgot to bring it in from the unheated greenhouse before the cold weather started, so it developed some brown spots on the blooms. Normally it's pure yellow.
Yellow cymbidium with some ugly brown spots

I don't claim to be an expert on growing orchids, but the common ones do well for me--better than most houseplants, in fact. I have a couple oncidiums, a phalaenopsis or two, and my treasured cymbidium. All bloom at least once per year, even though I usually forget to fertilize them and sometimes forget to water them regularly. I have all but the cymbidium in an east window above my kitchen sink, so they get bright morning sun and lots of humidity from the sink and dishwasher. The cymbidium lives in front of a south window during the cold months and outside in part sun the rest of the year. I've tried orchids in my office, which gets great light, but they don't do well. I don't think there's enough humidity for them there.

The one problem with orchids? They're expensive (like that $99 cymbidium I mentioned in my last post). But there are ways to get them for less than the going rate:

  • Buy them after they've bloomed. You don't get instant gratification, but you'll pay 1/2 to 2/3 the regular price. I got my cymbidium from Home Depot for $15 when its original price was $30.
  • Try a home and garden show. I got some of my at Portland's annual Yard, Garden and Patio show from an orchid grower based in Hawaii. They were a little smaller than the ones you typically see at the florist's, and they weren't blooming. But they were about $7 -- not bad.
  • Try eBay. I just looked and found some good deals. If only I had a bigger windowsill...

So, if you have a sunny kitchen windowsill, get yourself some orchids. They'll brighten your winter days and impress your friends.


Meg said...

Soooo pretty! This post has definitely inspired me to give them a try. I always thought orchids were way out of my league! :)

Anonymous said...

For affordable plants, there are lots of vendors other than E-bayers. Check out for plant sources in every state. Shipping charges can seem high, but often the plants are enough cheaper that it's very much worth it, and some places have 'no shipping charges' sales once or twice a year. Andy's Orchids, Tropical Orchid Farm, and Oak Hill Gardens are some of my favorites, especially if you want species.

Janet said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for the tip! I'll check it out. I need to feed my cymbidium addiction.