Shelley Peterman Schwarz: Life as an orchid

With the days getting shorter and sunshine more elusive than at other times of the year, I can easily become melancholy and introspective, trying to keep positive in an overwhelmingly troubled world. Then, years ago I had an “A-HA!” moment that still helps me keep my life in perspective, even with all my challenges and limitations. It all started with a blooming orchid.

After attending an orchid show, two friends appeared at my door with a gorgeous gift for me: the most beautiful flowering orchid I had ever seen! It was a delicate phalaenopsis with a dozen white butterfly–shaped flowers with purple centers.

For more than four months, the flowers bloomed, remaining frozen in time, as perfect as the day I received them. Looking at that magnificent plant during those long, dark, winter months gave me hope that spring would come again.

In May, when the flowers finally died, I was shocked at how ugly the plant had become. It’s funny. While it was blooming, I never noticed how unattractive the other parts of the plant were. My phalaenopsis had only a few leaves: Some were a deep, intense, forest green — some faded and washed out. The roots — long, silver-gray nubby tendrils — crawled out of the pot looking like strange worms trying to escape confinement.

I didn’t know where to put the plant. It didn’t look like my other houseplants. It just didn’t fit in. I thought about throwing the orchid away.

I’m so glad I didn’t, because six months later, I saw a new green shoot emerge. Each day I watched that spike grow. Within three weeks, it was 18 inches long and had 16 tiny buds about to open.

Day after day, I watched the buds open like butterflies emerging from their cocoons. I marveled at the beauty, grace, and delicate features of each flower. When I gazed at the orchid, a peaceful, almost holy feeling came over me. How could this exquisite flower be an accident of nature or a random act of the universe?

To me, it reinforced my belief in a higher power and represented a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.

When a friend admired my blooming orchid, she asked if she could bring over her non-blooming orchid to see if I could work my magic on her plant. Placing her plant next to my gorgeous orchid, I had a kind of clarity. The ugly, non-blooming orchid was my body with its limitations, awkward movements and tremors. It was out of place next to my (pretty) household plants, just like I often felt when I was with my “normal, able-bodied” friends.

Yet, looking at the magnificent flowering orchid filled me with gratitude and love. In a way, I saw my soul, my inner being. That’s when it dawned on me! Multiple sclerosis (MS) was the plant and the flowers were my soul. If that kind of beauty could come out of something so ugly, then maybe I, too, could make something beautiful come out of my illness. MS may have a hold on my body, but I won’t let it have the power to touch my soul.

I decided that day to keep “blooming where I’m planted” and to continue to create beauty in my life. I wish the same for you.

*Source: Author SHELLEY PETERMAN SCHWARZ for Wisconsin State Journal

Australian Plant Society visits rare native garden

Australian Plants Society members recently visited the property of Denise and Graeme Krake who own 40 hectares of predominately native bushland close to Wadbilliga and Biamanga National Parks.

They have diverse ecosystems including the significant plant communities of Brogo wet vine forest and dry rainforest which are listed as endangered ecological communities.

The garden is north facing on decomposed granite soils and was designed as an informal natural garden allowing local indigenous plants to take a foothold and with additional plantings of introduced natives.

“This is a garden for wildlife, peace and tranquility,” Denise said.

Members inspected the garden during morning tea.  Denise showed her collection of water containers and discussed the ponds while Graeme unveiled his vast collection of Hakeas.

As long time members of The Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS) Victoria, Graeme and Denise are experienced growers of terrestrial orchids.

At this meeting Graeme discussed their cultivation and growing requirements.

During the session Graeme repotted some orchid tubers of Pterostylis explaining the process as he went.

After lunch the group was guided down into the rainforest area to enthuse over the pristine nature of the blue gum forest and gully plants.

The Australian Plant Society South East Region aims to promote an awareness of Australian native plants in our community, inform its members about native plants and act as a social group for people with an interest in these plants.

Meetings are generally held on the first Saturday of each month except January. As our group covers the coastal area from Batemans Bay to the Victorian border and inland to the Monaro we meet at varying locations.

We currently have over 80 members making the group an active and friendly one.  Our members mainly live in the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shires but anyone can join.

Our newsletter contains details of meetings and trips as well as information on plants and habitats and tips on propagation.  It is produced every month except January.

*Source: Narooma News

Watering a passion

Orchids have fascinated people for long. Some people take to collecting and growing orchids as a hobby. Some find it therapeutic, while for the rest, it is serious business. Many say that growing orchids is like raising a child.

Most of the members of the Orchid Society of Karnataka are passionate about growing the plant. The members of the Society meet regularly and all the information they exchange and conversations revolve around orchids. SG Ramkumar, a businessman, finds it a rewarding process.

“It’s the flower of orchids that drew me to collecting them 15 years ago. Now, I have the rarest of orchids in my garden. Growing an orchid is like solving a puzzle,” he says. Sriram, a young professional, finds it a de-stressing affair and says that after a demanding work schedule, he finds the balm in his orchids. “It not only engages you in the most creative way, but also unravels the potential in you,” he says.

People also grow it within the limited spaces of their homes. “You don’t really need a large garden to grow orchids. “You need a large heart and the will to sustain it,” believe these orchid growers. Nageshwar, an employee with Tata Power, and a member, has been collecting and maintaining orchids for the last 28 years and has over 1,500 plants on the terrace. “My orchids have become prized exhibits as most of the people who come visiting us never leave without viewing them. When they ask me questions, I am more than happy to answer them all,” he says.

Growing orchids have a therapeutic value and has a meditative effect as well. Sanjeev wakes up at 5.30 in the morning to tend his orchids and spends quality time with them. “I always liked gardening and it is the rare flowers that attracted me to the cultivation of orchids,” he says. Rama, who runs a small-scale industry, says the hobby inculcates a sense of self discipline. “You can’t afford to relax when you are an orchid grower. These plants need the right amount of care and you can never have an excuse to not cater to them. Orchid growing also teaches you time management,” feels Rama.

Agreeing with Rama, Sandhya Mahesh, another avid orchid grower, says she wasn’t interested in orchids until she saw her father-in -law spend considerable time and effort on them. “I now spend a lot of time watering my orchids and in some ways, it is therapeutic,” she explains.

The members of the group meet regularly and all their meetings are abuzz with infectious energy with each member waiting to share something new. Gayatri, another grower, says that it has been a great experience thus far.

“I have about 200 to 300 orchids and spend a lot of time trying to understand the requirements of orchid growing and readjust my work according to the requirements,” adds Gayatri.

The group has people from all walks of life but Dr Parvathi, a medical practitioner, says that she took to orchid growing only after she retired from active medicine.

“My life revolves around orchids and everything to do with it. People may call it an “obsession” but I find it the most rewarding process,” says Parvathi. Orchids are expensive but orchid growers, like Nalini and Kalyanpur, call it a good investment.

“I shop for orchids wherever I go and believe that it is a good investment. I sometimes, save up to buy these orchids,” she says. Kalyanpur, who was earlier in the Army, says, his transferrable job made it difficult for him to sustain his hobby. “But, I took to it seriously, only after I retired from the Armed Forces. My house is full of orchids and I don’t know how time flies when I spend time with them,” he says.

*Source: Deccan Herald