The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


A Cure for the Winter Blues

Orchid 7 2018I’ve got the winter doldrums. I’ve had enough of our gray, damp and chilly St. Louis winter. There’s really no snow to speak of during a St. Louis winter. We might get an occasional ice storm to make our pulses race a bit and remind us that we are alive, but mostly winter here is just a whole lot of blah. This year’s has been punctuated by some extremely cold temperatures so I’ve spent much of it more housebound than usual.

But there is a cure.

In late February when you’re just about bored to death, the Missouri Botanical Garden hosts its annual orchid show. And what a lovely sight it is. MoBot is home to one of the largest orchid collections out there and they do love to trot them out in late winter.

Orchid 2 2018

Aren’t they lovely? Such a heavenly combination of colors.

Orchid 5 2018

The garden’s founder Henry Shaw received his first orchids in 1876. Today the collection is nearly 6,500 strong with more than 2,000 species, nearly 1,500 cultivars and more than 686 unique taxa. Orchids come in all sorts of shapes, size and colors. The ones above look whimsical, like they have little fluttering wings.

Orchid 4 2018Orchid 10 2018

Dark, waxy looking leaves, bright green buds and pale freckled purple petals are worth a picture or two.

Orchid 11

Orchid 12 2018

With March around the corner, we’ve still got a few weeks of the mid-winter drearies left, but the good souls at the St. Louis Art Museum know us flower lovers want more. And they will deliver with their annual Art In Bloom event in early March.

Until then, I will bide my time, continue my walks through the lovely cities that make up St. Louis County and be on the look out for early signs of spring.



Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show

IMG_1009A common expression heard in St. Louis is, “If you don’t like the weather just wait a day.” So true. Last night’s ice and snow was a short-lived inconvenience as the temperatures got up into the 40s today and the sun melted what was sitting on the drive way. Good thing too, as I was not delayed in a visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden for its annual orchid show.

There may be variety in the Midwest weather–especially at this time of year–but nothing compares to the variety found in orchids. Wikipedia tells me that there are four times the number of orchid species than there are mammal species and twice the number of bird species. That’s a lot of orchidaceae. It makes the temperature swing we are expecting seem insignificant.

And fortunately for visitors to the orchid show, MoBot provides a healthy assortment to view. The show displays but a sampling of the garden’s permanent collection of more than 7,000 orchids. These represent more than 280 genera and 2,500 unique orchid taxa.

IMG_1017 yellow purple orchid IMG_1011  white aphrodite orchidshade orchid Red coral orchid


IMG_1040 IMG_1039

The exhibit is in a moderately sized room and went under construction immediately after dismantling the Holiday show. Apparently it takes quite a bit of time to prepare the space for the lush assortment of cattleya, phalaenopsis, oncidium and dendrobium species, to name drop just a few species. What I really enjoyed is the way the designers did a nice job of moving the color palette through the rainbow. There are yellows, oranges, reds, corals, purples, chocolates on display.

The theme of the show is “Orchids and Their Pollinators” and the Garden provides a G-rated lesson in the mating habits of orchids, pointing out that orchids have a very specific relationship with their pollinators. They lure them in ways to attract specific animals and insects. In fact, their floral structure is specifically adapted to accommodate a specific pollinator. If that pollinator becomes extinct, so might that orchid species. To learn more about the importance of pollinators visit the Pollinator Partnership.

What floral show is playing in your neighborhood?

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Trying to Grow Orchids

Orchid #2 leaf growth (640x480)I’m fairly excited. I truly am. I came in from my dark, 10 degree F (-12 C) work commute to discover one of my orchids seems to be growing! There are new leaves and “shoots” (for lack of a better word) coming off the stems. Could this plant actually be–dare I say it–thriving?

I find the world of houseplants to be more frustrating than my garden. Mostly it’s because I have limited space for them. But I enjoy the green beauty of a houseplant, especially in winter. I have two orchids, both from the grocery store, that were given to me as gifts. I believe they are Phalaenopsis or “moth orchids.” My first orchid was given to me two years ago at Christmas, and, it’s not doing the greatest (more on that in a minute). My performing orchid was given to me in August; both were in glorious bloom when I received them. Of course, I watched, misted, fed and fretted what I should do when the blooms die. Do I cut the stems down? The instructions on both tags told me to give the orchid 3 ice cubes a week. And to give it plenty of light. Check. Check. No problem following those simple instructions.

Orchid #2 stems

The browning stem makes me nervous? Do I cut this completely down? Trim it as it browns? Leave it alone? This time I opted to leave it alone.

But I do get nervous once the blooms fade and fall off. That’s because the stems begin to turn brown from the top down. Yikes, do I cut that off? Just trip off the dead stuff down to the nodule on the stem? Well, on the first plant I cut the stems when they completely turned brown and looked dead. I figured the plant would grow new stems. Hmmmmm, not so much.

Orchid #2 new growth

There’s new growth emerging from the stem of Orchid #2.

So when plant #2’s blooms faded and fell, I repeated the same step. Only this time, the stems are not completely brown and growth is coming off the nodules of the stem. And–yes, there’s more good news here–there is new leaf growth. Truthfully, that does not excite me nearly as much as the stem growth because Orchid #1 had lots and lots of leaf and root growth after the stems died. In fact, it had so much leaf and root growth that I re-potted it after I had it more than a year and it seemed rather apparent that it was not going to rebloom. I thought that perhaps the thing was root bound.

Orchid #1 doesn't seem so happy, even though I have treated it the same way as its sibling orchid. What gives?

Orchid #1 doesn’t seem so happy, even though I have treated it the same way as its sibling orchid. What gives?

I went to one of my favorite nurseries, bought a pot and planting material. I already had the orchid food, and the ice cubes. But I got nothing; the poor thing has not performed.

Maybe sibling rivalry will kick in and will start doing something, lest it be shown up by its younger sister.