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This is a story of the little jewel orchid that grew up to be a champion.
I first saw my little Ludisia
Discolor on the out of bloom table at a local floral nursery. It was
after the holidays, after the normal blooming season for Ludisia here in the
Mid Atlantic area and the nursery was clearing out the extra orchid stock that
had not sold. I certainly didn't need another orchid; my collection was
already bulging beyond the capacity I had to hold them all. Velvet-soft
burgundy striped leaves caught my attention out of the corner of my eye and I
walked over to have a look. The little Ludisia was sitting there
looking quite small next to the taller Dendrobiums and Cattleya. It
was just a little sprig of a thing, one little shoot coming up from the
base. The color of the leaves were just amazing, a rich
green-burgundy-bronze, very unique, nicer than any jewel orchid I had
seen. I smiled to myself as I wondered just what "out of bloom"
meant for a jewel orchid; after all we grow these for the beauty of their
foliage. It was showing signs of stress, from having sat there in the
nursery for some time.
I can't do it", I can't take home yet another sad little orchid that needs to
be nursed back to health. Haven't I done that enough times already?
I walked away and picked up whatever it was that I had come to the nursery
for. "But those leaves" I thought again, and went back to pick up the
scrawny little jewel orchid. After all, it was only $4.00. That was
5 years ago.
The little jewel came home with me
to the stress of adapting to yet another new environment. It sat there
sulking for months, hovering near death for a while then rebounding a bit.
I moved it from spot to spot, trying to figure out what it wanted. All
along I knew what it really wanted was to be bigger, to have some resilience
and strength in size. Finally it found a home it liked on the top back
shelf of the greenhouse. It started to branch out, something it had never
done before. The new leaves on the new branches were just as stunning as
the others. I was superstitious about its long awaited success, and
refused to move it from its perch for a very long time. It had done me
the favor of finally starting to grow and I was certainly going to return the
favor by guaranteeing its spot on the top shelf. After all, it had moved
too much as a little guy.
Finally one spring day it was time to repot and the little Ludisia moved up to a 5"
pot. I used a classic terrestrial orchid blend of peat, small charcoal,
perlite and some granite chips. The following winter it bloomed for the
first time in my care! I was delighted to see that it was finally happy
enough to bloom, having grown to a good healthy size. While the
little white blooms are pretty, the foliage steals the show. I decided
then and there that there is no such thing as an "out of bloom" Ludisia
By the following spring it was once again overflowing its pot. Clearly its
aggressive growth habit was going to require a substantial pot to hold
it. What it needed more than anything was a good deal of surface space to
roam around in so I chose a 16" bulb pan for it. Moving an orchid up more
than an inch or two of pot size goes against my better judgment. Looking
at the wingspan of this orchid and seeing how the new growth could bend into
the medium and form roots, I decided to go with my instinct and choose the
seemingly enormous pot.
As the repotting process evolved it was evident that the once little sprig of a
plant was going to fit nicely into this wide bulb pan. Amazingly it
settled in to fill up the entire top surface of the pot! The orchid
looked relieved to have finally made it into a big new pot, filled with fresh
medium and plenty of room to grow. I filled in carefully around each
growth with rePotme Jewel
Orchid Classic Orchid Mix. Each place where the
plant had grown a natural arch to dip down and form roots I used U clips
to secure each new sprout so that it was touching the medium.
Gently I moved it to a plant stand in the dining room window. There it
would be able to settle into its new mix without the stresses of the greenhouse
just yet. Shortly thereafter it moved back to near its favorite perch,
having outgrown the ability to return to its home on the top shelf. It
was too big now, too heavy in particular, so a similar suitable spot in the
sunny back corner of the greenhouse was found. I was not about to allow
it to wander out of this big pot! Each sprig that escaped was carefully
cut and secured in a bare spot in the pot with a wire U clip. This was a
labor of love, as so many of the tending tasks with orchids are. I'd seen
scraggly Ludisias before and wanted this one to be dense specimen, a blanket of
those incredible colored leaves.
the fall of 2007 the little Ludisia sprig from the out of bloom table had grown
into a beautiful mass of velvet leaves. It was simply too beautiful to
live exclusively in the greenhouse. Surely it would be able to become a
houseplant now; it was big, strong and resilient. I moved it to a new
home on a humidity tray in its own window. It settled in nicely to its
new environment without even missing a beat. As it continued to thrive I
had to let it sprawl over the edges of the pot having run out of bare spots to
tuck sprigs in. Recently a cutting from this plant was snapped up in the
early rounds of the orchid swap at our local orchid society. I guess I'm
not the only one who loves those incredible leaves. The little cutting
looked almost as small as its mother plant had been several years ago.
Our orchid club put up
a display at the National Capital Orchid Society fall show in October
2008. As I surveyed the orchids that I would have available to include in
the display, the Ludisia didn't make the first cut. After all, it was out
of bloom. Later, as I saw it sitting there so pretty in the window I
figured it would at least make good ground cover for the display, after all, it
is an orchid, in bloom or not. It fit in well, in an unremarkable
spot at the bottom of the display on the simulated jungle moss floor.
my delight to be awarded first place for amateur Jewel Orchids and a trophy
ribbon for "Best in Show, Amateur, Miscellaneous Genera"!
The little Ludisia orchid had grown up to be a beautiful champion, and to
remind us that sometimes there's no such thing as "out of bloom" for a jewel
“This fall I religiously followed your advice, creating an environment of shortened
days and lower temps in order to encourage blooming...I was successful. FINALLY!! Thank you, thank you!!
Both of my plants decided to bloom and they look beautiful. I wanted to share the good news and
my gratitude with you. Thanks again!”Laurie J.
“The potting medium you sent is gorgeous!! It's superior to the bark I've been
buying at Lowe's. I can't imagine what (my orchids) will do when I put them in your potting mix. It even
smells fresh!! Many, many thanks. I'll be ordering from you again.”
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