All About Orchids
by Casey Schwartz
Commonly known as the Orchid family, Orchidaceae, is thought to be the second largest family of flowering plants. (The largest family of flowering plants is the sunflower family which includes asters and daisies.)
Symbolism & History
The orchid has been a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. To the early Greeks, the orchid represented virility and during the Middle Ages the orchid was considered an aphrodisiac and used in love potions. In the 18th century, orchids were still very rare and only a few botanists and the wealthy could enjoy them. In 1818, William Cattley became the first person to bloom an orchid and that changed the flower world forever. Jungles and forests were stripped of millions of orchids and a single orchid sold for thousands of dollars. This phenomenom echos the time of Tulip Mania that happened in Holland in 1637. Orchids are now bred and cultivated specifically the cut flower industry.
Orchids and Food
The family includes the Vanilla orchid which is the source of the Vanilla extract we use in cakes, puddings, and ice creams.
Here are some other ideas for Vanilla extract use in everyday food:
- Add a generous dash of pure Vanilla extract to a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.
- Use Vanilla with sweet potatoes, yellow squash or carrots
- Add a few drops to vinaigrette dressing
- Sweeten grapefruit halves, sprinkle with Vanilla extract and let sit for five minutes or so
- Mix into oatmeal or cold cereal
- Brush butter mixed with pure Vanilla over mild flavored fish, seafood or poultry during broiling
- Stir a few drops into pancake or dessert crepe batters
- Add to fruit glazes for poultry and ham
- Add to club soda it gives a touch of sweetness
- Mix into orange juice and lemonade.
Most people are introduced to orchids through Phalaenopsis orchids. These are the thick-leaved plants with lovely arching sprays of blooms that can be seen in so many design magazines and sitting on coffee tables across America. There are about sixty species of Phalaenopsis; they are native to tropical Asian countries including Borneo,the Philippines and Java.
The large genus Dendrobium with over 1600 species, comes from the Far East and the western Pacific. We find these daily at the mart in white and purple. A bunch of 10 make a great statement in a bud vase, give a floral spray and lovely lacey look and can be found on most all the Rose Parade floats. They also have a light sweet scent and are wonderful for making Hawaiian style leis.
Cymbidium orchids have been making a comeback in recent years as more people discover these wonderful orchids and thanks to the appearance of the miniature cymbidiums. They are much more cold-tolerant than many common species of orchids and feature sprays of large blooms in the dead of winter. These beautiful flowering plants can be kept in pots outdoors year round in Southern California and will bloom in the spring from late February through April.
Orchids in Bloom
Singapore’s Botanic Gardens pioneered orchid hybridization in the 19th century. The tropical city exports over $20-million worth of orchids a year and in 2006 had around 15 percent of the world market for cut flowers. The Gardens originally focused on commercial crops, leading to the spread of rubber across Southeast Asia, before switching to botanical research. I visited this garden while working onboard a luxury cruise ship in the 1990s called the Sea Goddess and worked with a local florist named Dolly. She would board the ship in Singapore with hundreds of orchid stems to create massive sprays of orchid arrangements all over the ship. I found to my delight that if I watered them, they lasted for two or three weeks!
Create Your Own Orchid Arrangements
Flower Duet loves working with orchids and if you are close by the Los Angeles area, or looking for a reason to visit. Flower Duet is offering an All About Orchids Class, a two-hour in-depth look at orchids. We will demonstrate a small Dendrobium stem spray arrangement that anyone can do at home and then show how to create a dramatic large stem Dendrobium centerpiece. Each student in class will be hands-on to create a Cymbidium orchid corsage and design their own Phalaenopsis orchid plant in a decorative container. Students will learn the method to repot a live orchid so that it will spike year after year to give off lots of blooms!
From Tucson to Taiwan and in the mountains of the Blue Ridge and the Rockies there are orchid shows during the month of March, If you are local to Flower Duet in Torrance, Califorina, check out the South Bay Orchid Society Show this weekend.
March 5-6, 2011
South Bay Orchid Society Show
Torrance Cultural Arts Center, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, CA.
Contact: Marla Corey; (310) 707-7097
by Kit Wertz
The March birth flower is the daffodil, in the Narcissus family, and there are tons of daffodils at the market and blooming in our gardens at home. If you are going to work with daffodils in your cut flower arrangements, read on for best results!
Purchase when flower buds are still closed.
All flowers in the Narcissus family which includes daffodils, paperwhites and jonquils, exude a milky sap that can clog stems of other flowers if the cut Narcissus stems are not conditioned properly. This will prevent the other flowers from lasting a long time in the vase.
Follow these steps to mix daffodils with other flowers safely in your spring flower arrangements.
- Start with cool water and flower food. As will all bulb flowers, the temperature of the conditioning water should be cool and not warm (unless you want the flowers to open quickly). Use professional floral food for best results and cut the stems at least ½ inch before placing them in a clean container with the cool water and proper amount of floral food (follow manufacturer’s instructions)
- Condition the daffodils for at least SIX hours before arranging them
- Do NOT re-cut the stems after conditioning before you put them in the final arrangement or the sap will leak out again and hurt the other flowers
- Keep bulb flowers in shallow water. If they are placed in deep water, the stems can get water logged and shrivel up and the petals of the blooms will get papery
- For best results – only mix narcissus flowers with other types of flowers in floral foam arrangements and not in vase arrangements to lesson the chance of the sap getting into the vase water
Each spring, the small town of Julian, California (famous for its apple pies and honey) is transformed into a yellow wonderland. Thousands of daffodil flowers dot the landscape in and around town, having been planted by volunteers each fall. After the devastating wildfire that swept through the area in 2003, the daffodils still bloomed and gave the town a feeling of renewal. As quoted in the March/April 2011 issue of Westways magazine, “Many of the people who lost their homes have become part of the volunteer team that plants the bulbs every year,” said Anne Dawkins, co-owner of the Blue Heron Garden Shop & Gallery.
In March, the town holds an annual Daffodil Show. This year it’s March 26-27. For more information, visit the Julian Chamber of Commerce website.
Saturday, March 12, 2011 11:30 a.m. – Channel 50, KVCR
From the Creative Living site: “Casey Schwartz is a floral designer, and she makes arranging flowers look so easy. She’s going to demonstrate how to arrange one dozen roses with greenery in a tall vase so that the number 12 rose stands perfectly straight in the middle of the vase.”
Opens March 1st, 2011
Visit The Flower Fields, which features fifty acres of gorgeous and colorful Ranunculus flowers with a view of the blue Pacific Ocean. Attractions also include a special nursery, garden, and gift shop by Armstrong Garden Centers, and festivals throughout the season.
March 19-20, 2011
See the blooming cherry trees at the Descanso Garden and see a traditional Japanese tea ceremony Saturday at 11 a.m., 12:30 and 2 p.m. and a Japanese cooking demonstration at 11 a.m. Sunday. Take a guided tour of the Gardens’ seven flowering cherry trees at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. both days. Cherry trees will be available for purchase. The Camellia Lounge will sell a signature cocktail created especially for the festival, as well as bento box lunches and other Japanese cuisine on both days. Free with admission: $8 adults, $6 senior/students and $3 children 5-12.
by Kit Wertz
If you have some fruit trees in your backyard and want to force the branches to bloom in a cut vase indoors, here are the steps to follow for best results. You can also buy branches at the local flower mart. Some in the mart today include plum blossom, cherry blossom and forsythia.
Step 1: Cut twice – Cut the branch off the tree or shrub when the buds begin to get plump (about three to six weeks before they are due to bloom naturally). Once you have the branches inside, cut them again at a sharp 45-degree angle just before putting them in your conditioning water.
Step 2: Keep in water – If it’s cold outside, the water should be cold. If it’s more like Southern California weather, it’s okay to use warm water and commercial flower food. Some people will tell you to use bleach in the water to kill of bacteria. It’s more important to make sure the vase you are using is clean and free of bacteria…so use the bleach on the vase…NOT in the water you use to keep your flowers fresh. (See our newsletter where we debunk the myth of each type of homemade flower food). If it’s dry inside your house, you may want to spray the upper parts of the branches a few times per day with fresh water to keep them moist until the buds bloom.
Step 3: Replicate Mother Nature – Cover the branches with plastic or cloth to keep them about 50 degrees at night and 60 degrees during the day to mimic spring weather.
Step 4: Let there be light – When the blooms start to appear, arrange the branches in a tall vase and place them in a sunny spot. Once the blooms open, move out of the sunny spot and change the water weekly.
Orchids by Liz Johnson
Growing orchids at home does not have to be intimidating. This book makes it easy to choose a fresh orchid plant, repot it if necessary, care for it while it’s in bloom and how to keep it alive after the bloom as faded so that you can have more blooms in the future.
Ms. Johnson also offers some lovely ideas for displaying orchids indoors and includes instructions on how to create a boutonnière and a corsage featuring orchids. She includes an extensive directory of indoor and outdoor orchids. For each orchid, she details where it’s from, when it flowers, if it prefers cool or warm temperatures and whether or not it likes the sun or the shade. She also explains what type of potting mix to use and when to repot the plant for best results.
If you love having orchids in your home and want to keep your investments giving back dividends of lovely blooms in the years to come, then this 144 page book full of color photographs is the one for you.
Moss pins are a great tool for securing moss to any number of surfaces. They have a few aliases so good to know all the names in case you need to purchase them.
Moss pins are also known as fern pins, greening pins or pole pins. These floral u-shaped pins are used to fasten moss, greenery or flowers to foam, topiary forms, wreaths, or Styrofoam. These are a handy, fast tool because your work can easily repositioned. They are inexpensive, usually come in packs of 50 and are very sharp. Flower Duet has sometimes used our 22 gauge floral wire and cut them to a length, made them into a U shape and are good to go. We have used them also to anchor a wedding aisle into grass, just be sure to pick them up afterwards!