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What's up ?????????

Well, for starters, A website by one of our customers in Finland. Check out how Anne/Maj grows her orchids and things in Finland.


Have any pictures of your plants or collections?

Just send them by e-mail in jpg or gif form.

Send us your comments & questions !!

David E. Jones

Pecatonica, IL

David writes,

Thanks for the prompt shipment.

By the way, since you have had experience in cattleya, and I am still a novice, I have some questions:

Carmela ships the plugs still attached to a porous foam block. The plants range from 3-6 inches in height. Would you leave the foam in place and pack seedling grade bark mix around it in 2.25 pots, or would you separate the roots from the foam so that the bark mix can get into the void created and let the roots flare throughout the bark?

I think I would leave it on if it doesn't take up the whole pot, and use larger bark. The fine stuff may not allow enough air to circulate well, but using the clear pots you will be able to tell when they are too dry. The roots like air, in nature there are no pots! Medium sized bark will give you excellent drainage, but tearing up the roots on a small plant also sets it back quite some. Maybe trim up the foam so it is minimal without sacrificing roots?? I never received any in foam, always some gooey fine bark and I think planter mix, they have changed. The roots were my only complaint with Carmelas plants, hardly any, growing too wet, maybe the foam cured that.

If you read the data with the pots website you will know that any sign of moisture means you don't need to water. In a 2 1/4 inch pot when they appear dry you can water safely. The plants will do better with more air circulation and light than anything.

The bark seems to dry out quite quickly when I water it--24 hours or so. How often would you water transplanted plugs? Is there a visual indicator?

When the clear pots do not show any moisture it is safe to water. You can mist them daily in the morining is best and be sure they are fairly dry at night especially if you are growing under 65 degrees.

I have planted so that the crowns are slightly above the bark mix and so that I can generally see one or two roots. Is this the correct height?

It's not that critical but that is the right area. The catt rhizome should grow right across the top of the mix while the roots should penetrate. Too much moisture and they also will not penetrate the mix but skip across the top and out of the pot.

How much direct sunlight? None! Lots, half-hour, none? I ask you this because on several trays that were getting hit with light from a skylight, the leaves lost their gloss--I have since blocked all direct light in my growing shelves with a thin canvas drop cloth over the skylight screens and some side windows, which really cuts down on it. The room has 78 windows in it, so it really gets a lot of light...

I found they grow just fine under 73%, even 80% shade cloth, but under 55% they can sunburn. (which shows up as a dark tan/brown very ovate spot on the leaf. VERY early morning or LATE LATE afternoon sun when it is not hot is ok. I don't know how much light you get, but anywhere around 63% is a good shade to start with.

I am really enjoying this, and I want to do a good job.

We all are desperately trying to find the right media, the right growing area and the right growing conditions for our orchids. Sometimes it's a slow race around the greenhouse relocating to find these before it kicks the bucket!!

Thanks again for getting the shipment out promptly!

May I use these questions and answers on the website for others to read??

Have at it! Thanks much,

David Jones/Harry

Kathleen and Jim Emmerson  06/08/2007      

Neskowin, OR


Kathleen writes;

Hi -- 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.

Harry answers:

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.


Hi, Harry -- 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.

(Comment from Harry: Exactly the kind of material I like to make available. We can all read Home Orchid Growing, but it's the individuals interpretation of the suggestions and their successes that make it interesting. For every greenhouse like yours there are a hundred questions come up and are solved in a variety of ways, and the ultimate success is when the orchids respond and grow. But again, even failures can be helpful info)

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.

(Comment from Harry: I had to chuckle here, I think really, there is no more valuable orchid than one you have picked up somewhere, maybe even the trash bin at the local market, taken home, and grown a year yourself and had it come in bloom for you!! What a great feeling!)

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.

(Comment from Harry: I want to hear more from both of you, growing is one expertise, creating a good environment is another. And in 50 years of orchid experiences I have found there are many ways to accomplish both depending on what you have to start wtih.)

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.

(Comment from Harry: Just go out there and snap photos. Do you still have any Mexican species? I probably imported a boxcar full before the CITES. Now, most there are just buldozed and burned with the trees, you can't pick them up!! And have your husband take some shots of problems he may have encountered and tell how he solved them.)

So, enough. You'll be sorry you asked. We'll send pictures when we can. Thanks for your interest .

Cordially, Kathleen Emmerson

Patty Reynolds and Ron Sprague

05/11/2007 Bradenton, FL


Patty and Ron are really creating a unique growing area as part of their house. With Ron's excellent talents and handiwork, it's becoming more and more customized as they grow. I thought some of these may be of use to a lot of you so here are some pictures of Ron's projects from movable benches to a new potting area, and along the way some of the plants they have been growing. They obviously like to display them throughout the house, (who of us doesn't?) when they are in bloom. I first noticed these in a few photos that Patty included with her E-mails. Notice the casters on the bottom of each bench, the floor is patio pavers set with a slight drain to the center of the room where there are two drains for excess water, so the casters have a good surface to roll on. The movable bench has an extra rail around the top to keep the plants off the floor. The storage area is a great idea for things that don't mind getting wet, that means you can keep all kinds of potting or cleaning supplies, fertilizer etc that are placed in covered containers. These benches are all made of Sched 40 PVC pipe you can pick up at Handyman, Lowe's etc. For the perforated racks on the top and bottom there are several sizes to choose from, I will have one for sale in the near future myself. But just under the perforated rack hangs a piece of flexible plastic sheeting., made to hang lower on one end. Any water from the plants goes thru the racks hits the drain and runs off to the low end onto the pavers and hence into the floor drains, Ron devised this very simple way to keep the water off the items on the lower bench. Look at that first picture again, see that vine running up behind the big granite block standing there., well, both are in disguise! The vine is actually covering up an electrical cord coming down for the granite block. Why does a granite block need a wire? Because it's really a fountain for both pleasure and humidity, Water bubbles up at the top and runs down the sides where it is recovered at the bottom and recirculated. That Halo from Ron I'm guessing was earned when Ron past a certain point on the list of "HoneyDo's". Another nice feature is the window setup. An opaque roof for lots of light, and windows on the sides easily controlled with shades if the sun gets too strong. While lots of orchids don't need the extreme light I can see they have placed real sun lovers by the windows. Even some direct sunlight will be good for the Dendrobs and Vandaceous. That wood at the top will have to be sealed pretty good and moisture collects up there. I used Thompsons Water Seal on mine, and selected pressure treated wood in the first place. Before this new potting bench, there was a make-shift area for potting, a folding table I think she said. Now all the supplies are close at hand and it looks great too. I foresee a day when the potting benches are moved outside when the orchids finally take over the growing area. Patty moves flowering orchids to many areas of the house. If she hasn't a cart for that I imagine she will have! Here's a nice grouping in flower in the house with a nice C. aclandiae hybrid in the front.

You may contact Patty or Ron at the E-mail address at the top of this article.

Here's an article I wrote for the AOS bulletin back in April, 1976. Probably quite a few new orchid growers were not even born then, wow!

We'd Like to Tell You About Some of Our Hangups!

Harry and Pat Tolen

To those of you who have purchased plants from us this will not be much of a news flash - but it may be of help to some.  We grow many or our orchids on tree fern plaques.  Attaching the plants to these slabs requires patience and perseverance. Prior to the past year we used a thin grade of galvanized wire bent to a hairpin shape.  First we passed it over the part of the plant, then pierced the tree fern fern clear through and folded the wire over the back   usually this took two to five wires, depending on the plant growth.  Those of you who are using this method will agree, I think, that this is effective, but in degree of excitement ranks slightly in front of clipping your toenails!  In other words, it is very time consuming if you want to make the plant look as nice as possible.

We personally mount two to three hundred plants every month. the last batch was about 100 Oncidium papilio newly arrived at our shop.  (Ahhh. those were the good ol' days) This oncidium was always a difficult plant to mount on a tree fern slab.  Due to the flattened bulbs of the plant it is very difficult to mount them without showing the wires.  In an effort to make a natural-looking mounting, much time is consumed, spreading, tucking, and in general camouflaging the fastening wires, to say nothing of the wear and tear on one's fingers.  It took almost a month to do the first one hundred Oncidium papilio we received about a year ago.  Each was carefully crucified and hung in the greenhouse.This last batch however, was mounted and most of them hung in the greenhouse in about three hours time!

Aha! you say, we glued them on the wall!!  Well, not quite.  Don't let it get out, but  we used to spend literally hours on end, literally, dangling bits of clams, worms, squid or other such delicacies in front of a few scaly creatures hiding out in the bay and ocean depths.This requires an assortment of appropriate gear, proportionate to the creature size, to qualify as a sporting chance for said creature.

My optimism continually told me that using 80 pound test line was "sporting" for the 100 pound creatures   Could I help it if all those six-pound fish couldn't tell which size line I was using? What I'm telling you is I had an awful lot of 4 pound and 6 pound monofilament line that wasn't being used.  This is the  monofilament type that is nearly invisible and comes in spools of around 1100 to 1500 yards.

Got the picture?  First the tree fern, than a small patch of sphagnum, apply and arrange the plant and start wrapping.  Lay a starting length of monofilament across the plant and wrap it clear around the tree fern and the plant.  Try very hard to keep your fingers out of the wrapping as it makes it much easier to hang up the finished product.

This sounds much more difficult that it really is.  The monofilament can be guided between the leaves and bulbs so easily you won't believe it.  An Oncidium papilio can take six to fifteen wraps, each slipped over the rhizome and under the adjacent bulb. Lightly snug it to the moss as you go, with a quick double knot on the end, and you are finished. Being as thin as it is, the monofilament is nearly invisible.  As the moss spreads from being dampened it will quickly complete the coverage.  Presto!  You have a first-class mounting that has the look of being mounted many months previous.

Pat and I have to admit that my old "dangling" habits carried over and I started out with twenty-pound test line.   I soon found that with a little finesse I could "land 'em" with the six or four pound line.  This also is more practical from a dollar standpoint.  For about $2.00 you can get 300 yards of 20 pound test, or about 1500 yards of 4 pound test.

We also mount all of our staghorns and bromeliads using the same technique.

We had trouble growing phalaenopsis for awhile because we has so many different plants growing in the greenhouse together.  Many of these are house plants and tropicals that require daily watering.  This was too much water for my phals.   So I mounted all the phals on three fern branches or manzanita branches with a bit of moss and wrapped with monofilament.   Again, this creates a very natural looking mount for many of the phals grow this way in the wild.   Even the hybrid phals do better for me this way.  Since change over, most have shown growth and spikes and I haven't lost any more to too much water.   The drainage is almost perfect.   You can currently find in our greenhouse mounted with monofilament, all types of bromeliads and orchids, bead plants, ferns, stags, tropical and even a couple of pancake succulents.

The most convenient method of delivering the monofilament to the potting bench seems to be a 16 penny nail driven into the rafter over the bench, with a spool of monofilament hung on it.  As you wrap the plant, the monofilament plays itself out without getting all tangled  up in other items on the potting bench. 

Try this on your own and let us know how you like it.

Patricia and Harry Tolen



I was going to put a lot of pictures here, but I thing it best to let you look directly at Dawn's website. This lady is so talented she can do requests!! Take a look at the beautiful things she has done. I met her on line in the Orchid Board - Most Complete Orchid Forum on the Web they claim. Well, I certainly thank them for letting me meet this talented lady !!

Let me know how you like her work,,,

Dawn Vertrees

Born and raised in North Carolina, I was surrounded by artistic talent from an early age. The first thing I hope you'll notice about my work is the wonderful detail and faithful reproduction of each small detail that I put into each piece but I also hope that you will see the "personality" that I try to give each piece that brings it to life. I started sculpting jewelry originally from porcelain. This medium allowed me to sculpt very fine detail, yet shape my leaves and flowers in a very natural and realistic way. However, porcelain proved itself to be somewhat fragile. The solution was Sterling Silver! So I have successfully applied my sculpting techniques to sterling silver, producing flowing, natural designs. I have found a wonderful outlet for my artistic talents in the design and sculpting my unique jewelry. Every day is a new adventure, and every customer a new friendship.

Questions and Answers -

If you have time, I'd like to ask your opinion on fertilizing vandas. I read your page in section 3.5 and the thought about no-one fertilizes them in the wild makes a lot of sense. But I've always read that vandas are big feeders.
What are your thoughts and experiences.

Thanks! -ken

Any orchid has Fertilizer Zones, not enough, enough, too much, and way too much.

1. Not enough and the plants look anemic, sometime shriveled (can also be lack of roots)
2. Enough, grow and flower well.
3. Too Much, more than they probably need, but not so much it's harmful, may waste a bit.
4. Way too Much, plant leaf tips can turn black warning you they gonna DIE, back to #3

I have always tried to feed in the Zone 3 range.

ps Vandaceous take a lot of water, that is, many wate rings a day is ok, like heat, 70 minimum would be great, like Thailand. Mix is not a problem, as you can see the mix used in these from Thailand is the Thai All Purpose Potting Mix,,,,,,, AIR!! and lots of light, full sun if eased into it a little at a time. Light and water will probably have more to do with flowering them. Get them happy and flowering and they will almost always be in flower. They have no season per se.


Dear Harry, My Greenhouse gets so hot I can hardly stand it in there myself. I have windows I open, 50% shade cloth on the roof, and a mister going all the daytime. What else can I do? Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have, Nick

Hi Nick, Not an unusual question. Most of the time from "do it your-selfers" who get the "greenhouse" information from a clerk in the local handyman's store. This type of question gets asked a lot, so I'm going to share it here on the site for awhile,,,,

Let me guess, There are two huge possibilities that come to mind.

1. You may have a green plastic corrugated sheeting on the roof,

2. You may have the shade cloth laying directly on the roof. In either case here, read on,,,

1. Green corrugated plastic will not reflect heat or sun, in fact, it sucks it in to extreme. I know the garden shop clerk said,,,,,, but do they have a greenhouse with a green roof? Solid colors of any kind soak up the heat and can raise the temperature 25 degrees inside. We generally use an almost clear covering and if you want shade, put the shade over it. It may not need it at all.

2. If you do have shade cloth laying directly on the greenhouse because someone told you to do that, or even if you thought that would work yourself, forget it, it will not cool anything! As a matter of fact, if you lay it directly on the greenhouse it may reach 130 inside!! The dark colors of the shade cloth really soak up the heat to the point that any plastic items touching it may melt!!!

If you put shade cloth over your greenhouse the minimum spacing from cloth to greenhouse root should be 4 inches, and if you can make it a foot that would be best. The shade cloth will get hot, laying on the roof is a direct transfer of heat to the greenhouse and you may melt the greenhouse plastic cover in spots. If it is 4 inches above the greenhouse that will not have as much heat as the direct contact, but will still be too hot. With a foot you eliminate even radiant heat and get it as cool as possible in side. I'll wager, if the shade cloth in now laying on the roof, and you suspend it a minimum of a foot above it, you will lower the temperature inside from 25 to 35 degrees without doing anything else at all. My own greenhouse is a minimum of two feet and up to four between roof and shade cloth.

As proof I can tell you this. My Mom and Dad used to have a cactus farm! Germinating cactus seed was one of the main things they did, then they sold "bubble flats" of baby cactus to other growers. To get it hot enought to germinate the cactus seed and make them really grow as fast as possible, they used to buy the shade cloth in rolls and lay it over the greenhouse to get the temperature in the above 120 range.

3. Misters are nice, but the main thing is to cool it as much as you can without the misters, then add them to keep up the humidity. A "wet wall" with make a terrific difference in the inside temperature because it changes the air bringing in new air with the water vapor and exhausting the hot air inside, but a misting system doesn't do much for cooling unless you are directly under the mist. You need to change the air once a minute like a wet wall can do while it still adds water vapor to the air.

My greenhouse worked like this, a thermostat set at 72 degrees turns the fans on and the wet wall on when the temperature goes over 88 degrees. It goe off when the temperature is back down to 78 degrees and so forth. The "wet wall" has a water pump in a tank of water that pumps water up over the "wet wall", which consists of 4 inch think x 12 inches x 48 inches corragated wax covered cardboard made for that purpose. When the water trickles down thru it,, that is the "wet wall".

Three fans blow air out of the opposite end of the greenhouse thereby pulling air in thru the "Wet wall", that will quickly drop the temperature. As a matter of fact, until I got a thermostat with a ten degree on off range it worked so fast the thing was cycling itself on and off about once a minute!! There are many commercial "wet walls" offered, but I didn't like any I saw and made mine entirely of PVC pipe.

4. Sometimes, and you didn't say one way or the other, the shade cloth is hung inside the greenhouse. That shades the plants, and those that were too close to the hot roof may fair a little better, but that's not the place for the shade cloth. Think about it, the greenhouse still gets just as warm, the air inside is just as hot, all you will have done is cut off the light you want for the plants. Outside and away from the greenhouse is where you want the shade cloth.

Density of the cloth is important depending on your surroundings. I'm here in intense sun in the California coast and I use 80% effectively, it also keeps plants from freezing that are growing outside the greenhouse in the yard. If either of the first two items 1. or 2. I suggested are true, you could FILL the greenhouse with water and it won't help!

So don't be too fast to tear up what you have though, you just may need to arrange it slightly different. Let me know if I hit any of the circumstances correctly!