Winter is not a very colorful time of the year. Everything is a muted shade of brown or gray. The lack of sunlight in the winter can cause some people to feel sluggish and depressed. They even have a name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Although I haven’t seen any studies to back this up, but I think that people can also suffer from LOCD, or Lack of Color Disorder at this time of year. There is only one treatment that I know of for this disorder that is guaranteed to work every time, and that is to take in the sights at the annual orchid show, The Art of Orchids, at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The show is at the Ridgeway Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 27 through March 11. Taking a cue from the orchid frenzy of 19th century Britain, the show is a gorgeous showcase of the natural beauty and variety of form of these living jewels of the floral kingdom. The display of orchids will be presented in decorative urns, under glass, and even framed on the wall. Palms, ferns, and a variety of tropical plants surround them. The arrangements take months to prepare. The English painter William Hogarth introduced the “S” shaped or later called “Hogarthian Curve” to floral design. Flowers and foliage were gently coaxed into rhythmical and symmetrical designs that followed the curvature of the letter “S.”
The orchid family, with some 30,000 species, is the largest group of flowering plants in the world. Although most are found in the tropics and subtropics, orchids are native throughout the world, except for the Arctic and Antarctica. They have been cultivated from at least the 11th century. Orchids range in size from tiny to huge and have flowers that vary widely in form, color, and fragrance.
Orchids grown indoors with forced air heat will need some extra humidity to thrive. This can be achieved by using a humidifier or by placing them on moisture-filled trays of gravel or pebbles. Water orchids when they need it, rather than by the calendar. Orchids need good indirect sunlight. Avoid placing them directly in the sun. They also grow well with fluorescent light.
You can find good, relatively easy to grow orchids at many retail garden centers. Some of the easier to grow and more interesting ones: Dendrobiums grow on tree branches and bear white to lavender flowers that are profuse and long lasting. Oncidiums are often called dancing girl orchids. They have flowers of white, yellow, and brown. They are native to South America. Paphiopedilums are native to Southeast Asia. They are called lady slipper orchids. They bear a single flower that is resplendent in its green and white stripes.
If you would like to learn more about orchids, the Missouri Orchid Society meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Friday of the month in the Missouri Room at the Missouri Botanical Garden. For more information, you can contact them at 314-961-0577.