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. Posted by Picasa

9 comments:

cedar51 said...

those orchids are gorgeous - from the satiny fine finished look to the colours that just jump out at you. The gold and browns. I say browns as I can see tints and stuff in my minds eye and then the inner tube [oops what do you call that bit!] is bright white. That orchid "feels" regal.

interesting how flowers and even leaves have such fabulous colours within them.

reminds me of the design course I heard of once where they had to go outside and bring in a bundle of grass stalks and then study how many greens were to be seen :-)

haven't been checking in at your blog of late, Shirley but I can see you have been taking some fine photos.

Deb R said...

They're very pretty!!

Janet said...

beautiful orchids!

Helen Suzanne said...

what a fasinating story. it's amazing our past lives can be so different, like a video tape on the shelf, that we can pluck bits from sometimes and reintroduce it all fresh into our lives. I've done that with many childhood interests over the last year or so...

MargaretR said...

Beautiful Orchids Shirley. I had one from my youngest son and it lasted one season, I think I must have overwatered it or something as it died on me. How much water do they usually nee?

Shirley Goodwin said...

Depends what type of orchid it is - some have pseudobulbs which store water so can go without much longer than the likes of slipper orchids, which don't. Overwatering is a common cause of orchid deaths, especially if they're not potted in a freedraining mix. Oops, didn't mean to launch into Orchids 101!

brdhsbldr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
brdhsbldr said...

See now, Orchids 101 could be very useful.
I recently popped into the office of a local social worker who is also from New Zealand. I think she was running an orchid recue mission in there. She had one that was waning but utterly unusual and lovely. It had more "foliage" and the orchids were growing at the end of said foliage.

Catherine said...

Does that mean some of the dead members are younger than you :) ?
Sorry, I couldn't resist!