Celebrating Forty with Phalaenopsis

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Yes, The Frustrated Gardener is 40 today.  Happy Birthday to me!  Rather than indulging in a mid life crisis I am having something of a Maria Carey moment and have filled the house with white butterfly orchids ready for tonight’s  party.  I considered doves and puppies, but they make too much mess and won’t stay still.  When this evening finally arrives, I hope my party guests appreciate the orchids’ Geisha-like beauty through the bubbles in their glasses.  I am celebrating with Cornish fizz, the delicious Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rose, which is a real treat.  For once I am happy we’re expecting a cold snap – it means we can keep things nicely chilled outside.

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Needless to say butterfly orchids (Phalaenopsis) do not enjoy the cold.  These once enigmatic flowers are now the UK’s favourite houseplant, and no wonder when Ikea are selling them for little more than £5 a pop.  The popularity of orchids has come about as a result of advances in horicultural technology.  This has meant that plants can be quickly cloned from clusters of cells, ensuring they are all a uniform size and colour.  Just what retailers love.

Moth orchids are especially popular because their exotic flowers, borne on arching stems, last for up to six months.  They are also little more expensive than a short lived bunch of flowers.  The trick is to get them to re-flower, which can be encouraged by trimming the fading flower stem to the node (joint) just below the bottom flower.  A new stem should emerge from this node and produce flowers within a few months.  At £5-£10 for a small plant, it can be less hassle to buy a new one.  I should really take this on board and get rid of all the flowerless plants I have floating around the house.

Whilst I especially love the whites and the whites with cerise centres, I was taken with a variety called “Moscow” when shopping the other day.  It makes a pretty accent on top of a chest of drawers and will survive perfectly well in low winter lighting, away from a window.

I would love one day to have the right conditions to grow trickier orchids (too late to ask for a greenhouse for my birthday do you think?), but for now I’m happy to make do with a Phalaenopsis or two.

Top and bottom, Phalaenopsis “Moscow”.

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