Tuesday 16 January 2018

In bloom this week: Orchids

These tricky plants are worth the effort

Leonie Cornelius with orchids
Leonie Cornelius with orchids

Leonie Cornelius

There is no plant I know as beautiful and sensual as an orchid. Its shape is so elegant and every time I see one I think of holidays and sunshine, which is exactly why I was inspired to look a little closer at these flowers and create an arrangement.

A holiday in Brazil, orchid heaven I tell you, left me reeling with inspirational ideas and dying to have a closer look at the plant. Everywhere you look in Rio de Janeiro, orchids are tied to trees, producing aerial roots which feed off a minimal amount of soil and the moisture in the air. I had the pleasure of visiting the Jardim Botanico and their orchid collection is stunningly set in a pure white glasshouse, a perfect backdrop for the colours of the flowers.

Anyone that has ever had an orchid knows that they are a tricky plant, fussy about soil and moisture as well as temperature. There are over 21,000 types of orchid and the beautiful specimen pictured is a Phalaenopsis hybrid which I found in the Powerscourt Garden Pavilion in Co Wicklow. It is such a stunning indoor plant, with a pure white flower, and a pink and yellow centre. This orchid, of which there are endless colour combinations, is native to the Philippines, and the name actually means 'moth-like' due to the shapes of the flowers. These orchids are very popular for the home, and also weddings, as they are very long-lived and can flower for several months at a time.

This beautiful orchid likes a place in the light, but not the full sun, and the temperature should be about room temperature. It will normally flower once a year, growing the new bloom spike in the autumn or winter and flowering during mid-winter or spring. However, many flower during summer months too.

You should water this plant approximately once a week, preferably with rainwater or soft water, and treat no more than once a month with plant food or special orchid nutrition. They also love humidity so you could put them in a double pot with pebbles or gravel at the bottom and a little water which will increase the moisture levels of the plant, particularly if they are in a room with dry air.

When the lovely flowers finally fade away, cut the stalk of this plant half-way down the stem and look forward to the next year of blooms.

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