- To have success growing orchids isn't difficult. It's just a matter of learning this plant's natural habitat and providing the conditions and nutrients necessary. Annette Schrader visits with an avid orchid hobbyist to learn the do's and don'ts to get gorgeous blooms for years. Then Troy Martin treats us to a tour of a home landscape in Memphis that's been 30 years in the making. Come along. You can be rewarded with better blooms each year. - I see you all the time in public and you'll say to me, someone gifted me an orchid, I can't do this. I can't keep this alive. It'll just die. And then I'll see you and you'll say, oh, it never did bloom for two years and I just tossed it. Well, we're going to take the mystique out of the orchid in our home. You don't have to have a greenhouse and Tim Schoonover in Clarksville, who is quite extraordinary with his knowledge on orchids, Tim start us out and let's, let's give confidence to the home orchid grower. - Sure. First and foremost, orchids are not difficult plants to grow. They're you know, I often find myself saying, said you the other day, I can't grow roses. That's completely untrue. You know, my limitation is I don't understand the exact requirements and haven't really schooled myself in that. Or I probably could grow, you know, wonderful roses, but orchids are the same way. It's a matter of understanding some fundamentals on the conditions you need to grow them in. How, when, when to repot them, what to do after they bloom and basic understanding of those and they will bloom faithfully every single year. - You know, I don't see anything wrong with the foliage on orchid and how that looks in our, in our homes, you know, in a, in a special place. So it actually doesn't have to have a bloom on it all the time, does it. - Right and you know, we don't necessarily let our, you know, perennials in our yards die off when they fall out of bloom. We know that we're going to have to take care of them, wait for that next year for them to look beautiful again. - Okay, we've been given an orchid and so how many, how long should we go before we think about that re-potting? - Yeah, I would say at least every other year, it really depends on, you know, the conditions you're keeping the orchid in. If you're in conditions where you're having to water it more frequently, the potting medium is going to break down much more quickly. And you know, you are going to need to repot it maybe once a year. But I would say every other year is a good rule of thumb. I would recommend getting with your local orchid growers, 'cause a lot of them will re-pot your orchids for you for a nominal fee, they'll have the right stuff to do it. You know, you're not having to rely on whether you bought the right mix at the big box store or whether you potted them right when you did it. So, or at least go through that first potting with a local expert to where you feel confident I can do this from this point on. - Okay so one of the things about growing that orchid before we get into the repotting, what kind of a fertilizer or do you even have to fertilize? - Yes, that's a very important question. And I hear people say, hey, I do fine with Miracle Grow or I do fine with Peters this or that. But the one thing that I have found out over the years is that you either want to use an organic fertilizer or a no urea formula. Whereas like the fertilizer they put on your lawn is very high, very high nitrogen based urea, and is going to be much more inclined to burn the roots. And as we repot this, I'll be kind of showing you what could possibly be fertilizer damage to those roots. So you want to use a good fertilizer. Fertilize it no more than half strength of whatever the instructions say. And weekly, I always say the axiom is fertilize them weekly, weekly. - Do you know what? Then I failed that first one, but I actually purchased as put out by one of the major brands of fertilizers for house plants, it's a foliar feeding and you just spray it on. And I, that is the only fertilization I've actually used on my phalaenopsis that I have and may not been the right thing. But anyway, I don't know if that's. - Actually, that's a valid way to fertilize. As long as again, you're not using a full strength. These are epiphytes, meaning they would be found growing on the sides of trees. They don't, they wouldn't have that many embedded roots in the tree or medium that they're growing in. So they're counting on, you know, the rain, the moisture, where they can get water, get that moisture, and then quickly dry out. Once we start putting these into pots, we end up with a whole different set of things that we need to keep in mind. The biggest of which is not keeping them too wet or over-fertilized because their roots are very prone to burning. - I have a question about humidity in this part. Would it be permissible to save these trays that we water our plants and the water goes into, to put like, people love, to put those nice smooth pebbless and then put water underneath them, but they wouldn't be standing. Would that it would that help them in the home environment growing? - Most definitely a tray with pebbles. I would say a tray, at least the diameter of the leaves of the thing that's going to get that constant evaporation . Again, as long as the plant is not sitting in that water, if it's on those pebbles, anything you can do to increase the, the moisture. If you've got a window, make sure that's away from a heating or cooling vent. 'Cause those are things that are going to dry out the leaves and roots quickly. - And you know, I think it's sorta like growing, raising our children. It's what we get them acclimated to. Perhaps I have 18 orchids. I bring them in, in the winter time and I put them in a northeast corner, but they're all together, so they collect the moisture from, from their next door neighbor. Don't they, doesn't that create an environment of humidity? - Yeah. You've created almost your own little jungle there. Well, let's, let's talk about now we've been successful. We're, we're ready to re-pot one. Tell us about that. - Here's an orchid that has bloomed. Way, way overdue in repotting. Whenever you get these roots growing over the lip of the pot, that is that plant's way of telling you I need water. I need moisture. I need food and I may not be getting it in the pot. And I think we're going to discover here in a second, when I pull this out of the pot, why this plant is telling us by its little bit wilted, lower leaves and its roots out here that are very healthy, by the way, I'm just not getting enough moisture and nutrients, okay. - And you know, it's interesting that, that this is actually not the root. That's a covering on that. The root is inside that. What did you call that? Yes, this covering is a moisture-absorbing thing called velamen. So again, these are tropical plants grow in the jungle. They're not down in the soil. So they have that one-time opportunity when it rains to absorb the moisture because within an hour or two, sun's going to come out and the rainforests are going to dry completely out. So if they just have roots without that coating, they would not have that almost a sponge-like thing to say, okay, I'm going to soak up, preserve this water. - So we could just strip away that outer cover. And you would see the little root. It's like a hairline almost, isn't it? When we pull this plant out of the pot, we'll do that with some of the dead roots. And you'll see that inner part of the root that you talked about. So you can see this guy is way overdue in being repotted. - I bet he was still happy. - That's, that's the little bit of bad news. The really good news is that most of the roots that were down in that pot are very, very healthy. You have a few dead roots here that we're going to trim off, but overall, this guy's been pretty darn happy, which means it has not been over-watered. So first thing we're going to do is take and trim off some of these older leaves, even if they've got a little bit of healthy root at the bottom, if they're looking kind of dead and not so healthy at the top, you talked about the center, which is actually the root. You can see that stringing material, that's your actual root, that's the dead covering there. So, you know, we're going to want to get rid of most of this that we can get rid of. And this one's actually going to be a pretty easy challenge to repot. This thing here was probably the original thing... - I was gonna say, is that a problem? ... that was started, started as a little tiny plant, but I think you're looking pretty good there overall. - What would they have put in there to make the plant? Would it have been a cutting, a seed or what? - Just a little tiny plant Yeah, just a little tiny plant. And we're also going to go ahead and cut off the old bloom slack. We're going to talk about that too, because that's another reason that a lot of folks' orchids don't do well. We're already stressing them out, trying to grow them indoors. And then we let them re-bloom and that double stresses them. So when they complete that first bloom and start wanting to grow one again, that's when we're going to want to cut that spike all the way back. And we'll talk about that. Okay, something, I do this a little bit different, but it is a tried and true method for me, just trying to decide here 'cause I don't, the one thing you don't want to do. 'Cause you look at a plant like this and you had it planted in this and we're really tempted to say, well, let's look at that. We, it needs a lot bigger pot. That's a disaster waiting to happen. So I'm probably going to want to just go one size up here. But the thing that I do, that's a little bit different than most people do is I'm going to take, I try to repurpose a lot of things, including the packing styrofoam peanuts. The purpose of this is once I get that medium in there is to provide better drainage. And also there will always, always, always be an airspace where air can circulate at the bottom. 'Cause that's the thing that will kill your roots most often is that a potting medium rots and gets compacted, the roots can't breathe and they are going to die. - That's why you don't just use just potting soil. - Right, that's why you don't just use. You can. And in fact, a lot of growers switched to that. That's all fine and good if your potting soil like this sphagnum moss we'll talk about, if it's drying up fast enough, but with most of us with typical growing conditions you want something where it'll dry out gradually not stay soggy in the meantime. - What does it hold the water? Something that doesn't hold water. Do you want me to hold that? - Sure. You're going to want a medium such as this. You want a real loose medium, all right. The key elements of this medium would be the most important part. This is a fairly new thing in the last 10, 15 years, instead of using the traditional fir bark. What they're using now are shredded coconut bark, right? So it's readily available. They have thousands of coconuts all over the beaches in, in the South Seas. They do have to, if you get a bale of these, you do have to soak them to make sure you get all the saltwater out because most of them are from beach areas. The beauty of these, if you look when I squeeze it, it's almost like a little sponge, okay? So when that absorbs the moisture, even if I pull it out and it looks somewhat dry, it's going to have just enough residual moisture in there to keep those roots vibrant and to keep them moist as opposed to bark and get very, very dry in other medium. Another key element is your charcoal because that's going to neutralize any chemical issues you've got going fertilizer. If you've got water issues, we're very lucky in this area. We've got absolutely what you'd call perfect water, a pH neutral water for orchids. And then one of the things that I like to use a lot is this is a large form of perlite called sponge rock. Again what you're doing with that, you're increasing the drainage. You're increasing that air flow, increasing that space for the roots to grow. - Where would a person find these elements? - So those elements, most any orchid grower's going to carry a supply of these. Most of them will be happy if they're not repotting for you to, to sell you some, - Or a garden center. - they do sell that mix online as well. And everybody's a little different. I do all my own soil amendments. So somebody else may tell you, well, I don't use as much as the tiny orchid or coconut bark as he does. I use mostly the bigger, but again, everybody's greenhouse, everybody's growing situation is a little different. And after 30, 40 years, you kind of figure out what works the best for you. It's kind of trial and error. So this is going to be probably a little bit of a tight fit, but what we're going to do, the first thing we're going to do is place the orchid. - Oh so you're not gonna take the old ones off. - No, all those are good viable roots. And I'm also not going to worry about a few of those roots dangling over the side. Especially since you do like to mist them, it's not going to hurt to have a few of those aerial roots dangling over the side. - They all already, cause already cut those brown suckers off. - The other thing you noticed that I did was I stood the orchid upright in the pot because after a while, they're going to want to start falling out of the pot. - It had done that . - And probably much to your chagrin, I'm also going to take these wilting leaves. I'm going to cut them off because all they're doing, they're not healthy, and all they're doing is sapping the plant of energy, okay? - Does it have a new center one coming? - Yes. And it's got a, it's got a fairly new leaf here. You can tell that still soft. It's not leathery and hard. This is not really their growing season. It will actually probably put a spike out after repotting it instead of growing more. But again, you're going to recenter it in the pot. You notice I've got it raises just above the level of the pot there to where it's not shoved down in the pot. I liked that just because again, you're not burying the roots in medium. You notice there's really no finesse to this. I'm not being particularly careful with the roots. I'm dumping that mix down in. You're not, you're not having to worry about that. The one thing I do like to have is some kind of prod so I can make sure you see some of those airspace. Airspace aren't really going to be a problem, but I do want to make sure that the medium is down around the roots. - Well, and then that, that packing it in, keeps it from what, makes it some more stable. - Right, and then I'll put a little bit of top off on the top. Again, the plant is still right above the edge of the pot. So it's not sunk down in there. It's going to get good air circulation. And that plant is good to go for a couple of years. - Let's talk a little bit about sickness in our plants. What do you think is going on in this plant and talk about what insects we could encounter with our orchids. - Most common insects are going to be your scale and mealy bug. They're pretty visible. You'll notice them right off the bat. If you look in the underside of that leaf, those little tiny tan dots, those are scale. That's your typical scale. These may very well be dead, but this plant has been infested in one point or another with scale, more commonly than pests, especially if you only have a few orchids, you're not as likely to deal with pests as you are other kinds of pathogens. You notice the color of these leaves is not particularly good. You've got the black spots in them. When we took this out of the decorative pot. The first thing I noticed is that this pot is very, very heavy, which tells me it's holding a ton of water. So you've definitely got, just like your trees in your yard. If you look and the leaves are turning black, the problem is most likely started in the roots and orchids are no different. So we probably got a pretty serious root problem here. I'm going to pull this back away here just a bit. So I don't get down on any other plants and sure enough, you can see the roots are rotted off about half way down. - . - So with plant, you got a couple of choices. Sometimes it's hard not to be big-hearted. It's hard for all of us to throw a plant away. I would recommend considering that, unless this has a lot of sentimental value, somebody gave it to you or, or it was a costly orchid. I would consider that alternatively, you're going to want to cut all of those roots that broke off when I pulled out the pallet, another inch or two back, it's still going to leave you with some viable roots because it did have some roots coming out of the pot, but I would definitely make sure you do the styrofoam at the bottom. And that's a good example of why you want that air circulation. You will probably never see rot like that on the root if you're using something like the styrofoam peanuts for air circulation, but this plant has just simply stayed too wet too long. - What would you do with this plant right here? As far as it's health and, and trim and whatever. - Yeah, the health and vigor of this plant is excellent. It is planted in a completely different medium. This is, I do use this for some of my slipper orchids. This is long fiber, probably Chilean or Argentinian sphagnum moss, not to be confused with peat moss, It's sphagnum moss, grows in big sphagnum bogs. And one of the advantages is that it does dry out quite well between waterings and it is fairly well aerated. The only caveat to this medium is if you are not regularly repotting this medium every year, once this stuff starts to break down, it will absolutely just turn into soup and rot your roots. And again, you see at the bottom, I would, I would recommend a layer of something, 'cause in any watering, the moisture is always going to gravitate towards the bottom. But if it's sitting in those peanuts, it's not touching the roots. - All right, now we're going to switch gears to another variety of orchid, which I didn't even know existed. Tell us Tim about this and you are growing it outside, correct? - Yes, and I recommend if you do have orchids, bring them outside in the summer. Make sure you, you know, give them a proper amount of shade or sun or whatever they require, but they're always going to do better outside with the additional humidity and that, that you're not going to get in your house. And the more natural lighting, this is a Stanhopea orchid. And it's got a very different form of growth. So as we talked about repotting earlier, one size does not necessarily fit all. An orchid like this is going to need to grow in more of a basket-like setting with sphagnum moss or osmunda fiber or something the roots can grow through and the flowers can go through. And then when I say the flowers in this particular orchid, the flowers are actually going to merge from the bottom of the basket down 3, 4, 5 inches, and then open up. The really cool thing that I like about the stanhopea is that there's only one particular creature that pollinates this in nature. - What, is it a moth? - It is a bat. It's actually a bat, yes. So it's just another example of one of the beauty, beauty of nature. - So how old is this plant? - That plant is probably about 20 years old. - Goodness. So this, this is attainable through mail order or orchid societies. It's not something that's rare. And everybody would have. - Right, it wouldn't no, neither be rare nor expensive. This is probably the most common variety of stanhopea so it should be ready, readily available and find them fairly easy to grow. They do take quite a bit in neglect. You'll notice as opposed to the orchids that we looked at repotting, these have fairly large bulbs on them. So if I did forget to water for a week or two, it's got a good reserve of energy and food and moisture in those bulbs. - So when will it put out its bloomscapes? - It will bloom next summer again. Yeah, it will bloom. - In what color? - They are a cream color and with a beautiful red and black throat and they have a very strong, almost wintergreen, almost overwhelming. You could smell it a half a block away scent, very heavily scented. - At night? - Well in the evening at night. And that again is going to attract the pollinators. - Yes, exactly. Well, Tim, you just always amaze me and I know that orchids just seem to be such a, people just don't understand, oh, I can't do this, but you certainly shown us through the potting and what might be wrong with an orchid that we can put this into our homes. We don't have to have a greenhouse and enjoy growing them and don't be afraid of them. And thank you for allowing us to come. - You're very welcome. - Well, it's a rainy day in Memphis, but I have a really special treat for you today. Mike and Vickie McDonald have been kind enough to let us come to their garden and you will just not believe what they have done with this piece of property over 30 years of living here. It's hard to believe that when this property was purchased, this was all privet hedge and dense undergrowth. Now this garden has been opened up into magnificent lawns and beautiful shade borders surrounding them. Over the course of many years, the undergrowth has been cleared away and this property has been turned into magnificent sweeping lawns and just as magnificent sweeping beds, full of shade plants, sun plants, shrubs, everything you can think of. Vicky is a magnificent gardener in her own right and she's had lots of good help over the years from people like designer, Tom Pellet and I'm sure a number of others. And she has worked really, really hard on turning this once wooded and overgrown lot into a real show place. They've left all of the big old trees. They're well taken care of and well-managed. They've planted all kinds of screening around the edges, magnolias and hollies and big oak leaf hydrangeas with plants like hostas and hellebores. Many varieties of ferns. The lawns are surrounded by big, beautiful, deep beds that hold vast quantities of plants, of all shapes and sizes, textures and colors. Vicky says that when they began, they just listened to the land and they put the paths where the natural indication was that sort of helped define all of these bed spaces. And I know Tom came in and did some stonework in some places, placed some large boulders to help define the bed edges. And there's also a large swale that runs through the property that drains the water off of several lots around them. They get quite a bit of drainage through here. So rather than having that be a detriment, they've actually turned it into a beautiful stone-bottomed swale that carries the water where they want it and actually forms a beautiful running creek during times of wet weather. In this shadier section of the border, plants like ferns and hostas and Solomon's seal mingle together, accented by really beautiful small flowering plants like the fire pinks and the Indian pinks and this small calamaris, which is a type of aster that grows really well in part shade. There are also some magnificent clumps of hosta, a variety called sum and substance and many others. As we come up into the sunny area of this garden, we're met with a beautiful, beautiful perennial border laden with plants like Minarda and salvia Stokes aster, litherum, day lilies, great combinations of things. And one of the homeowner's main goals in this garden is to have really wonderful combinations of plants blooming together for as long a season as possible, mostly done with perennials in this case. You can see that we have day lilies blooming here next to the litherum. There's veronicastrum, that's the white spiky flower. And the thing that I noticed about this perennial border is not only is there great foliage and leaf texture and leaf color, but there's also wonderful texture even in the blossoms themselves with spiky blooms against rounded blooms. And it really creates a beautiful, beautiful scene in the back part of this yard. And the other thing that I really love about this border is that it's, it's rather traditional in its layout, that the shorter plants are in the front and carry you right up to the back with the taller plants. But occasionally there's a really nice accent of something tall, just kind of popping up in the middle of everything. And I think that brings a lot of fun and a lot of verticality to the garden. It has been a real pleasure to be part of this garden and to be able to share it with you. Thank you so much to the homeowners for letting us come and be a part of their garden. This is just a beautiful, beautiful place to be.
July 22, 2021
Season 30 | Episode 04
Orchids can add beauty to the home year after year. Annette Shrader visits with a knowledgeable orchid enthusiast to learn about proper watering, fertilization, re-potting critieria, and preferred growing medium. Troy Marden strolls the sweeping perennial borders of an estate garden in Memphis.