This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The question has often been asked me, "Are orchids difficult to cultivate ?" With over a dozen years' experience my answer has been, that as far as manual labor was concerned the cultivation was easy, but that I knew of no class of plants that require more knowledge and attention. When orchids from the dry table land of Mexico are grown with others from Central America and India and other places in north latitude; and in the same house South American species from directly under the Equator to latitude 270 south, also others from Australia and South Africa, are hanging side by side ; and when added to this diversity of latitude, is joined the fact that orchids are found growing in the same country at the base of mountains where the thermometer has 70° for a minimum, to the region of snows, a faint idea can be formed of the information required to grow a mixed collection of these beautiful plants. It is also possible to grow orchids finely and still not bloom them. I have at the present time" a plant of Epidendrum rhizophorum, which I have grown for six years and not the least sign of a flower. I have tried it wet and dry, shade and sun, cold and hot; it grows but will not bloom. I have some fine plants of Cattleya Boothiana which grow finely but have never bloomed.
Of course I can see where they bloomed in their own homes, and it may be that by accident I may discover the right treatment and bloom them. Orchids from the same locality show great difference both in time of growth and bloom. This is very apparent in the Cattleyas and Laelias from South Brazil. Cattleya Harri-soni, C. bicolor, C. Loddigesii commence to grow in April and May and bloom in August. C. guttata, C. Leopoldii commence to grow a little later and bloom in September and October. The beautiful and rare C. amethystoglossa grows through the summer months, makes its flower spathe in the fall, but does not bloom until April or May. The varieties of C. intermedia make a spring growth and with it bloom from May to July; they then make another growth, which rarely blooms. The beautiful C. Acklandiae will keep growing and blooming from spring until fall, as will also C. Forbesii. These all belong to the terete or slender bulb species. The true C. labiata blooms in October and November, but the variety C.Warnerii in June and July. The same difference occurs with the broad leaf Laelias. L. Perrinii and L. elegans with its varieties commence to grow in June and bloom in September and October, and remain dormant until the next year.
But L. crispa and L. purpurata bloom from July to September and then grow through the fall months. The beautiful L. flava, L. cinnabarina, L. Rupestris and L. harpophylla are growing from July until October, and will bloom in the early spring. Now as it is well known that the same orchid requires different treatment at different times, and as the growing and resting season of orchids from the same place vary, it can easily be seen that considerable care is required to give the various species the separate treatment they need. Many orchids with bulbs do not require much moisture when they have perfected their bulbs, especially Cattleyas and Laelias.
I have a letter from a collector in Mexico, in which he states that Laelia majalis and L. au-tumnalis, which grow in a dry and moderately cool situation, invariably die when taken down to grow near Vera Cruz, where L. anceps grows finely. It is quite easy to grow some orchids with but little trouble, and among them some fine species; but at the same time it is because by chance their wants have been supplied, and any that fail to do well are not bought again. Orchids are peculiarly flowers tor amateurs, and need a loving eye to watch over them. It may be at times necessary to see that the long spike of an orchid has room to grow, or help a Stanhopea or Acineta to get a clear way for its bloom through the bottom of a basket. Sometimes, when from over-shade, an orchid is making a weak, flaccid growth, it has to be put near the light to harden and stiffen the growth. I most always have a small brush in my pocket, and if I detect any scale, mealy bug or yellow fly, I make it my business to destroy them then and there. There is one satisfaction with a collection of orchids: they are very clean to handle, and require but little potting and change.
I have plants growing for six years on cedar, locust, or chestnut blocks, and they will no doubt grow on the same for six years longer.
[Many persons must have noted that orchids, when received from their native places or from foreign countries, require for some little time, treatment quite different from that which suits established plants. Our correspondent has had much experience with these introductions, and we believe that a few lines from him, on this topic, would be valuable to many. - Ed. G. M].