Wednesday, September 13, 2006
In a former life
Back in the olden days when I was married, my husband and I ran a mail order orchid nursery. This was my first experience of being self-employed. I rocked my children in the bouncinette under the table while I potted up tiny seedlings out of sterile flasks. When they had their afternoon nap, I was down in the glasshouse doing the watering. It was a hugely risky type of business, as we imported orchids from their native habitats around the world. There was no comeback when plants rotted after sitting on the tarmac in Venezuela in the rain because of airport worker strikes, or died after being fumigated by the Ministry of Agriculture here because the hollow bulbs of one species are the natural home of Honduran fire ants. Ahem. We had our hands smacked over that situation but the plants were in quarantine and no ants escaped.
My husband liked the lifestyle because he didn't have to work for someone else, and I loved growing things, but we didn't make any money out of it. When we parted, almost 20 years ago, I walked away from the orchids so that I wouldn't be lumbered with any more debt that I already had.
I've gathered a few plants over the intervening years, ones that grow cool and need little attention. Recently I read "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean (yes, it was made into a movie but a crap one in my opinion, and quite different from the book), and this rekindled my interest. I've now joined the local Orchid Society, where I'm one of the youngest living members, and I'm increasing my collection.
Here are a couple of plants in flower that I exhibited in the local society's show at the weekend. The slipper orchid won first prize in its class, but as my brother had just given it to me, I can't claim any credit for how good it looks.