Orchids By OpalSunday, October 18, 2020
“I am an early riser and I look forward to the dawn of each new day — I give thanks. I go out into the garden… breathe in the fresh, crisp air and look at all the colours on display — I am in awe. I water my plants and I smile as my two hummingbird friends visit and dance in the spray. I smile again when there is a gentle breeze and the Woodstock chime composes yet another soothing melody.” — Opal Wilson, principal, Orchids by Opal
On the hunt for something new and special, the Unlikely Gardener discovered Orchids by Opal on Facebook , where she first saw the Catesetum Orchid and just had to have not one but several! Days later, she contacted Wilson, who was gracious, knowledgeable and had rare and different stock along with some of her “faves”: Fabulous Vandas! Upon delivery, Opal Wilson, being the expert that she is, took a stroll in the Unlikely Garden, giving sound advice. It was during this visit that the Unlikely Gardener received the education that the stubborn pest that was attacking her blooms could not be cured by Caprid or Diazinon because the thrips respond solely to Confidor. I also quickly caught on that Wilson has mastered the art of plant delivery for female clients islandwide. Here's her story.
A hereditary wealth of knowledge
Wilson joins the élite few whom God has blessed with dirt in their DNA, Wilson's father was an agronomist who managed a local research station for a US-based hybrid corn company on the Cayman Islands. Growing up, she and her siblings would have summer jobs at the research station “pinning paper bags over tassels and/or the pollen of corn plants as a prelude to cross-pollination”. Clearly, this gives Wilson a well-honed edge over most all of us when it comes to horticulture and agronomy. But she “hated being in the hot sun” and begged her father to give her a cushy admin job in the air-conditioned office, no less.
Strapped with her father's know-how and understanding, her love of orchids was bequeathed by her mother who always had a collection of plants growing under a tree in their front yard. Wilson recalls, “I remember wondering why my mother was more interested in securing her orchids than preparing our home for the onslaught of Hurricane Gilbert. Right after the hurricane, the plants were the first things to be put back in place. This routine was the same for subsequent hurricanes and storms.”
She remembers her mother waking her up, several years ago, at 6:00 am one morning with a request to follow her “somewhere”. The “somewhere” turned out to be an orchid sale at Agro-Grace on Spanish Town Road. By 7:00 am, the mother-daughter duo had arrived and, to Wilson's surprise, “the car park was crowded with who I considered to be 'uptown' ladies”. Upon entering the store, Wilson realised that “there was something extra-special about orchids… my mother's interest in orchids grew and her shade house and outdoor collection expanded more and more”. She decided to learn about orchids, thereafter, spending numerous nights researching online, reading orchid books and eventually following in her mother's footsteps to the hallowed halls of the Jamaica Orchid Society. She is today also an avid orchid event attendee, both locally and internationally.
After the common beginner mistake of watering her first Phalaenopsis to death, the orchid pro's next orchid, a Vanda Gordon Dillon 'Lea' AM/AOS totally blew her mind and Vandas became her instant fave! She says, “The more I was exposed, the more I loved orchids in the Cattleya alliance... No other genus captivates like Cattleyas - Catasetinae are maybe a distant second. Generally, I will love any orchid that is blue and unique.”
Join us next week for Part 2
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