Barb and I finished our week of flower fun with a visit to Longwood Garden’s for their annual orchid event. Here are some of the pictures I took there. Disclaimer: I’m an engineer and an amateur writer, not a photographer. I just really like taking pictures of flowers and I’m happy that I finally have something to do with at least some of the photos I take at gardens.
Barb and I went to the Philly Flower show in early March. She didn’t speak this year, but wandering around the exhibition hall was exactly the break from winter that we both needed! This year’s theme was a 1960’s-inspired flower power and all of the colorful flowers would lift anyone’s spirits.
Waldor Orchids is always a favorite!
Waldor Orchids, orchid growers from Linwood, New Jersey, always does a stunning display each year and this year was no different! My photos don’t do it justice, so I’ll try my best to describe the display. The base was a flat pool died black with pedestals of orchids and bromeliads. The pedestal in the center rotated and some of the outer pedestals had mirrors. I believe their display was named Kaleidoscope and I think they definitely nailed it.
Barb works closely with Waldor Orchids for plant and potting materials for a lot of her classes. They’re a great group of people and fantastic orchid growers!
Barb's orchid won first place!
Barb entered two orchids in the Master Class competition at the flower show and one won first place! The other orchid was not a winner but we’re still proud of it anyway.
The Philadelphia Flower Show's first Youth Orchid competition is a big hit!
Barb’s Junior Flower Show contestants also had their orchids judged in the Philly Flower Show. She’s been working at two schools in Philadelphia with about fifty elementary and high school students to raise and show orchids. I was only tangentially involved in the project, but it was still incredibly exciting to see their orchids on display at the show! For more information about the Junior Flower Show, check out Barb’s page on it.
I’ll admit the title might be a little misleading. “Professionals” is a bit of an exaggeration because professionals have degrees in horticulture and greenhouses with temperature controls and light regulation that make fiddling with flower timing eerily precise. This post is filled with Barb’s at-home hacks for altering flower timing when you don’t have fancy equipment.
Healthy orchids tend to flower at the same time every year. It’s crazy, I know, but weirdly true. If you buy a flowering orchid in March and raise it well, it will most likely flower again the following March. However, you can fiddle with the timing a bit, particularly after the bud spike has begun growing.
Getting back to orchids, this temperature dependence is the same reason we can alter bud spike development by changing the temperature. Cooling your orchid down will slow down bud spike development because the chemical processes that need to happen to create the bud spike slow down. Conversely, increasing the air temperature will speed up those reactions and get your plant to flower faster. The key here is to make small changes. Nothing too crazy. Sudden, drastic temperature changes will overstress your plant, possibly to the point that it drops the bud spike entirely.
Speeding Up Flowering:
When it’s needed: If you need a plant to bloom earlier.
How it’s done: Barb had to do this recently because a plant she entered in the Philadelphia International Flower Show was not open the day before she had to take it down to Philly for judging.
The bud was nearly open, so to give it an extra nudge, Barb set the plant on a heating pad the night before. That photo on the right is what she woke up to the following morning! Some important things to point out: (1) The heating pad was on its lowest setting. The goal is just to warm up the plant a bit, not bake it. (2) The orchid is not sitting directly on top of the heating pad. Barb just flipped a dry tray upside down and set the pot on top. That way, she was only heating the air around the plant rather than cooking the pot and the roots. (3) This worked overnight because the bud was already very close to opening. Tighter buds and less developed bud spikes will require more time.
Slowing Down Flowering:
When it’s needed: If you have an orchid that is already flowering and you want to extend the life of those flowers. Or, if you want to slow down bud development to delay flowering.
How it’s done: To slow down flower development, just cool the plant down. Barb has a couple methods that she uses depending on how long she needs to stall development. For small changes, she just uses a bow window in her living room, pictured on the left. The glass surrounding the plant on three sides cools it down more overnight than sitting further away from the windows. Barb also turned a spare bedroom into another cool room for orchids. She partially closed the heating vents in this room and keeps the door shut so the room stays ~5F cooler than the rest of the house. The room still gets excellent evening sunshine. I’ll give you the same warning as with warming the plant up, you don’t want to make any drastic changes to temperature. Most orchids can stand temperatures down to ~50F, but they don’t like sudden changes, like from 70F to 50F in two minutes. If you are going to move an orchid to a cooler temperature, do it incrementally. For instance, Barb may inch a plant closer to her bow windows over the course of a couple days. Or she may leave the spare room’s door open to warm the room up before she moves the plant into the room. Then, she’ll slowly close the door to cool the room down while the orchid is in to allow the orchid to acclimate.
Discover the tasty and enigmatic Vanilla orchid in Barb’s latest article
How often have you had vanilla ice cream or added some vanilla extract to your favorite cake? Have you ever considered where that comes from?
The Vanilla orchid is one of the oldest orchids still around today. Because it’s so old, Vanilla orchids have some pretty unique features. Rather than the stacking leaf shape typical of other monopodials or pseudobulbs like sympodial orchids, Vanilla plants are vines that climb up trees or rocks in their native environment.
In this month’s issue of Orchids magazine, Barb tackles some of the most common questions and misconceptions about the Vanilla orchid. She takes readers back in time to the Late Cretaceous when the Vanilla orchid first arose and moves through the millennia to cover the full history of how vanilla became an internationally popular spice. In her article, Barb covers Vanilla’s natural habitat and how it grows. She also discusses its unique flowering and pollination requirements and how those drive the price of natural vanilla extract up so high.
Barb also identifies the dangers Vanilla orchids are facing with their bee pollinators heading for extinction. What will happen to these ancient orchids if their pollinator dies?
To learn more about the future fate of Vanilla orchids and pick up some fun new tidbits of orchid trivia, check out Barb’s March article in Orchids Magazine.
AOS members can see the magazine here: http://www.aos.org/about-us/orchids-magazine.aspx
If you’re not an AOS member, consider joining! https://secure.aos.org/join/membership.aspx
Jen Schmidt is a PhD graduate from Cornell University who, with the help of her mother (Barb), is turning into a crazy plant lady at a young age.