At one of our recent monthly meetings a few of us were discussing where our passion for orchids started. It was fascinating to see the variety of ways these fascinating plants wrapped their plump tendrils around our hearts, minds and wallets and hooked us for life. So we decided to share some of these stories with you.
As we have just created a new website, who better to start our profile series than with our webmaster, Trevor Walshe.
How I fell under the spell of orchids
In 1990 we purchased a house in Chatswood West. The previous owner had grown a few cymbidiums and Dendrobium speciosums and offered them to Carole. When we moved in, most of the better cymbidiums were gone. Turns out a neighbour helped himself, between the previous owner moving out on Friday and us moving in on Saturday. He just put them under a tree and didn’t do anything more. Unsurprisingly, they died.
Anyway, with what was left, I thought I would ‘improve’ their growing conditions and made every mistake known. They mostly died. So I got to thinking, there has to be a better way. I looked up orchid societies and lo and behold, I found the North Shore Orchid Society. We joined the society and as they say, the rest is history.
I find the variety of orchids, their adaptation to local conditions, the symbiosis with specific insects to be an engrossing pastime. Not that I get as much time as I would like to devote to looking after my orchids.
Orchids can be tough, in their preferred environment. I’ve seen Dendrobium kingianum orchids growing on a rockface near Gloucester with its blistering summer heat and often near-freezing winters. I have seen orchids growing in New Zealand’s mountains, where they would be covered in snow for four to five months of the year. I’ve seen them growing on Mount Kinabalu and several other places in Borneo. Of course, anywhere you go in Thailand, you will see soft cane dendrobiums growing in half coconut shells. If you want to see Miltoniopsis to die for, visit the botanic gardens in Dalat in the mountain country of Vietnam, simply stunning.
Near our home on the Central Coast you can wander through the bush and see a number of different varieties of orchids at various times of the year. Look but don’t be tempted to ‘rescue’ a sample, some terrestrial types will only grow in symbiosis with the local eucalypt trees.
I have the understanding, that more orchids die from too much or incorrect care than too little care, so when I give orchids away (to encourage more people to take up the interest), they often are worried about how to look after the orchid. I say ‘Shower them with neglect!’. So, if you provide a good growing media, a little fertilizer, some water if it is dry and for most types, some dappled light (hang it off a tree) and you are in business. And, of course, think about joining a local orchid society.