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Desperate for spring

orchid1Your old Aunty knows that this time of the year can be mighty difficult. Too cold to garden outside in most places except for the Southern Hemisphere. And still short days; I don’t care where you live, but when you have fewer than 10 hours of daylight, it’s just depressing.

So, here at Chez Siberia, I try to get in as much ‘indoor gardening’ activities as I can. Planning the vegetable garden with the seed catalogs all spread out before me is one activity that I think all gardeners indulge in at this point in the year, if for no other reason than they want to beat everyone else to the newest and best and what is in short supply. But another thing I do is to do a bit of ‘housekeeping’ with the houseplants.

(Please note: a short digression. When the DH and I were first married, ahem, in the 1970s, house plants were a huge deal. Everyone seemed to have house plants, whether they were ferns, ‘Swedish ivy’ which was neither Swedish nor ivy, porthos or whatever. If you were really full of yourself, you had an ‘Indian Rope Plant’. My memory was that we could pick up cuttings and small versions of houseplants all over the place but especially at our local nurseries. Now, we’re losing our local nurseries due to the pressure of the landscaping plants offered by the big national chain ‘big box stores’, and with it, access to house plants. The big box chains seem to carry plants which few people either have the expertise or the facilities to keep alive and blooming, like orchids, but not the easy ‘learner’ plants, which to me is very sad. End of small rant)

This particular plant was labeled as a ‘cane orchid’ when I got it years ago. If I had to call it anything, I’d call it a ‘learner orchid’ for sure. It has never minded being in our rather dry livingroom in the winter; nor has it shown any attitude when I drag it out on the deck in the summer. And it blossoms like crazy, with teeny lavender blue blossoms, which should start to open in the next 10 days to 2 weeks. One issue is that it gets, ahem, rather untidy as you can see from the photo above, with the aerial roots just flailing out all over the place from plant joints And every once in a while, it puts out offsets. orchid2 as you can see here, with teeny little roots. You can just bend the stem right there and the plantlet just comes right off, separating where the new roots are forming.

In this case, I probably should have done this housekeeping last fall, because literally on some of the plantlets I pulled off, there were actually new smaller plantlets being formed.orchid3So, what to do with all of these bountiful new little orchids. Being the rather thrifty sort, I can’t leave them there or throw them away (the horror).

So, I dug around in the supplies to find some rooting medium and lightened it up with vermiculite. Now, I’m sure that anyone with far more experience than I have with orchids is going to write in and say, “Only use xxxx or xxxx’ (bark or some other popular orchid medium). And they are probably correct. This is going to be an experiment and we’ll see if it works with this particular, and very forgiving and not fussy orchid.

orchid6I wet down the medium, poked holes into it and stuck the little plantlets into it. If the aerial roots were too big, I trimmed them back a little bit, but not in a scientific way, believe me.

Now, one of the big issues involved with getting anything to root at this time of the year is the relatively cool temperatures. Wet and cold together with plants is an almost guaranteed death/rot sentence. But I am a huge believer in using bottom heat. I think everything benefits in a rooting situation from having ‘warm feet’ and I wanted to give these plantlets the best opportunity possible. So, I did two things.

First, after I put the plantlets into their rooting medium, I put the pot into a plastic bread bag, blew into it until it was as full as I could get it and then tied it closed with a twist tie. This put even more warm humid air around the plantlets. It also surrounded them with…CO2. I may have unreasonable magic thoughts about the efficacy of CO2 surrounding cuttings and plants being rooted, but I always figure it can’t hurt. The second thing I did was to pout the bag and pot on top of the heating mat that I use underneath my other orchids. orchid7It’s at one edge where it is not the most warm on the mat (you’d think that the entire warming mat would be all the same temperature but they do have hot spots and warm spots and cooler spots), but still cozy. I don’t want to cook the plantlets; I just want them to be comfy enough to stretch out and send out those roots so that I can replant them in more ‘orchid-like’ media later in the spring.

How is everyone’s garden planning going? I’ve got some seeds for broccoli to trial this year and I’m very much looking forward to it.

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