Monday, May 24, 2010

Iguana versus Orchid, or “How NOT to Raise an Orchid”

  1. guest post by Liza

My orchid, Ursula, and I have been through quite a bit since I received her as a gift in February, 2010.  Mix my novice skills at orchid cultivation, curious and clumsy cats, hungry iguanas and a fungus infestation, and you have a blog post that I like to call “How NOT to Raise an Orchid.”

When Ursula first came into my life, she was beautiful to look at--a purple and white flower atop a strong stem, surrounded by healthy leaves.  I decided to put her in the iguana room, due to the room’s more constant warmth and humidity from the heat lamps and pool in the terrarium.  We put a shelf on the wall to keep her out of reach from our green buddies, and I watered her once each week, per instructions from B-Do and various internet sources.

Eventually I realized something was wrong.  B-Do schooled me on the right potting mix to use, the correct types of pots, and the different ways to keep humidity around the orchid without overwatering.  But something was still amiss.  She didn’t look sick, but I could just tell she wasn’t healthy.

Even with this help, she still wasn’t feeling any better.  So, I decided to move the orchid to the other bedroom, whose south facing window gets more light than the one in the green room (our name for the iguanas’ bedroom.)  This spurred some new growth that pleased me to no end . . . until the leaves slowly developed yellow patches with a black border.  Fungus!!

Well, then I went, again, to the internet, where I discovered that cinnamon has natural anti-fungal properties, and can be used to treat mild fungal infections in orchids.  It worked--my first real win in the battle of the Ursula’s survival!  I saw how well she was doing in the new space, and for the first time, I truly enjoyed being the caretaker of such a complex flower.

But life struck again.  One afternoon I forgot to close the door to the back bedroom.  After a very long (and trying) day at work, I came back to my apartment only to discover not only had the iguanas  had a wonderful mid-day meal, but my cats had also knocked the whole pot over.  I believe that I cried for 15 minutes before I could even begin to think about the cleanup.  Potting mix everywhere, the orchid lying helplessly on the ground with leaves that more resembled half-chewed artichoke leaves than those of a cattleya . . .could things get any worse??

For just a few moments, I considered throwing all my plant paraphernalia out the window and into the small brook below.  But, after a good cry and some xanex, I got the room put back together.  (And believe me, I learned my lesson about closing the G-D door!)

I should mention that at this time, Ursula is doing very well.  She has two new shoots growing from her base (both with tiny dew-like droplets), and some bright white roots that get bigger every day.  Her battle scars, while not very pleasant to look at, are reminders of the trials that we have survived together.  As a reward for her (and my) perseverance, we added a new orchid to our family, which we decided to name Ziva.

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