We look forward to hearing from you!
Letters Received From Customers:
I'm sure enjoying your web site. One of the vendors at the recent Oregon Orchid Society show in Portland told me about your site, and I think that you may have saved my Phals from extinction! After purchasing a few Phals potted in sphagnum and talking to a couple of growers using sphagnum exclusively to grow Phals, I repotted all of mine in New Zealand sphagnum. I like the feel of it, and it is pleasant enough to handle, but some of the orchids which originally came from growers planted in sphagnum were beginning to show leaf stress. After reading your article, I immediately repotted every Phal in a bark mix in clear pots, even those in full bloom! And I have been rewarded with seeing new roots starting to develop. Now, I'm waiting to see healthier leaves growing, as well. Thanks for the great advice! Also, the bit on Clorox to get rid of algae is useful to know.
Answer from Harry,
Yup! I always had trouble with that stuff even after I found out how they only mist them. And they keep them extremely warm too. So the bark is going to be much better, just don't be afraid to repot them when the bark begins to hold water. You will extend your bark life by being able to see into the pot and not be watering too much.
Can I use your little note on my website? I am starting the feedback thing again in the newsletter. I stopped it during the move up here to Oregon everything was too much of a hassle, even the compter was difficult to get started in the new systems. But I like these kind of notes which may encourage others to try the same thing.
I'm going to try to remember to send you a few samples of the 4.50NCUVS, they work for orchids and gesneriads of all kinds really well, just in case you have a few african violets hanging around, lol.
Of course, you may use anything I write however you choose, including our email address and location. However, please keep in mind that I am a novice at this, so it's hard to say what value my scribblings may have to others.
Thirty years ago, through a dear friend who was interested in orchid collecting, I became involved with the Salem Orchid Society. I hunted for orchids in the wild throughout Mexico and took a more civilized (less adventurous) approach hunting through west coast and Hawaiian orchid houses. Since the late 60's, however, I have had little contact with orchids or orchid folks, although I have long been an avid gardener.
At this point, I own only about 100 orchid plants, none of them rare or unusual, but all of them exceedingly beautiful in my estimation, as orchids tend to be. My husband is a contractor on the Oregon coast, and he has built me a small (16' X16') greenhouse on a concrete slab with in-floor heating, under-table mist system and automated vents. My husband loves our garden and seems enthralled with the orchids, and I'm afraid the greenhouse he built is fancier than my limited growing skills merit. Nevertheless, the plants seem to thrive in it, mostly because of my husband's efforts and the plants' adaptive skills rather than my expertise.
My husband attends orchid shows and orchid growers with me, helping to choose additions to our collection and learning about aspects of orchid care to which he can contribute his considerable skills in managing a greenhouse environment. I manage the plants. Unfortunately, orchid society meetings are all too far away from our coastal home to attend on work nights, so we're limited in our contacts with other enthusiasts.
Anyhow, a site such as yours really helps me learn how to take care of these wonderful plants. I'll try to send pictures, although my collection is modest and won't impress your more avid aficionados. It really doesn't matter much how little expertise or few plants we have. What really counts is the joy we take in every new bloom spike or healthy root, not to mention the flowers themselves. Every day, I try to get the household chores done before I head out to the greenhouse or the garden, because I'm truly lost to the world after that. Time goes by so quickly when I'm working in the garden or with the orchids. Some people call it following their bliss. There is a consistent quiet joy that comes from consorting with plants. How I love to see them grow and bloom.
So, enough. You'll be sorry you asked. We'll send pictures when we can. Thanks for your interest .
Cordially, Kathleen Emmerson
The Oncidium Alliance comprises a hefty percentage of our small orchid collection, with Phals, Phrags and Paphs making up for most of the remainder. I do have a few Cattleya Alliance plants, but at this point I'm trying to grow tried and true varieties so as to not set myself up for failure. We're keeping the greenhouse at a minimum night time temperature of 60 degrees and a maximum daytime temperature of 80 degrees with humidity between 60 and 80% and substantial air movement. We'll probably modify the stats by lowering the overall temperature range and use heating cables to augment certain areas eventually, but this is a start. Keeping the temp low on sunny days while maintaining humidity levels is a challenge at the moment.
I have lost a few plants, and it's always a cause for distress! One nursery I regularly visit has a sign stating that "if you're not killing plants, you're not being adventurous enough as a gardener". Perhaps. But I still take every loss personally.
Anyhow, nice chatting with you on this rainy weekend. On nicer days, I don't spend so much time at the computer! I wish that you were still dealing in live orchids. Your site is so informative, and it would be fun to see your plants.
Cordially, Kathleen Emmerson
Hi, Harry -- Thanks for your generous offer of pot samples. I have ordered pots #4.50CUV and #6.0NCUV from Blue Barn growers. I met them at the Salem Orchid Society show and bought my original clear pots from them. I had hoped to get more sizes in that same style with the raised stand, but they did not have any other sizes available in any style. Weeks later, my search led me to your site, and that's all she wrote! Cordially, Kathleen
Hi, Harry --
Thanks you so much for your promptness in getting the translucent orchids pots shipped. And thanks also for all the little extras you packed, especially the side vented pots. I reset several Phals in those, although I suspect they are really meant for Cats and their kin? Any orchids or including african violets.
Even though it's a bit late in the season, I've been potting orchids madly (thanks to now having pots to put them in!). My orchids never seem to bloom on time to repot them in the early spring, as many sources recommend, so I just repot them as the blooms are spent. (Excellent)
I do have a few questions about repotting. First, most sources recommend that every single bit of old potting soil be removed from the roots before trimming and repotting. After massacring the badly tangles roots of a perfectly healthy SLC and managing to damage a new growth as well as numerous healthy roots in the process, I am wondering if this is such a good idea. I've tried soaking the roots prior to untangling and using tweezers to pull every piece of bark from the center of the mass, but I can't seem to prevent unacceptable levels of damage in the process. Do you have any wisdom to share on how to repot without making matters worse for my plants?
If the old mix seems still usable forget it, go to next size and add mix around the outside. With the new clear pots I hope you read the article on the website about them. If you can still see moisture collecting on the inside of the pot, don't water until that appears dry, but you still have about three days before the mix is dry in the middle. This will make the orchids happier, and the mix will last longer. Misting is ok every day, but don't mist so long that the water drips into the mix, just a light mist and hang it up!!
On the same subject, I've noticed that new rootlets often stem from damaged or cut area on roots. How short should I be "trimming" roots, and does it vary with the species?
Yes. But if the outer layer appears broken and the inside thin root is still intact no need to cut it off. ANY root cutting off is a setback for the plant.
Second, you recommend soaking an orchid you're dividing in a solution of 1 tablespoon Physan to a gallon of water and dampening the medium with the solution, as well. I'm assuming that it's OK to use this soaking method on orchids merely being repotted? Seems logical to me, so I was using this method yesterday. Hope it was not a mistake! Yes, but this is merely a precaution to prevent rot with people who water so much the plant never dries out. If you dry the piece thoroughly before repotting it's probably not necessary, but who does that? LOL. Paphs and maybe Masd. and a few others don't like to dry out, but with mini catts, catts etc. drier is better. I have had some catts that respond to being wet but I'm not sure why. Up in the air, outside, they were pretty wet from the daily fogging, grew a monster pot full of algae, but I never saw bigger fatter bulbs or better roots on any plants I ever had. (??)
Third, I have learned that it is best to repot new orchids as soon as possible. They come in every kind of medium, some are badly root bound, some are caked in salts (usually the ones containing time-release fertilizer, but that's a topic for another day), and some have badly rotted or salt-caked roots, even though the top-growth looks fine. Do you recommend leaching for orchids with salt buildup? Or will soaking in water or a Physan solution work. (I have more questions regarding leaching, but I'll send those another day!).
Leaching and soaking would produce two different results. The leaching is a washing of the plants to remove salt buildup. Soaking in PHysan is to kill fungus and bacteria, makes the potting media last a bit longer by killing bacteria etc. I don't think the salts are affected by Physan.
Finally, I paid $50 for a selected Brassia seedling from a reputable nursery where many of my plants have been purchased. However, though this plant looked good in the nursery, it seemed to languish rather quickly once I got it home. When I knocked it out of its pot, imagine my horror to see that all (and I do mean all!) of its roots were rotten. I tried various means of keeping it alive until it could make new roots; the last method was to place it with damp sphagnum in a loosely closed plastic oven bag and hope for the best. The plant has made more top growth but, alas, no roots. Is there any way this plant can be saved? See how it reacts to the bag method, Brassias are rampant rooters so they may start right away. If not try sitting in a pot on the bench, preferrably a much larger clay pot if you have one, no mix at all, water sparingly. and watch for the roots. You may never have to add mix, lol.
Thanks again for your help. I am getting ready to place another order, but I have a question or two for a subsequent email. I really appreciate your quick and easy service!
Cordially, Kathleen Emmerson/
Hi again Kathleen,
You are correct in that repotting will cure most problems, and into the right media for your growing conditions is going to increase your success. I think most commercial orchids have bad roots. Many you see at the Arboretum sales or Zoo sales in San Diego are purchased from mass producers at the last minute, repotted from 3 1/4 inch pots to 6" pots full of fine fir bark without even removing any of the old mix. The roots soon rots off completely and if kept in the small bark or some wrap with moss, they will surely die. And I don't think the retailers mind. You go back for another try,,, The Zoo in San Diego now has cuttings and divsions of their own plants now for sale, thanks to the knowledge and care of Janette Gerrity, but the Wild Animal Park has no place really to grow a lot and buys them in for sales.
Most orchid businesses want you to come back and there are literally as many growing media techniques and mixes as there are growers! The key here is watering them correctly for whatever medium you choose.
We talked about the moss, and how mass growers use it and with high heat and humidity it works excellent, for them. Then they send the plants to the states where they are wrapped in another layer of moss, flowered out and put in the stores. They have about a month to sell them. If they have to be taken back from the store they are not resuscitated, they are tossed!
So for our home growing we MUST get them out of that moss and into a mix that is much like most we grow. I have grown orchids in everything you can think of, from sand to marbles, bark, moss, aggregate, etc etc. It all works if you are careful to remember how to water. That is actually whe\y I came up with the clear pot thing. I wanted to see the mix and roots. Virtually imossible to stick a finger down in a green pot and learn much.
So repotting is good. The root system trimming I will not lie, I trim to fit the next pot but never cut off viable roots. Now "root" is not that gooey thing in the pot, the thin tough wire like thing in the middle is the "root", the rest that usually gets soggy is the membrane covering the root that absorbs moisture and nutrients for the plant to use. It turns to a mess. I kinda scratch thru those taking off the old gooey stuff but I left the maximum roots for the plant to use. My favorite mix turned to be either of two.
I liked the ease of fir bark, and used plain patio bark, fine and medium for most plants.. I would mix in perlite #3 or #4 from Paramont Perlite just to keep it separated but about a year was the max for those bark mixes.
The best and longest lasting is the coconut chips, called all kinds of things, from 1/4 to 3/4 size chunks. You can sort it out in the potting tray but with a little of the large perlite it would last up to five years, maybe more in hanging baskets. That definitely needs to be leached to prevent build up unless you have RO or filtered water. The bark in a year hardly has time to build up problems.
Cymbidiums are another story however. The fine bark and perlite mix works great for maybe three years without repotting, even when moving up a pot size you can just surround the old root ball with new mix. Tearing up the Cymbidium roots really slows the plant down.
The plant you have lost the roots on should respond in the manner you are using. In your greenhouse just standing it up in a new pot for a bit should do the same where you can water, fertilize etc and let it dry completely out between. That would be my last try, but unfortunately for a seller of orchids it's not cool to keep a bunch of plants sitting around like that, most toss them in hopes you don't see that and think it might happen to you. Orchid growers are very positive image places, ever notice?
So no, I never trimmed all of the roots off, catts hate it and take a year to recover. Just trim them up so the plants will fit the pots you want to use and pot them all again, with out the soppy stuff, LOL. The benefit for foliar feeding on orchids was around 10% last time I heard, not nearly as much as roots can provide, even old roots.
Old material around the roots I never worried about, I just did what seemed necessary at the time. If it's old bark and soft, yes, it should be ousted. If it's a piece of bark or two and still seems hard, it's only going to be in there for less than a year, I left it if I had to tear up a lot of roots to get to it. The Coco chips last so long and are so hard to remove if it was stuck way in I left it. Usually when repotting from coco chips the roots are so overgrown and the plants so large a Cattleya from a 10" or 12" pot had to be broken up anyway, and them most of the coco still can be left, it's really terrific material for lasting because it drains so well. You will find you can water more, hence fertilize more with the large chips and a bit of perlite. In So. Calif I grew most of my basket catts outside, and the blue jays would steal both moss and coco chips, lol. So my wire baskets with moss had to have a bit of moss stuffed back in them from time to time. I eventually wound up with some hydroponic baskets that were a fine mesh and the drainage was superb.
On Jun 16, 2007, at 5:31 PM, Jim and Kathleen Emmerson wrote:
Unfortunately, plants at these sales are badly grown, mislabeled (or even unlabeled!) and often comparatively overpriced. I was laboring under the illusion that Orchid Society events would be run in such a way as to allow only responsible growers to participate, but apparently this is not always the case.
I think now-days it's impossible to grown a plant up from seed and sell it for a profit. You know the care these plants take, and orchids are pretty slow growers. Growing a Cattleya for seven years just to see it bloom, what do you figure that would cost you? So most "growers", (read that "sellers") are purchasing them from the Chinese sources which now have several outlets established in the USA. Most are clones, the cloning is done in China paying workers about .75¢ a day to meristem. Then the facilities are extremely update, latest technology.
Plants are computer raised, water when the computer says by robot equip, kept at about 72 for Phals. Mother over until in spike, then shipped to the US for "finish". That takes only 3 or 4 months here and they are sold to orchid businesses and big box retailers for a song, about $10 average for three years work. The Catts are cloned and then divided flowering size divisions are shipped to the US to orchid businesses or their own middle men who grown them on for sales to the big box retailers. That's where the real money is.
But, places like Walmart, Home Depot, etc. have found a new way to retail, and they can sell cheaper because they have literally nothing invested. The grower brings in the tag with a UPS code. The retailer logs it into their system like on consignment. When it sells, the retailer pays the supplier for all the plants sold in the last two weeks or so. If it doesn't sell it has to be picked up by the supplier. Fine, except my daughter works at Home Depot and there instructions to Garden Shop personnel are, "the last thing you do if you have time is water the plants, they're guaranteed. If they die they die!" People of the nursery industry are still having meetings deciding how to handle this problem. The Chinese firms do not mind waiting, and the plants they take back are tossed, never saved or grown on.
I once asked my Chinese supplier in Rainbow Calif for the names of the Phals I was buying. He finally dug them up and asked why I wanted them. For the customers I said, for breeding, etc. He seriously asked me, "You mean your customers are so familiar with the orchids they actually know/keep the names of them?" Came as big news to him. I got names, but about 50% were obviously wrong and the other 50% were close enough I could not tell one way or the other.
I have pics of the last Taiwan show last month, Phals with three spikes, flowers the size of your hand, and 76 flowers on the three spikes, lol. When they do something they do it well!!
Nevertheless, I am consistently blown away by the variety of orchids on display at these events. And I have come to realize that it is a good idea to plan to be at the event after lunch on the opening day, or I might not get a chance to see the show orchids. Because we drive several hours round trip to get to most events, our time at the event can be limited. We had to leave the Portland event before the judging was completed, and we were disappointed not to see get to see the show.
In my recent order, I got some translucent pots #7.5NCUV. At this time, I have a Grammatophyllum scriptum var. citrinum 'Hihimanu' which needs a pot about the same size in diameter but an inch or so deeper. Would you have anything like that in stock, preferably in a translucent form?
Grammatophyllum scriptum is a very warm growing plant. If you even want to see it bloom again, you will need to hang it up highest point and brightest point in that greenhouse. I was told 85 degrees minimum to bloom them. Most are grown in Hawaii that we got in Calif, purchased in spike and then sold without having to actually flower them. I never, in about three years, re-flowered any. But the plants look so good they still re-sold. I do have 10" and 12" basket with saucers but they are not clear. I have a 12" opaque tub that I can explain to Jim how to make an excellent hanger for it that will last if the plant is big enough for that. Leave at least 2" all the way around the bulbs for growth, they grow big in captivity, lol.
Also, I'm interested in the Sun Ultra-Fine Oil Spray. How often can it be used? And will it damage blooms?
No limit on use, I always used 2 ounces or less to a gallon of water. I once had some phal comm pots that got mealy bug on the underside of the leaves and it was a major infestation before I saw it. I made up some mix and dipped all those comm pots. Two days later, not a bug in sight and the shiny little phals never looked better. I read a US Gov't Ag. report on tests with it and they used it at up to 10 ounces to a gallon of water with no problem with phals, plants or flowers, which were all sprayed with it. 100 plant groups were used at 1, 2, 5, and 10 ounces to a gallon, all worked fine. Got to be careful though, you have to make sure you do not use it at under 45 degrees or over 85 degrees. Exceeding those temps and damage occurred both to flowers and leaves. About three days is needed for the oils to wear away, you can water or wash with water to speed that up. Sun Ultra Fine Oil Spray is a contact killer, it has no residual effect, if you don't hit the bug it won't get it, hence my choice for the dip.
There are all kinds of warnings from the FDA when they finally "discovered" the oil. I had been using it for five years by that time. The warnings are totally unfounded, pulled out of the "round up the latest suspects" bag of cliches. I have been immersed in the oil straight, or mixed, got it on my hands, arms, face, feet all at the same time, never a problem. It's just oil, a light parafinic oil at that. Then the "experts" popped up, people who had never used the stuff, warning about "plugging the stomata on the plants", absolutely unfounded and ridiculous but sworn to but the "experts" who never used it! I hate people like that. I asked the Ag rep in San Diego about the label warnings. He said if it's used to kill bugs you have to put all those warnings on the label. I said "You mean if I recommended Spring Water for drowning bugs..." He said "Right, those warning would be required on the bottle."
With regard to your new list of regional orchid growers, did you get my last E-mails including Mark and Joan's last names and the Camp One Orchids web site, among others. Sometimes, we have a failure of email to arrive where it's sent, so I'm just checking. I wouldn't want you to think that your requests were rudely ignored when you've been so generous in responding to mine!
Yes, I got it, have a partial referral, waiting from more from them.
Thanks again for all your help. It's a pleasure "talking" to you! Cordially, Kathleen Emmerson