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In Which I Euthanize An Orchid

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

I brought an orchid home from the grocery store last March, to help with the winter blues. It was an ordinary Phalaenopsis—you know, the ones that look like butterflies in flight. The blooms, four on each of two long, stiff stems, were the size of ping pong balls, white with purply pink veins in the center, and I thought they were magical. It was my first orchid ever.

I put it in a nice cachepot, in a light but not too sunny spot, and feasted my eyes on it for a full 48 hours. Then, with a single swish of his tail, Wolfie decapitated one of the two stems.

I refrained from scolding him—after all, it\’s not his fault if he\’s bursting at the seams with joie de vivre. The remaining stem was doing fine, and those flowers hung on until Thanksgiving. The same was not true, however, of the leaves, which should have been a deep green and turgid but instead were thin and wrinkled and had an unhealthy yellow tinge.

Plant books tell you that the most common cause of plant ills is overwatering, so I watered less. But the leaves looked the same. I went back to regular watering and one leaf turned completely yellow, so I cut it off. A friend who has a great hand with orchids recommended regular plant food (as opposed to special orchid food) to give the leaves a boost. But they continued to droop.

I was about to throw in the towel when, sometime after the last winter solstice, I saw two buds on one of the stems. The orchid was going to bloom! Full of hope, I misted it with special care, watered it, fed it, moved it to a warmer spot.

But that orchid could have been made of stone, for all the life it showed. The buds, still green, developed at a glacial pace. The leaves, still thin and wrinkled, worried and depressed me every time I looked at them. The plant might eventually flower, but how would it sustain itself with those sick-looking leaves?

This morning, at plant-misting-grooming-and-chatting-up-time, I faced my feelings. That orchid was giving off negative energies, and I was absorbing them. It had to go. And so, it went.

Meanwhile, on the kitchen windowsill, an ancient zonal geranium has been making poppy-red blooms all winter long. It loves showers, and every time I put it in the sink and run the hose over it, it rewards me with another bloom.

Geraniums are a peasant flower. They look good in rustic surroundings, next to stone and old brick. They go on and on no matter what, and manage to look cheerful unless they are at death\’s door.

Next winter (in Vermont it\’s never too early to start planning for next winter) I think I\’ll try having more than just the one geranium in the house. I\’d especially like to have a bunch of those barely-pink ones (NOT the horrible salmony-pink kind) that are so hard to find.

In the meantime, just in case the barely-pink ones don\’t materialize, I\’ll try rooting some cuttings from my old red friend in the kitchen.

4 Responses

  1. amazing! i had the exact same thing happen to me. i think it was even the same kind of orchid. (you can see it here)only difference was it didn\’t take me quite as long to kill it. it was beautiful while it lasted. but in june i took it outside and that seemed to seal its doom.

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