Sunday, October 7, 2007

miniature orchids aka just plain plants

It's been a long time since I wrote about just plain plants. Now there are probably a lot of people who don't think miniature orchids are just plain plants. But these little beauties are no harder to grow than an African violet so don't let fear of the unknown keep you away. (That's not to say there aren't some fussy orchids out there, but these two are eminently do-able.)

Pleurothallis allenii (native to the mountains of Panama) blooms several times a year, putting out 5 or 6 flowers at a time. It's called a free-flowering orchid because it blooms year round. Most orchids bloom only once or twice a year at set times. Flowers of P. allenii are maroon, finely etched w/yellow edges. At an inch from top to bottom, these are plus-size minis. But don't feel bad girls, you're still beautiful.

Haraella retrocalla
puts out one flower at a time, but it's so pretty you hardly feel cheated, plus it's wicked fragrant. (It's old name was H. odorata.) The lip of the orchid mimics a female bee, luring male bees in for a fruitless coupling. Well fruitless for the bees.

Both orchids live in a terrarium in the sunniest room of my house. It gets light from the South, East, and West and I water the orchids about once a month. Even with this benign neglect these plants never let me down. No, better than that. They delight me every time.

P. allenii is from J&L Orchids in CT. This nursery specializes in miniatures and is chock full of tiny wonders. I feel like a kid in a candy store when I roam the greenhouses.

H. retrocalla is from Oak Hill Gardens in IL. I've never been, but they sell at the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show in March.


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