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Breathing Space!!

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Monday, July 13, 2020

My DS (who works in far northern Ontario as a bush pilot, and whom I haven't seen since Christmas and miss very very much) sent me a glorious orange cattleya orchid for Mother's Day. The blossoms smelled wonderful, kind of coconut/pineapple perfume . . . and I'd certainly never seen one like this before. Some Google research persuaded me it's probably a "Netrasiri Starbrite".

I put it on a small table in the second floor hall, next to a favourite reading chair and north facing Gothic window. And it bloomed steadfastly until just about a week ago, when the last blossoms finally fell.

The container was most definitely crowded (yup, I suspect it may have been a bit pricey and for that reason perhaps hadn't been purchased) and required repotting. But of course I didn't want to attempt that until the plant was resting. And since I've never done this before, I watched a few Youtube videos to get some info about the appropriate protocols.

Saturday I ventured out, masked and sanitized, to the plant nursery. The first one, closest to the house, had no orchid medium at all. Sadly, the business is looking as if it may nor survive the pandemic. However, I really appreciated the staff person steering me away from a coir mix which I thought might work.

The second nursery (much larger, the source of my marvellous geranium and scaveola hanging baskets and window boxes, cheerfully delivered to the house in late May) did have a couple bags labelled for orchids. Pine bark and coir and a few other ingredients. And: I was also able to find a couple suitable pots: plastic is recommended for these plants because they love to be moist. I chose a dark orange.

The repotting medium needed soaking for 24 hours. I filled the bag with water and left it in the laundry room sink over night.

And yesterday tackled the job!!

No kidding: the pot was stuffed full of surface bulb-like rhizomes. Impossible to slide the original plant out: I had to slit the pot and peel it away. And inside . . . no medium left at all among the jam-packed grey-white roots, many of which looked quite squashed. However, I could see hopeful fresh green shoots trying to grow from two of the bulbs.

Having spread newspapers on the laundry room counter, I got out my bread knife and bravely sawed the clump into two . . . making sure there was one fresh shoot on each half. And I trimmed back some of the most withered-looking roots fairly drastically as well.

I needed to drain the potting medium . . . which of course required me getting out the colander and a huge bowl and creating quite a commotion in the double kitchen sink too!

I tamped some of the soaked medium into the bottom of each new pot, and placed a plant on top. And then tamped more medium all around each plant quite firmly, supporting it into place . . . optimistically inserting one of the bamboo stakes into each new pot for support of future flower stalks!! A careful watering, using some of the dark brown liquid saved from the draining of the medium and . . . . I could just about hear each plant heaving a sigh of relief, wriggling its toes: AHHHHHHHHHHHH, breathing space!!

Cattleya, I've learned, are epiphytes which grow in the top of tall tropical trees, enjoying quite brilliant sunshine and high humidity. Unlike those orchids which grow closer to the jungle floor and prefer dappled or indirect light. Such as the Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) I'd brought home from the office. It's still blooming very well in the indirect light from my east floor office window close by this computer. That second flower stalk bud, however, is waiting modestly for its turn . . . no signs of growth there yet!!

So: I chose my third floor south facing windowsill, and placed a tray underneath . . . when I can get some pebbles, I'll lift up the pots and put some water in the tray to sustain humidity.

And then . . . yeah, there was a little clean up to accomplish!! Sinks, floors, counters in kitchen and in laundry room!!

This morning the two new plants are looking happy and healthy . . and I'll be keeping a close eye on them. In ten days or so, I'll begin to water with some orchid fertilizer. Apparently cattleya can take four to seven years to bloom from seed but I'm hoping not to wait that long. It would be very nice to coax these established plants into bloom again, and I'll do my best!!.

So nice for me too . . . AHHHHHH again . . . to have my own breathing space to take care of these very enjoyable and slightly time consuming and messy messy messy tasks!!.

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