A Gardening Adventure

A Gardening Adventure

Thrill seekers can find much joy in growing orchids at home

By Karla Hollencamp

Most of us may not see gardening as a possible adventure, but that’s exactly how Steven Box of Centerville sees his experience working with orchids.

“When it comes to my hobby, I am a thrill seeker. No, I don’t race cars or climb mountains. I grow orchids. Perhaps ‘grow’ is not the best term. For nearly two decades, I’ve managed to keep hundreds of orchids alive—for a relatively respectful period of time—in environments and temperatures they have no business being in. I’m no expert. But thanks to a small personal library of orchid books and helpful online horticulturalist sites, I’ve managed to prolong their odds of survival,” he says.

Are they easy to grow?
“I’ll tell you right off, orchids are in no way, shape or form easy to grow. While there are over 25,000 species of orchids in the world—all with their own growing conditions—we Americans prefer the exotic beauties (phalaenopsis or common “moth orchid,” cymbidiums and cattleyas to name a few) better suited to a life attached to a rain forest tree than sitting in a pot on your dining table. These are tropical plants and require lots of care and maintenance in our temperate climate,” he says.

“They don’t like three of our four seasons, long nights, dry air or even the thought of snow. If you want your orchids to grow and bloom (that’s the whole point), you will have to provide them with consistent moisture, about 16 hours of bright light (but not direct sunlight) a day, and steady temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Are you really serious about keeping your orchids healthy and happy? Then prepare to invest in spray bottles for misting, tree bark for potting, grow lights on a timer, orchid food and even heaters and fans. And that’s just the basics.”

So why go through all the trouble?
“Growing orchids is a rewarding challenge when done right. These plants are so unlike our native flora and add a unique look to your home. But in the end, it’s all about the flowers. Orchids produce some of the most colorful, intricate, fascinating and often fragrant flowers you’ll ever see. Many last days and even weeks. If that’s not reason enough to make orchids your hobby, consider this—no one ever crashed a speeding car or fell off a mountain while misting a phalaenopsis,” says Box.

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