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Showing posts from March, 2008

Choosing an Orchid Window

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Choosing the right location for your orchid window may be the most difficult task of growing orchids in your home. I did it by trial and error, carrying my first few plants around from window to window, until they seemed to be doing well. Thus the orchid windows are in our bedroom. When the fragrant ones are blooming, that’s actually a big plus – a very relaxing way to fall asleep.Though many books offer advice with regard to whether a specific orchid should go in an east, west, or south window, I’ve found that guidance didn’t help me at all. Our south-facing windows are the sunniest only in the leafless seasons, when our 90-foot tall trees are not casting afternoon shade, the sun is low in the sky, and we have our acrylic storm windows up. It’s not only what kind, but how much (how intense) sun you get.Once again, it’s Phalaenopsis to the rescue. These orchids have thick leaves that begin to turn reddish when exposed to too much hot sun. When experimenting to find your orchid window,…

Growing Orchids at Home: Advice to Beginners

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I’m no expert, but I have managed to keep seven specimens of orchid alive in my house. Contrast that with a gardener in central New Jersey I visited last year who has hundreds of them --- and every one goes back into the house to overwinter. Beginners fall closer to my end of that continuum.First, let’s get acquainted with some of the different types of orchids.I started out completely off the spectrum, with the lifeless, leafless stalks of a Dendrobium. First mistake. Begin with a Phalaenopsis, or Moth Orchid which, unless you have a black thumb, is virtually infallible. These are available nearly everywhere, from Lowe’s to Trader Joe’s, are easy to grow, their flowers last four to five months, and they readily accommodate to household conditions --- unless you keep a very warm house. My problem with Phalaenopsis was that stores carried only white, pink, or purple and the flowers didn’t come in the wild variety of spidery and other-worldly forms of the more exotic types of orchids th…

Signs of Spring

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My snowdrops have been buried under a sheet of ice for nearly two months, but they still look as sprightly as when they first popped up. In fact, they look as if that maltreatment may have actually invigorated them.We took a brief jaunt to California last week, where we were almost too late for the daffodils, and too early for the roses. I didn’t really care, because daytime temperatures were in the 60s, Euphorbia and Hellebores were blooming everywhere, and 12-foot tall jasmine plants were covered with blooms. A little taste of things to come in zone 5B.I was surprised to return home to daffodils pushing their way out of the ground. On the east side of the house, where the foundation is above ground, we have a microclimate fueled by the foundation, large flagstones beneath a small seating area, large boulders, and a gravel path. All reflect and absorb so much heat from the sun that the plants there can be three to four weeks earlier than the rest of the garden. The daffodils here alr…

Recycling Water – One Drop at a Time

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Landscape Architect Marcus de la Fleur, with the co-operation of his landlord, has turned his rental home in Elmhurst, Illinois into a small laboratory/demonstration project where he has created small-scale solutions to recycling water that any homeowner can duplicate. He gave an exciting presentation at the Land Ethics Symposium, sponsored by Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve www.bhwp.org (see previous entry), that made me want to run right home and start trying some experiments of my own.Best of all, his gravel grass segment provided a solution for a problem that has stumped us ever since we added onto our house. There is a small area at the end of our flowerbed that adjoins the gravel driveway on one side and our very green berm on the other. I wanted a visually continuous, smooth, green, swath to connect the berm to the flowerbed. The problem is that we need to occasionally use this space for extra parking, so we had it graveled and it has remained displeasing to the eye no matter…