Angraecum leonis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maria's Orchids, an Honored Guest

     The following post is from a guest that is currently in a graduate program at Columbia University.  She's been growing orchids a little over a year and a half in an apartment in NYC.  I'll let her pick it up from here.

     I've been interested in growing orchids for a while; but it was only in the last year that I really took the plunge into the hobby.  Before that, I was like many other first-time orchid growers; I;d periodically bring home a blooming orchid from the grocery store, only to watch it subsequently lose its flowers and wither away.

My orchids a few months after moving to NYC.
     About 1.5 years ago I moved to NYC to start graduate school and I wanted to bring a little nature into the big city with me.  Around this time I decided to start indulging my hobby in earnest and I began reading forums such as to learn about how to properly care for these plants.  I moved into my new apartment with three nearly rootless orchids in tow; an Oncidium intergenic, a noid phal I had received as a birthday gift a couple years earlier and a noid paphiopedilum which did not survive the cross country drive.  By the end of the summer, I had picked up two more plants from the somewhat disappointing Garden District around Manhattan's 28th St.  Not long after that, I stumbled upon the world of online shopping for orchids, and I was thoroughly hooked.
My orchid grow area with setup of orchid growlights.
     I originally planned to grow orchids on windowsills, but quickly realized that my apartment was too dark for this to work.  All the windows face against a brick wall, and New York winters can be depressingly dark.  Instead I use growlights so my orchids and I can both benefit from 14 - 16 hours of bright 'daylight' even in the depth of winter.
     The setup includes an ultrasonic humidifier ($40), a plant stand ($90), a CFL growlight ($70), T5 fluorescent grow lights ($95) and a 24 hour timer ($12).  The total cost was right around $300.00, though many of these items seem to be cheaper now then they were a year ago.  It's held together (securely, if not elegantly) by a combination of craft wire, bungee cords and duct tape.  I most recently added a terrarium (photo above), for another $280.00, whose primary purpose is to protect the orchids spikes and flowers from my cat.
     The grow shelves are located next to a window, which is nearly always open.  This helps keep humidity high, since NYC generally seems to have a humidity index above 60% outside and frequently reaches 100%.  In winters, I run a humidifier next to the plants, to try and counteract some of the drying effect from the heating unit (which cannot be turned entirely off).  I suspect that the chill from the open window is what helped induce every single one of my mature phals into spiking this season.
     The setup is relatively simple and has so far worked quite well for my smallish collection of species and hybrids.  Nineteen of my orchids are both mature enough and healthy enough to flower; 13 of them have either flowered in the last year or are currently in spike.  The only serious problem I've come across so far is the summer heat, which periodically reaches the high 90s (and occasionally above 100 degrees F).  It's been too hot for cool-growing Dendrobium victoria-reginae to survive in my care and would likely be an issue for any other non-warmth tolerant species.
     My Angraecum:
Angraecum leonis
     As an amateur orchid grower, I've been interested in a many orchid hybrids and species and have a few plants from most of the popular alliances (I think I'd want to grow ALL the orchids, if only space and money and time allowed).  My one member of the Angraecum Alliance is Angraecum leonis, which was my very first internet purchase.  I've not yet seen this orchid bloom in person, but I was drawn to the description of the white, scented flowers.
     My Angcm. leonis arrived in an extremely dehydrated state, in a pot of rock-hard old sphagnum moss (you can spot it in the topmost photograph of this post).  Its only roots were the aerial ones sticking out of the pot.  I only realized how bad things were when I accidentally jostled the pot and the entire orchid fell out revealing that there hadn't been a single root left alive in the old media.
     Part of my initial motivation in starting my blog actually stemmed from my frustrations during this time.  While I could find culture notes for Angcm. leonis and beautiful photos of the flowers, there was very little information on what the whole plant should look like (Tom's blog wasn't around yet).  Even more difficult was searching for what "healthy roots" look like on any orchids other than phalaenopsis.
     Around that time, I had been reading about how people grow Vanda orchids in vases.  The Angraecum didn't seem too different in growth habit (and the Orchidboard lists Angraecums under the Vandeae Tribe), so I decided to try out the vase method for myself.  My Angcm. leonis grows in the vase with no media; and I soak it in water for 15 - 20 minutes daily.  Initially I watered every 2 - 3 days, but last summer I increased the frequency twice daily (and down to once a day for the winter).
     I can't yet conclude whether this a good alternative method for growing Angcm. leonis, because I started out with an orchid that was in such poor health.  In the past year, the orchid has produced a massive amount of root growth and completed growing one full leaf.  It is now starting on a new leaf.  Fortunately, since starting my orchid blog one year ago, I have a good photographic record of my orchids so that I can track their changes.
     I am still very much a beginner to the world of orchids; but I think I've learned a lot over the past year as I've expanded my orchid collection from 2 to 30 plants.  In particular, writing my blog has encouraged me to be more observant of growth changes, helped me keep a record to track both my mistakes and successes and has connected me to the wonderfully helpful and friendly community of orchid bloggers such as Tom himself.
Happy Holidays!
     All photographs are Copyrighted to Mariasorchids.      

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for the chance to share my story on your blog! ~Maria


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