Here I was, about to repot an orchid as I would a common fern or a delicious monster. I’ve always wanted green thumbs but wanting isn’t quite the same as having. In my life, through acquiring plants, I have subjected many of them to premature deaths as a result of blind ignorance. I’ve tried reading gardening books, but when they start off with latin names and assume you already know all the plants already, I sort of zone out into a dreamlike state and I’ve been known to flip through pages, eyes watering like crazy, not taking in a single word of it.
Against all odds, I’ve had luck with orchids.
To my great interest at a local gardening centre, Van Hage in Great Amwell there was an Orchid tune up session in March that unfortunately I couldn’t attend but it got me all fired up to repot my two survivors. A little time rolled around and I visited Van Hage last Thursday and in my infinite ignorance bought only a bag of orchid bark, orchid food (nom nom) and a couple of pots. Then I started reading up on it, and something that I thought would be simple got broken down into lots of detailed instructions and talk of sterile equipment and rubber gloves.
I started sweating. What if I just left them the way they are, apparently orchids like cramped quarters and why fix something that ain’t broke? But I couldn’t. So I compiled a list of the things that seemed most important.
- Be very gentle, use soft hands
- Thankfully I didn’t have root rot and pest infestations to worry about – a whole lot more information exists about this
- Use clean equipment and hands – I used a glass bowl to catch the old soil to discard outside and all purpose kitchen scissors just out the dishwasher
- Soak the potting bark overnight
- Don’t repot a flowering plant
- Very gently massage the root ball and gently pull off the soggy brown roots – to reveal the wiry stick beneath
- Pack the bark firmly around the root base and bounce the pot to pack it in – catchphrase: toit as a toiger
- Sterilise root cuttings with ground cinnamon
I also found out that the reason why my orchids are healthy is they’re in the kitchen and live on a ledge above the sink and this is good because they thrive in humid environments. I suppose this is why they’d be perfectly happy in a bathroom too. I’ve also started feeding them with growth specific orchid food – a different one for when they’re flowering and when they’re not. My flowering beauty (above) will remain in her pot until all her blooms drop off, but despite her droopy stem, she’s so gorgeous that I’m in no hurry to rush it.