Esprit de Isle

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About Orchids

Gone are the days when the only time you saw orchids was in corsages on Mother's Day, High School Proms, anniversaries and weddings. Now they are available year 'round in grocery stores, garden departments in variety stores, plant nurseries, on-line and I'm glad! I love orchids!

Orchids come with different leaves and awesome blossoms in many colors and shapes! While they aren't the easiest plant to grow, it's well worth the effort to give it a try. Many people buy the plants while they are in full bloom and enjoy them just as you would a cut bouquet. When they are past their prime, they simply toss them out. If that's your attitude, PLEASE find a hobbyist or a professional grower and donate them!

But ... if you'd like an adventure into the tropics, including maintenance, cultivation and propagation of orchids, don't toss them out! Read up on the minimum of plant care for orchids and give it a try. The satisfaction of coaxing one of these beautiful plants to bloom for you is well worth the effort - and, once you've gone to the expense of buying one, the initial cost is over.

Orchids lend themselves readily to use in multipurpose arrangements and a variety of applications. The white phalaenopisis shown here with the companion African violet, is one I rescued a couple of years ago from a variety store. The original price was $34.95, marked down to $9. The plant was pitiful looking, stuck in a dark corner and the fleshy leaves were quite grey and flabby. The flower stem was bare with only crispy dried petals hanging by a thread at the top. The sign gave its common name, "Moth Orchid".  I decided to take a risk.

What a payoff! Less than a year later, this "Moth Orchid" put forth a bloom stem that divided about halfway up, forming a natural heart shape. Talk about the "awesome blossom"! Every bud burst into flower and each were perfect.

I group white orchids with African violets which make a beautiful, eye-catching display. These white blossoms are almost five inches across. Now I see why the plant was so expensive when it was in full bloom!

There are many species of the orchid (Orchidaceae) family - more than 20,000 and even more hybrids have been created by professional growers. The species is divided by about half into "terrestrial" and "epiphytic". "Terrestrial" orchids are rooted, or growing, on the ground; they have a root system made up of thicker roots with smaller, hairlike roots that actually search out water and nutrients, passing it up through the root system.

Some orchids are lauded for their sensational, sumptuous, sexy and sweet smell in addition to their beautiful blossoms. By the same token, some have very lovely blossoms that are long-lasting but no fragrance at all.

"Epiphytic" orchids cling to trees, shrubs and rocks surviving mainly by their aerial roots with a smaller root system at the base. The "air roots" help the plant "climb" or grow into different areas where they continue their quest for nutrients.

The most common variety of orchids that are successful in home environments, are Dendrobium, Vanda, Cymbidium, Phalaenopsis and Cattleya.

Cattleyas (left) are not found for sale as commonly as the others; they are harder to care for but, here again, very rewarding to coax into bloom and have an exquisite fragrance! These are available in many colors and different "styles" of blossoms. Cattleyas are members of the "epiphytic" species. Note: Not all orchids are fragrant. The Cattleyas are the only ones I have that smell good.

Esprit does not offer plants for sale at this time, but there several outlets on-line from sites, such as Amazon and multiple websites, that do sell them. If you are interested in purchasing, we recommend you buy direct from the grower or purchase healthy looking plants from a reputable source.

We are discussing a limited number of common varieties but we will continue to expand until we have all 16 representative forms. The individual pages address how to care for them in your home. Please click on any of the following for expanded information about care of these beautiful orchid plants!: