Orchid Obsession

One of my $5 orchids

Orchidelirium was the name given to the Victorians obsession for orchids – this flower mania was triggered in the 1800s and spawned a new profession – that of the Orchid Hunter –  an intrepid adventurer very much in the style of Indiana Jones. They faced disease, wild animals, exotic locations, cannibalistic tribes and of course deadly competition from one another…. duels to the death were not uncommon – subterfuge, deception and intrigue surrounded their every move. Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it? But all completely true…


Orchids have always inspired passion in people – the word orchid comes from the Greek world for testicle and in ancient times many orchids were considered to be aphrodisiacs They certainly are a sensual flower – exotic, organic but architectural blooms, seemingly endless varieties and hybrids…. The uptight Victorians couldn’t get enough of them as a status symbol and their hunger for the exotic led to a level of madness that still exists today. Collectors have had rare orchids stolen and there are now laws prohibiting anyone from removing them from the wild. An awesome book called The Orchid Thief is worth a read if you don’t believe me – bears almost no resemblance to the movie version Adaptation with Nicolas Cage – but still an enjoyable watch.

Another $5 orchid

So what’s up with the history lesson you ask? Well I am afraid I have succumbed to the orchid bug myself – and what started innocently enough is now taking over the patio….


I have always loved orchids, but mainly from afar – growing up in Ireland they were exotic, expensive and rarely seen outside of fancy floral arrangements or botanical gardens. Nobody I ever knew had an orchid in their house – that was seriously “fancy”


In Seattle, I tried and failed to keep an orchid alive for more than a few weeks at a time so after a couple of depressing attempts, I gave up on it completely – orchids were too expensive and too pretty to kill off like that and the gloomy Pacific Northwest weather did not help.

lovely white orchid blooming again after a year

Now that I live in sunny Florida, where everything grows like a weed and you can buy an orchid by the side of the road for $5, I decided to try again.

First, my mother in law bought me a lovely orchid for my birthday not long after we moved here and not knowing what I was doing I promptly killed it – sadness  >8( Perhaps I was kidding myself and I was doomed to kill every orchid within reach.


Next a coworker gave me a lovely white orchid that had lived on the reception desk for months and just been replaced by a newer one – still having no clue, I took it home and repotted it into completely the wrong stuff  – but miraculously it did not die! It was, however, bloomed out and eventually all the flowers dropped off and I was left with some nice leaves and a bare stalk.  I decided what the hell it was free and I might as well experiment – so I cut the stalk off and watered if regularly to see what would happen – that was about a year ago….

The $6 non stop blooms orchid

In the meantime, I kept adding to the collection –  I bought a $6 orchid with nice yellow green flowers and that thing has never stopped blooming – more buds just keep on showing up…

My son bought me a beautiful (and expensive by my $5 standards) blue orchid for Mother’s Day last year and it was lovely till all the flowers dropped off and the suddenly much more intense summer sun scorched a black spot on one of the leaves. But undaunted I started reading up on them and figuring out what I was doing wrong. My mother in law bought me another orchid for Christmas and a book about orchid care, hoping this would help it live longer I imagine .

Before I knew it I had a plant stand with half a dozen orchids on it that I lovingly misted daily, moved around the patio depending on the amount of sunlight they needed and brought in at night if it dropped below 50….. My family recognized the pattern here – I was in the grip of a powerful new obsession.

Recent addition

Then one day, miracle of miracle, the several flowerless plants (including the white one from a year ago) that I had continued to take care of in the hopes that someday I would be rewarded, grew spikes!!!! (Having read up on it, I now know that is what a orchid stalk is called – aren’t I special?) For the past several months I have watched with joyful hope, smug satisfaction and a healthy dose of paranoia that something would go wrong as five (yes five)  of my orchids developed new spikes and tons of buds….



I am now, officially, an orchid maven!!!

Unsurprisingly to those who know me, I have racked up about a dozen orchids on multiple plant stands scattered around the patio. I can’t seem to leave the house without picking up another one to add to the growing collection. I am even planning a trip to some upcoming orchid shows – which is probably a very bad idea and may lead to an orchid hoarding situation.

I may end up with my own reality show on TLC –  Designers Descent into Orchidelirium. Thats just the working title…


3 thoughts on “Orchid Obsession

  1. I love orchids. I had a friend on Orcas Island that use to have several she kept for what seemed like eternity. I was amazed and frankly dumbfounded. I’m a good gardner… outside…in the garden… growing vegetables.
    Here in Hamburg, I buy them cheap at our Home Depot equivalent, Max Bauer. We enjoy them for the 4-6 weeks they might last and then they are replaced. I’d like to try cutting the stem (I’d say spike but I don’t think I deserve to yet) but I think Hamburg would yield the same results as the Pacific Northwest. ALTHOUGH…now I’m remembering several window sills (on the inside) decorated with orchids around here. They love putting lots of flowers and cute pottery in the windows. It’s kinda funny.
    I did also notice glimpses of blue sky and a swimming pool in your pics. I could feel the heat. I miss that Florida sunshine.
    Thanks for the info. It was inspiring and gave me hope to learn about orchids!

    PS – Adaptation wasn’t one of my fav’s but should I watch it again to check out the flowers?

    • Hi Wendy,
      Orchids are tricky for sure but so worth the effort – cut the spike down and put it on your windowsill – what do you have to lose? You might be surprised if you are patient – the big thing is no overwatering – they like to have very dry roots – once every 10 days is usually enough – I just wish I could send some sunshine your way 🙂
      As for Adaptation – if you are more interested in the flowers then it is probably not worth a repeat viewing – but the book is a non fiction story about orchids and the obsession people have had throughout history and in particular a modern day orchid hunter – very interesting read and nothing like the crazy movie LOL

  2. Pingback: Atlanta Botanical Gardens… orchids « Chez Chloe

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