| Brassidium Shooting Star orchid|
( an Oncidium relative)
As a kid in Milwaukee in the middle of winter in February, I remember seeing some glorious pictures of gardens in Miami, with orchids all over the trees. I thought "what a cool idea, not needing a greenhouse to grow orchids !" Now I work in a public garden in Miami where I can mount thousands of orchids at will, provided I choose the right plant for the right spot.We are lucky that we live in one of the rare areas on the continent where we can grow tree-dwellers.
|Cattleya dowiana v. aurea|
If you want a good reality check, travel to a northern city in the winter to see what kind of plants are available in the big-box stores. When you return to Miami, you realize anew that we have a terrific climate in which to grow so many plants. The tree-dwelling orchids ( easier to say than epiphytic orchids) are a great group of plants which can be mounted to trees or wood posts. There are literally thousands of epiphytes available to grow here, quite possibly the largest group of plants in all of horticulture. It would take 100 blogs of extreme length to cover most of them. I'll try to pare down the galaxy of tree-dwellers to a few basic groups to start with.
Using big-box store inventories as a template,
I included photos of the common types available locally. All are good candidates for tree mounting, and can grow without a lot of care once established. All of these plants like a good sunny spot, but with a little shade from the overhead afternoon sun. The basic groups are Cattleya, Dendrobium, Vanda, and Oncidium .
The main things to remember about mounting orchids is to firmly affix them to a rough-bark tree
or palm with something that will hold the plants tightly without hurting the orchid or the tree. These techniques will be covered in the next episode of this blog. Once mounted to the tree, you'll need to tend to the plants every few days by watering them with a hose or rain head so the plants produce new roots. The plants also need fertilizer. You'll be surprised at how long the roots will be when the plants get established ! Some orchids conduct photosynthesis through exposed roots, which would explain why some orchids really don't do well in pots.
Fertilizing orchids is easy, but does require a few tools. My favorite choice of tools to feed orchids is a Gilmour hose end sprayer, a device you fill with water and a few tablespoons of fertilizer such as Peters 20-20-20 or Rapid-grow or a range of others. Spray the plants with liquid fertilizer every 2 or 3 weeks in the warmest months, every month in the winter. Add a few tablespoons of Epsom Salt to the fertilizer in the summer months to help keep the plants really green.Vanda orchids in particular like a lot of water and fertilizer, at least every day for watering and once a week or more for fertilizing. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how much orchids can add to your landscape, and how little care they need once established. You can have that extra-tropical look so many people dream of in your own backyard. I have a slightly larger backyard than most people do, but it' still a pleasure to work with orchids and tree dwelling plants of all kinds.
Craig Morell Pinecrest Gardens
|Ascocenda Su-Fun Beauty|
( Vanda relative)