WPC: Reward

February 27, 2015 Bittersweet 006


“What does reward mean to you?”

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge

 “The end is not the reward;

the path you take,

the emotions that course through you as you grasp life

– that is the reward.”

Jamie Magee

Reward comes in the enjoyment of the fruits of one’s efforts.

We each tend to those things which matter in our daily lives.  We give our attention, our energy, to those things, and those people, we value.


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I take great pleasure in these flowers.  Coming to this spot, this window, brings such a joyful reward for the small efforts of daily tending.


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The tiny luxuries and pleasures of life, like winter flowers and freshly baked bread, are reward enough for our daily efforts.

Sharing them with loved ones makes them even more special.


Sourdough bread still warm from the oven and a jar of newly fed starter

Sourdough bread still warm from the oven beside  a jar of newly fed sourdough starter


“All those who love Nature

she loves in return, and will richly reward,

not perhaps with the good things, as they are commonly called,

but with the best things of this world-

not with money and titles, horses and carriages,

but with bright and happy thoughts,

contentment and peace of mind.”

John Lubbock


February 27, 2015 sunset 002


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Moth Orchid

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This little moth orchid has come back into bloom after many months of rest in the windowsill.

Moth orchids, easily found at Trader Joes and some other groceries, are relatively easy house plants.  You could not have convinced me of that several years ago.

Years went by when I admired orchids, but wouldn’t bring one home. I assumed that something so beautiful and exotic looking needed specialized care in a greenhouse from a master gardener in order to survive.

I credit Trader Joes, and their continual display or beautiful orchids right inside the door, for giving me the confidence to try growing my first  Phalaenopsis, or Moth orchid, several years ago.  Since orchids of all colors, sizes, and varieties are right there within sight of the coffee and bananas, I finally chose a beautiful little purple orchid, in a 3″ pot, priced at just under $10.00.

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I brought it home very gingerly, holding it to protect the flowers, and immediately went to the internet to research the finer points of its care.  I even ordered Steven Frowine’s Orchids For Dummies somewhere along the line to make sure I didn’t miss any crucial tidbits for keeping my little orchid alive.

And I learned…. it’s just not that complicated.

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This moth orchid is an epiphyte, living naturally high in the canopy of a rain forest, and so it grows aerial roots which can absorb moisture directly from the air. The silver green roots on this mature plant have grown quite long. A new bloom scape is growing, covered in tiny buds.

Moth orchids are epiphytes, living in the branches of trees in tropical forests.  Most of these orchids originate in tropical China, India, Papua New Guinea, and tropical areas of Australia.  Taiwan has a huge nursery trade in orchids, but more and more are propagated right here in the United States, which is one reason the price has come down and the selection increased.

Knowing that orchids live in the canopy of rain forests tells us they don’t need much room for their roots to grown in a pot, they like heat and humidity, and they are naturally tough plants.

For all the delicate beauty of each blossom, these flowers are much sturdier, and longer lasting, than most other flowers we might buy on a potted plant.  An individual orchid blossom can be expected to remain beautiful for several weeks.  The spray or flowers may remain in bloom over a period of months.

Although an orchid may bloom for months, once the bloom is finished, the plant will require a long rest.  An individual plant may only bloom once or twice a year, if that.  Coaxing an orchid back into bloom can take some effort, which is why many people quietly discard their orchid once the blooms fade.

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I’ve never easily discarded a plant, especially while it is still alive, and so I simply move the orchid plant and continue caring for it when the blooms fade.  And by doing that, I’ve learned that the moth orchid will rebloom, if I’m simply patient and allow the plant to recover its energy.  To rebloom, orchids require sufficient light, sufficient water, sufficient nutrition, and a difference of about 20 degrees between daytime and night time temperatures for several weeks.  Lacking any of these, they may not set buds.

Moth orchids appreciate bright sunlight, but can’t take a day of direct sunlight.  They need a bit of shading, especially in summer.  If the leaves of your orchid begin to elongate, or turn very dark green, it is an indication that more light is needed.  Orchids on display, away from bright lights, need to be moved back into the light to recover when the display is dismantled.

Most growers plant orchids in sphagnum moss.  While the moss holds the roots in the pot ( or more likely in a little plastic drinking cup), the moss offers the plant little or no nutrition.  I’ve found that keeping the orchid in a west or northwest facing window, keeping it moist, and feeding with a dilute solution of orchid food will allow it to rebloom.  Leaving the bloom scape in place, once the actual flowers have fallen off, may hasten reblooming.  More than once, new buds have formed on an old bloom scape.

This west facing window is my best window for bringing orchids back into bloom.

This west facing window is my best window for bringing orchids back into bloom and for rooting cuttings.

Although most of an orchid’s roots remain in its pot, Phalaenopsis will also grow silvery aerial roots.  These roots can absorb humidity directly from the air.  They would normally help anchor the plant on the branch of the tree where it was growing.  If you move the moth orchid out of a pot into a wooden basket, or onto a branch of wood for display, these roots will help anchor the plant in place.  I like the unusual appearance of these roots which grow as the plant matures.

Many orchids respond well to a good soak once a week or so, and then several days to dry a bit before the next watering.  Orchids require a little more water while buds develop to sustain their blooming, and less water during their period of rest.

Most orchids are purchased while in bloom, and the bloom scape is supported by a thin stick of wood or wire.  Little spring loaded clips hold the bloom scape against its support.  When the bloom is finished, I remove these supports, and save them for use again later.  The bloom scape doesn’t naturally grow straight up for a tall display of blossoms.

When the plant begins to grow a new blooming stem, you might want to replace the support and gradually train the scape up the support.  If you leave it to its own devices, it will probably grow horizontally, or even hang down under the weight of the flowers.

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Green porcelain bowl purchased from the artist at Bella Fiore on Ocracoke Island, NC.

Orchids can be displayed in a variety of ways.  While they look pretty even in the little nursery pots they are purchased in, I also like to work them into more elaborate arrangements.   I will sometimes construct an arrangement with ferns, ivy, small Rex Begonias, and orchids in a pretty bowl.  While the other plants are removed from their nursery pots and planted into potting soil in the bowl, I leave the orchid in the little plastic cup from the grower.

With a base of gravel in the bottom of the bowl for drainage, I’ll leave space to set the orchid, in its cup, on the gravel, and then fill in around it with small stones and potting soil.  It is important that the orchid get good drainage.  It shouldn’t sit in water or overly damp soil.  This allows you to have some control over how much water you give the orchid, versus how much water the other plants in the arrangement get.

The orchid, which is just past its bloom, can be removed from this arrangement and another orchid slipped into its place.

The orchid, which is just past its bloom, can be removed from this arrangement of Rex Begonia and Lady fern, and another orchid slipped into its place.   The bowl was made by local artist Beth Turbeville

In several weeks, when the orchid has finished blooming, it is easy to pull the plant out in its cup.  The orchid can go in a window sill to rest and recover, and you can pop a fresh orchid into the arrangement to keep it fresh.

A blooming orchid is such a special joy during winter.  My eye always turns towards the orchid display in January and February, when very little is blooming out in the garden.  During this stark season, when the world has melted into browns and greys, a bright orchid brings so much energy and freshness.  Orchids demand very little from us, and bring such happiness.  If you don’t already have an orchid in your home, I hope you’ll consider adopting one to bring flowers back into your home for the remainder of the winter.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Jewel Orchid In Bloom

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The world outside is covered in snow, but the Jewel Orchid has come into bloom inside on the window sill.    Once again, it has covered itself with sprays of delicate white flowers.

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This beautiful orchid, Ludisia discolor, first came home as a casual impulse purchase  soon after we had moved to this home.  The long window sill in the living room was not yet home to a colony of plants, and I thought the little orchid, with such beautiful burgundy leaves, would brighten this window.

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The foliage of Jewel Orchid holds this beautiful color year round.

I had not yet seen Jewel Orchid in bloom, but fell in love with the foliage.  If memory serves, the little 4″ pot was  among the display of flowers  right inside the door at Trader Joes.  I chose it, tucked it into the shopping cart, and headed off to the banana display.

And this plant would be a welcome member of the houseplant family if it never bloomed. 

Much like a Coleus or a Rex Begonia, it is colorful enough when not in bloom to hold interest.  Large striped leaves and burgundy stems grow luxuriantly all year round.

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Rose of Sharon shrubs and a hazel tree growing just past the window offer some afternoon shade during the summer. Jewel Orchid prefers medium to low light, and should never be subjected to strong direct sunshine.


The flower scapes begin growing in late November or December, promising bloom in the weeks ahead.  It takes a long time for them to grow, and then for the individual flowers to finally begin to open.

There is a long season of bloom, with new scapes forming along the way, before the flowers dry and wither in early summer.    Even dried, the flowers hold their form.  It is a sad day when we must begin to cut the faded flower scapes away.

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For at least the first year, I simply allowed this little orchid to grow in the nursery pot in which it came.  It gives the impression, as do many orchids, of enjoying a snug fit in the pot.  The following Thanksgiving weekend, we had an unusually warm day.  We had opened the window behind this window sill a crack before heading out for the day. Later, in closing the window that evening, our beautiful Jewel Orchid somehow jumped from the sill and landed in the floor- hopelessly broken to bits.

I was upset, but bit my tongue and headed to the garage for a fresh nursery pot and fresh potting soil.  I gathered up all of the broken bits, dipped them in a bit of rooting hormone, and gently buried them in fresh soil.  After watering both pots, and expressing our deep apologies, we left both pots in the windowsill, side by side, and hoped for the best.  Within a day or so we brought home the larger, oval pot you see in the photos, and plunked both 4″ nursery pots into this larger one to improve appearances.January 22,2014 006

This orchid appreciates a humid environment. I believe it was actually happiest while growing in the nursery pots on a layer of gravel in this larger pot.  It lasted that way for another two years, without skipping a beat.

The “cuttings” rooted, and both pots of Jewel orchid bloomed that winter, effectively doubling our display from the previous year.  I’ve learned this orchid roots easily and is far more hardy than one might expect.

Although traditional culture directions indicate that it likes warmth and doesn’t respond well to drafts, it has managed just fine on this northwest facing window sill for a little more than 4 years now.

Finally, both little nursery pots were bursting with roots when I finally turned the orchids out and repotted both plants into the larger oval planter in early summer.  At the same time, I trimmed back some of the longer stems and stuck them into the soil as cuttings.  All rooted, and the plant continues to grow.  I almost expect to find cracks in the pot now that the orchid has grown so large, and know it is time to pot up once again.

This caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids.  We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

This Caladium is thriving across the room from the orchids. We must have enough plants in the room to keep the humidity at acceptable levels for our Jewel Orchid.

I’m reluctant because the orchid loves this spot, and the windowsill won’t support a larger pot.  I will have to find another good spot for the parent orchid,and start a new plant in the old pot from cuttings, to continue on in this corner of the window.

A terrestrial orchid, Ludisia, grows on the forest floor in its native Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia.  Although they prefer high humidity, Ludisia are  not particularly thirsty.  There is no drainage hole in this pot, so I water infrequently and lightly.  I begin giving a dilute feeding or orchid fertilizer in early autumn, and continue giving that once or twice a month until the bloom is past its peak.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Cane Begonias, also growing near the orchid, help maintain humidity in the living room.

Since I have a grouping of orchids in this area of the room humidity is perhaps a little higher than it might be.

This has turned out to be an excellent impulse purchase, and has allowed me to learn to love a new genus of plant.  Rooted cuttings can be found from time to time wherever orchids and houseplants are sold.  The cuttings are unassuming, and might be overlooked, except for the beautiful leaf.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers.  This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Cane Begonias can also be enjoyed as much for their leaves as for their beautiful flowers. This photo, taken today, shares their beautiful winter bloom with you.

Should you see one, I would encourage you to take a chance and purchase a Jewel Orchid. For a very small investment, this very tough and easy to grow orchid will fill your home with winter flowers for many years to come.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Snow and frigid temperatures outside, orchids inside.

Jewel Orchid Care

Appreciation For Windows  (Forest Garden)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciation for Windows

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Jewel orchid lives in this spot on the windowsill year round, and blooms for several months each winter.

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Jewel orchid thrives in the the medium to low light received from this window. It gets the sunset light each day, filtered through shrubs growing on the other side of the glass.

Windows are especially appreciated in January.  Tightly sealed against wet and cold, light still pours through, feeble and cool as it is many days, giving life to the plants clustered nearby.

Although this window faces northwest, it captures enough light to bring the orchids back into bloom.  The wind can blow, the ground can freeze; so long as sunlight reaches our windows, we carry on inside as though it were springtime already.

The plants wintering inside accept each photon that reaches their leaves with gratitude.  The windows stand bare and open to the winter sun, a blessing to each of us.

Orchid at night

Orchid at night

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Weekly Photo Challenge

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