Friday, April 10, 2015

The specimen that wasn't

When I go buying orchids I look out for things that are different from what I have in my collection and that are showy and eye catching.    Generally I avoid impulse buying, although I have at times been guilty of buying plants I know nothing about because I am overwhelmed by their beauty.  This is what happened me about a decade ago when I was buying orchids at an orchid show.

The annual orchid show of the Sociedad de Orquidistas de Puerto Rico, is the largest orchid show on the island.  There are plenty of exhibits and many vendors.  In this particular show, one of the vendors had a large plant of Dendrobium spectabile on his table.  The plant had many canes and had several inflorescences.  When I saw it I was in love!  When I asked for the price it turned out the plant was quite expensive.  But that didn’t deter me, I brought it and was very happy with my plant.
The pot and the base of the plant was tightly wrapped with tape, and I surmised that it was so that the potting material would not fall during transport.  But when I arrived at home, I was dismayed to find out that the specimen plant was in fact a bundle of single blooming canes artfully arranged around a small plant that had a single inflorescence.  I was angered and dismayed.  I called the vendor, which was not from the Island, and complained bitterly.  To their credit they said the plant had been sold by mistake by an untrained helper, they offered to refund the money.  That alleviated the monetary loss but I was heartsick about the plant. 

 In my garden things didn’t go well for this orchid, the plant in the center failed to thrive and died relatively quickly for reasons that are not clear.  The single canes rotted and died one by one until only a single one remained.  This cane was large, didn’t have roots, and was leafless.  I gave the cane the kind of tender loving care only an obsessive compulsive orchidist can give to a prized plant and eventually it produced a tiny new cane.  In due course the new cane rooted firmly in the plastic pot where I had planted it.  Then next year it produced a larger cane, and the next year the cane was even larger.  Finally, after several years the orchid bloomed.  I was in ecstasy!

The plant has continued to grow and to bloom faithfully year after year.  Sometimes it blooms twice a year.  I have brought other Den. spectabile plants over the years and all have, for unknown reasons, declined and died.  But the original one continues to thrive, it is indestructible!

To finish this story, I would like to add some advice, if you ever see a plant for sale with many blooming stems, check the bases of the canes.  If they are buried in the media to such a degree that you can’t see the base from where the roots grow, and the media is taped over so that it won’t fall, there is reason to suspect that you are looking at a composite plant made out of two or more plant puts together in a pot.  

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