Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mission Creep in the Orchid Room

It all started innocently enough. I took a hard look at one of my orchids, which seemed to be dying again. An orchid in my house can visibly die, dwindling down to one or two withered leaves, and at that point any normal person would simply throw it out. I respond by pulling it out of the pot and looking at its roots, to see if there's any chance I can salvage the plant. So I took said orchid (one I call Lazarus, because it did this before, three years ago), and dumped it out on the front lawn. The potting medium (bark and charcoal) was dried out on top and soggy toward the bottom of the pot, and all but a couple of the orchid's roots were dead. This is Lazarus, in better days:Here's the thing with orchids. Oxygen is even more important than water to them. That's why orchid potting medium seems so coarse and dry. You pot this thing up in chunks of bark and your natural instinct is to water it a LOT because the medium doesn't hold any water. But that is exactly the point. Orchids need to dry out between waterings, or their roots rot. And after 15 years of keeping orchids, I am still watering them too much.

Worse than that, the medium was absolutely seething with tiny white insects, or maybe they weren't insects. The Science Chimp did not know what they were, but she knew they were bad news. Sometimes her taxonomic curiosity fails her and she just wants to get rid of the damn things.

So I sighed and immersed the infested plant in tepid water, taking all the medium off the roots, and got out my potting medium and a new clean pot and sprayed the plant, roots and all, with pyrethrins and let it dry in the sun before potting it up again.

And it occurred to me that if Lazarus was suffering so, well then the five or so plants next to Lazarus likely were, too.

And it was a warm day, really nice and sunny, and it was already November, and when would I get this kind of weather again and maybe I'd just take a peek at Lazarus' neighbors to see if they had bugs and were miserable too. So I carried four more plants out onto the lawn and dumped them out and yep, there were tiny white bugs crawling through their rotten soggy medium too so I sighed and immersed them and got out some more fresh potting medium and sprayed the plants with pyrethrins and left them to dry on the lawn while I went and dug up some more pots which then had to be washed in hot soapy water.

While those plants were drying I went back inside and took a hard look at the dozen or more plants on the other bureau in the bedroom and hmmmm. They didn't look so hot, either, and it was a warm day and it was already November and when would I get a day like this again so I hauled them out and dumped them out on the lawn, too. And before you know it my entire orchid collection was out on the lawn, roots up, and it was overload, and it wasn't cute.I began to sing loudly, to take my mind off the abyss, the pit of hell into which I now leapt.

Mama said there'd be days like this
There's be days like this my mama said
Ai yi yi yi yi yi yi...

Next: Zick leaps in and finds redemption in the mess.

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