Orchids By Opal Part 2Sunday, October 25, 2020
This week the Unlikely Gardener highlights Opal Wilson's orchid care regimen.
She advises, “For an orchid to do well, you must first know its cultural requirements. It's neither a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, nor is it a matter of caring for them on your terms. Orchids differ in their need for light, air, watering, humidity, temperature and fertilising regime. Once we understand those factors, as well as the medium it is in, then care becomes easy.”
Proper watering for your orchids is critical. “Orchids must be watered until the grey roots turn green and must be allowed to drain without restriction. Watering is best done in the early mornings. Be careful not to overwater as this can cause the roots to rot and the plant to eventually die.”
Generally, she waters when the medium is dry and for the following popular orchids, the following watering formula:
1. Vandas/Aranda - Daily (twice a day during the summer months)
2. Dendrobiums/Cattleyas - Twice a week
3. Phalaenopsis/Oncidiums - Every 7-9 days.
Of course, this watering regimen depends on your environment and the medium in which it is growing.
She fertilises her Vandas 2-3 times per week one-third of the dosage recommended by the manufacturer. She uses a balanced fertiliser with NPK at 20-20-20 plus trace elements. “I replace the general fertiliser with a bloom booster at the third interval and apply using a siphon rather than a hose end jar or spray pan. Fertiliser is applied to other orchids at most once per week.”
Pests & Diseases
“In dealing with pests and diseases, I stand by the rule that prevention is better than cure, and so I apply fungicides weekly and insecticides fortnightly – both at the recommended doses and with the necessary safety attire. Observation and quick action are important – some fungus/bacterial problems can kill a plant within a few days.”
In every Jamaican household, even as we speak, a little child somewhere is being told that “Cleanliness is next to godliness” and it's also true in the plant world. Wilson notes, “Always keep your growing environment clean and free from debris including fallen leaves. I cannot overemphasise the importance of continuously sanitising your cutting tools when dealing with your orchids.”
Tips for beginners
Orchid lovers should join an orchid society and to follow the general care instructions, be creative in your gardens, include focal points, add complementary plants, a seating area, and enjoy Mother Nature! She also encourages thorough plant examination before purchasing and stresses the need to scrutinise both top and underside of leaves and check for healthy roots. Once a purchase is made, especially of an orchid, isolate it from your other plants for a week and treat with a fungicide and insecticide before incorporating it into your collection. The golden rule is to always ask a seasoned grower for help whenever you need it. Orchid growers and plant lovers usually have each other on speed dial!
Wilson not only enthusiastically welcomes new orchid collectors but has become a master teacher. It gives her immense joy when a retired client asks whether they can spend two days per week with her so that they learn about plant care. Her most recent mentee is 16-year-old Roheem Lewis from Clarendon who has developed a passion for orchids.
The art of the plant pivot
Like all other businesses, COVID-19 has seen the art of the pivot taking centre stage. She offers orchid plants sourced locally and internationally, landscaping services, artistic arrangements and consultation regarding care regimen and plant problem shooting. Although her business has been affected by the pandemic, she continues to raise the bar by ensuring that she delivers to the highest standard within this challenging new paradigm!
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