Countdown to…Orchids?

November has arrived.  It is the month of Thanksgiving, as well as the month we set our clocks back by one hour.  Of course that is a new thing, putting the change off until November (don’t get me started on that).  We’re bound to see a lot more rain and be much more appreciative of the sunny days we do get.  At work, November 1 begins the countdown to Christmas and year end.  By year end, I mean the bookkeeping term, which has much work associated with it.  So I personally have my weeks mapped out.  I know I have to work hard in November to get everything done before I get bogged down in December.  Sound familiar?  At home, I figure I have 1 or 2 days to “put the garden to bed” for the winter.  I still have a few bulbs I want to plant.  I need to pull out the remaining annuals and vegetables that will die over the winter anyway.  So I guess what I’m saying is, November is the month to get caught up before winter really hits and we are overwhelmed by “the holidays”.

So what things are on my to do list?  I mentioned planting additional bulbs.  I really like bulbs, especially daffodils, anemones, tulips and crocus.  I have a new bed that has plenty of space to add bulbs.  Also, I want to plant them in some of my containers for a colorful surprise in the spring.  At the nursery, we still have a great selection of bulbs and really you have all month to plant them.  I want to plant shallots in my raised bed.  I grew garlic and shallots in pots this year.  The pots spent the winter at my house and then were transported to the nursery to finish their growing.  I had an abundant harvest of garlic but the shallots somehow got lost in the shuffle.  So, this year I am going to go back to planting them in the smaller of my two raised beds.  Again, it’s not too late to do this!  Yeah.  And I know that I still have red and yellow shallot bulbs at the nursery.  I’m going to go with the yellow ones.

I did quite a bit of pruning two weekends ago, but there is still quite a bit I can do.  I need to pull out the annuals, as I mentioned previously.  Then I think I’m at a good spot and I can focus on the inside.  Once we start spending more time indoors, we realize that maybe we need to add some color.  What better way to do that than by adding a blooming plant?  The nursery just received a shipment of orchids.  There are many interesting crosses and a few of the moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids).  At the beginning of adulthood I was obsessed with african violets.  I had around 20 at one time.  They are easy to care for and produce an amazing amount of flowers.  There was always at least a few in bloom all year long.  About 12 years ago I purchased my first orchid.  It was a Phalaenopsis hybrid.  I was living in an old farmhouse at the time and we kept it pretty cool.  There were huge windows (I like a lot of light) and I placed the orchid right in the window.  That thing bloomed for over a year straight.  It might have been closer to 18 months.  It was incredible.  I was addicted.  I added another orchid to my collection.  And then we moved to a new house.  Or maybe it was the other way around, I’m not positive.  Either way, I was at my new home and I had 2 orchids.  Of course, the second one didn’t bloom nearly as long as  the first, but it was still pretty impressive.  Then I went to a garden show.  It might have been the Northwest Flower and Garden show or it might have been even a gift show.  Don’t remember.  But I came home with another orchid and this time it was not a Phalaenopsis.  It was a spider-like bloom, a cross between two genuses.  I’m not sure I even have the tag anymore.  But it had a peppery fragrance and the flower looked like it was from outer space.  It needed more light and slightly warmer temperatures, so I provided as much as I could.  It has bloomed every other year for me.  I’m just excited when it blooms.  It got divided this year and relocated, so we will see what happens.  Then I purchased a dwarf, small-flowered orchid on a tour of retail nurseries.  I had never seen one like it at Garland Nursery.  Of course, within a few months of the purchase we had them for sale at the nursery.  So I had to get a second one.  They bloom like clockwork every year.  I think we actually got a second bloom out of them this year.  In the midst of all this orchid obsession, my husband took over the watering of our houseplants.  (It was a defensive move on his part because I killed one of his poinsettia bonsais by not watering it.  That is another story for a later date.)  The orchids survived and flourished.  So they can’t be that difficult to grow.  Currently, Mitch soaks them for 15 minutes or so immersed in water.  He hasn’t been fertilizing them recently but he needs to start.  Now I have converted him and he is obsessed as well.

Christmas cactus are another one of my collections.  I got my first start from a friend who had several large plants.  It is over 20 years old and still blooming well.  I have added one or two new varieties and started cast-offs from the mother plants.  One of my cactus is blooming now.  The parent plant isn’t showing much in the way of buds but the offspring has fully opened flowers.  What’s up with that?  To be honest, I’m really not sure.  What I do observe is that the side of the plant closest to the window produces the buds first.  Christmas (or Thanksgiving) cactus need a cool nighttime temperature and a definite period of dark per day to set buds.  That’s why the window side produces buds first, it’s cooler and darker on that side.  I just rotate the plant and then I get buds on the other side, too.  My great-grandmother used to have her Christmas cactus in the back bedroom.  It was unheated and the lights never went on in there except when she had guests stay over.  Her cactus bloomed beautifully.

Is there a moral to this story or even a conclusion?  I guess it is that I like flowers, inside and out.  The miracle that a green plant can produce an abundance of colorful flowers on a yearly basis amazes me every time!  And the fact that I didn’t kill the plant is likewise amazing.  I must admit that I do better with plants that thrive on neglect.  So what will I be doing this weekend?  Setting my clock back for one thing!  (I much prefer that to springing forward.)  Cheering on the OSU Beaver football team.  And making sure that I have put my garden to bed and created an indoor sanctuary for the winter months.

About Brenda Powell

I'm one of the owners of a family-owned retail nursery. I have a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. I love to garden and read. My technically savvy but horticulturally challenged husband, Mitch, spends most of his time as slave labor in the garden. Thank goodness he adores me! My goal in this blog is to share my enjoyment of gardening, my love of nature, and my addiction to books. Did I mention I like to cook, too?
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