The Excitement Of Growing Orchids At Home

We do not recommend an accident as the first step towards orchid-raising. But Major William E. Scudamore of New York City is thankful today that a speeding taxi winged him and indirectly introduced him to the exotic jungle plant. 

That was 9 years ago when the Major and his wife, a former architect, decided to retire. 

Growing OrchidsPin

They had always been enthusiastic hunters and fishermen and had chosen the Florida Keys for their first retirement trip. 

On the eve of departure, the taxi changed their plans and put the Major out of circulation for a long convalescence. 

Instead of a spinning reel under his thumb, he had nothing to look forward to but months of boredom.

His wife, Anne, refused to be bullied by fate. If she could not go to the tropics, then the tropics could jolly well come to her.

International Flower Show

An article by Philip Wylie on the joys of raising orchids at home and a visit to the International Flower Show clinched it. 

As a child, she dreamed about having a house full of orchids and, later, as an architect, had come to appreciate their decorative value. So she ordered a cattleya plant by mail.

Its reception by the invalid was anything but cordial. 

What in blazes was a former member of the Cape Mounted Rifles and the Royal Flying Corps playing nursemaid to a pot of delicate flowers that would be better off in some sun-flecked jungle or adorning the dress of a lady? 

But despite his muttering and grumbling, he soon grew attached to his charge, and when it died from lack of know-how, his dander was up.

Ordering of Plants

Another plant was ordered, and the Scudamores were ready for it this time. They rounded up every bit of information they could lay their hands on. 

To their surprise, there is a great deal, and they are particularly grateful to the Horticultural Society of New York for its aid.

Today, 9 years later, they live with 37 plants. The south walls of their living room, bedroom, and bath abound with healthy specimens. 

There is no day when one or more plants are not in full bloom, and at Christmas, the apartment is a mass of flowers ranging from white to deep purple. 

Orchids in Brazil

There are orchids from the Caribbean, Brazil, and the Himalayas. One plant, especially dear to them, was sent from India by a cousin making a round-the-world tour.

In pursuit of their hobby, the Scudamores have discovered a lot of interesting facts about the cattleya orchid. 

Instead of being fragile, it is quite hard and will thrive on minimum care. They advise home growers. 

Cattleya Orchids

However, stick to the cattleya because they are doubtful whether cymbidiums, cypripediums, and other species will thrive equally well under similar conditions. 

Their plants enjoy temperatures rising as high as 80° degrees Fahrenheit during the day and falling as low as 50° degrees Fahrenheit at night. 

They have discovered that the plants can take even higher and lower extremes for short periods without damage.

Another point the Scudamore emphasizes: contrary to popular belief, the orchid does not need a dank, humid atmosphere. 

Morning Shower of Plants

They give the plants a morning shower daily and a second spray in the late afternoon during the hot summer months. 

Several containers of water, placed around the pots, ensure evaporation. Major Scudamore has invented an ingenious spray composed of the fat rubber bulb hitched to a slender piece of hose, ending in a shower head. 

He points out that you should be careful not to get any water on the blossoms since it discolors the petals and shortens their life.

The plants are placed in windows on the south wall, some hanging, others on the ledges. 

Sun Control

An early problem was sun control. Orchids, natives of jungles where filtered light is the rule, do not favor full sunlight. 

At first, Mrs. Scudamore tried Venetian blinds, but these gave either slit of deep shadow or full sun. Now she streaks the glass in the windows with wet scouring powder, which has worked like a charm for years.

Orchids: Living on Air

Since orchids live on air, no special food is required to keep them in prime condition. The plants do take some nourishment from the potting element. 

Recently the Major has shifted from osmundine or fern roots to a mixture of moss and pebbles and seems to get better results. He soaks this mixture every three days.

Own Repotting

The Scudamore points out that if you do your own repotting and dividing, the initial cost of an orchid is the last. 

This, they say, makes orchid-raising one of the least expensive hobbies. They leave these jobs to a professional because they do not feel properly equipped. 

The fee is modest, and the Major insists that the results are well worth the extra cost. Natural multiplication and division constantly add to the collection and cut down on extra purchases.

Nine Years of Orchids

Looking back over their 9 orchid years, Scudamore’s account of their hobby is a downright economy. 

They calculate that the average household spends two or three dollars a week on flowers. 

Their plants, $15 to $35 each, last for years, and because they selected wisely, with rotation in mind, their apartment is never without one or more in full bloom. 

Plant Blossoms Once A Year

Flowers last from 6 to 7 weeks, and each plant blooms once a year. They don’t feel tied down by their charges, either. 

Though now over seventy, they still go on hunting and fishing trips, leaving the apartment in charge of a maid who drops in once a day to attend to the watering. They like, too, the immense elegance of orchids and love to give blossoms to friends.

44659 by William J. Hennessey