Dendrobium orchids – lovely presents until you kill them.


It is a kind thought, or is it, when someone gives you a house plant – especially if it is that dreaded species the Orchid. There is one in the kitchen right now, a thing of joy whilst it is still in its florist shop glory but what will it look like a few weeks into my care?

The label says it is “easy” but I wonder how many different meanings there are for that little four letter word. Can “easy” also mean impossible, difficult, frustrating and disappointing?

The label also identifies this particular orchid as Dendrobium. Well that’s OK then, I’ll look it up on-line. Ah yes, Dendrobium is a type of orchid that includes about 1,200 different species coming from all over Asia from the Himalayas to New Zealand. Great, easy then – they are bound to just love my kitchen for its Southeast Asian habitat here in Lewes in the UK. Will mine like living next to the basil plant?

Another thing, I read, Dendrobiums can be either epiphytic or lithophytic. Now that sounds serious. Which one is mine? Does it want to live on a tree or on a rock? I can remember the parable about building your house on sand, so I would choose a rock if I were a Dendrobium but this one seems to have a lot of wood in the pot so I guess it is epiphytic.

Epithytic is obviously a much more precise word than easy.  The word Dendrobium also tries to be precise as it comes from the Greek dendron (tree) and bios (life) – life on tree – so what about those rocks? Words, who needs them!

They can be very long-lived apparently – what does that mean? In my experience a long-lived orchid lasts for about a month.

I can do gardens….out there the plants grow for me and do as I say but the moment I try to nurture houseplants, well, they just die on me and make me feel useless. There is nothing less  homely than living with a dying houseplant. I try to live without them but hope, as they say, springs eternal and here I go again. Thanks for the present though, it is the thought that counts.

The exception to my long list of failures is my cactus plant of course….I have had it for years and water it every Thursday between March and October then I ignore it for the rest of the year. Now that is what I call easy.

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