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Long-time readers may remember the last time I tried to grow plants in this apartment (almost exactly a year ago - wow). I could be polite and say it didn't go so well but the truth is, Iggy and I killed everything. Even Leafy.

See Iggy likes to chew on delicious, dry plants, and I like to forget to water them for months at a time while keeping them atop heaters in windowsills with full relentless sunlight.

Obviously, I feel bad about this. When Eric gave me a gorgeous Dendrobium orchid from Singapore for my birthday, I was very very nervous. It came in a little tube that had agar gel in the bottom. The directions indicated I should do absolutely nothing to it until it outgrew that tube, and I dutifully obeyed them because really, nothing is something I can manage when it comes to plants.

In the meantime I displaced my plant guilt by over-watering my immortal jade plant (which has never been lovelier, so maybe it's just the proper amount) and I actually did manage to bring the small tropical plant back to life, though it is two pitiful leaves on worryingly delicate wispy stems.

About a week or two ago, Eric started to remind me that the orchid had in fact outgrown its tube and was beginning to bend over at the leaf tips. He encouraged me to research orchids and learn how to grow this one.

I learned from the internets that Dendrobia are supposed to be easy to grow if one manages not to be a blundering idiot about the whole thing. Of course, all the sites I read pointed out how critical it was to know the exact variety of orchid one is trying to grow, and I found many a caution that so-called Singapore orchids could actually be New Guinea or Himalayan or what have you. I tried to logic it out that this orchid was actually cultivated in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, so it probably wasn't Himalayan... but since it was labeled "Asean beauty" (should that say Asian?), a variety which I haven't found to exist, I really didn't know for sure.

Fortunately, I'm not able to replicate any of the growing conditions described perfectly anyway. Basically I am capable of sunlight, proximity to a heater, and water, if I remember. It turns out this may just be adequate, so I went ahead in purchasing some tree bark (because holy crap, orchids grow on the sides of trees!) and orchid fertilizer, which is a lovely candy pink and I suspect highly toxic.

I rinsed the agar off the orchid as directed and took some time to admire the little thing, noticing how much it resembled a bizarre insect or alien life form. And yes, that is why I've scattered so many photos of it throughout this post already - I'm quite taken with it.

I used the little Chinese pot I'd previously neglected rosemary in, filled it about 3/4 with fresh moisture-control soil, then topped that with about a cup of the bark. I nuzzled the bottom of the orchid down into the bark, since I'd read they like to have their roots covered, then mixed the fertilizer into solution with water, which I tried to direct straight around the orchid and its roots. Thereafter I filled the rest of the pot with an abundance of water, making it nearly swampy to replicate rainy season or living by a riverside or something.

(If by this point you're all "What's with the excessive detail?" I should confess, this is kind of a note to myself, should I either have astounding success and wish to cultivate future orchids or should I fail miserably and wish to know where I went wrong.)

Remembering Iggy's proclivity for plant-grazing, I covered it with the brilliant plastic dome that Eric fashioned for me. I think it looks rather like an astronaut suited up with a helmet or like, George Jetson's plant child. Admittedly, I made spaceship noises as I hovered the whole situation across the room and onto a bookshelf near the window, where it would be in partial shade during the day and close to the warmth of the heater overnight.

By contrast, planting the delightful red cyclamen which I picked up while procuring orchid supplies was a walk in the park. I particularly like the way that plant matches its pot, and while I am deeply enamored with its flowers, I may like the leaves even more, which I feel is a crucial part of potted plant enjoyment.

So while this is hardly a garden, I think it's a nice start, and I think I may manage to keep these two plants alive longer than a month. Eventually, I also want to fabricate a long, narrow rectangular type planter to put on the windowsill where I will develop an herb garden. I already have packets of seeds (do those go bad?) from when I last got this idea in my head, and I would very much like to have fresh herbs for cooking.

An artist named Hunt Slonem had the very best studio I've ever seen or could even imagine in my wildest fantasies - everywhere you looked, you saw gorgeous, lush tropical plants growing abundantly. He had all the rooms painted with vibrant colors and I think I remember birds (I was only there for a minute). It was truly spectacular, though, and I've always dreamed of having an apartment with that kind of growth and nature brought indoors. So you know, two small steps at a time.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on February 1, 2007 2:05 PM.

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