Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The photo is of oncidiums flowers that are in bloom during the monsoon season in the Philippines. These are called, "Dancing Ladies".

A week before I wrote this blog entry, these "Dancing Ladies" started showing buds. A week later, I saw the oncidiums starting to unravel their colorful petals, that look like debutantes in a cotillion swishing their yellow ballgowns to dance with the wind.

These "Dancing Ladies" are like most of the orchids on my farm. I have adapted these to be grown organically at my farm. Organically grown orchids don't need a lot of care, and are able to adjust to the climate in our area. These plants are resistant to disease, and adapt readily to weather in this upland area on the southern part of Luzon.

The weather in June and July were alternating between consistent monsoon rains that last all week long, to breaks of very hot temperatures at random times of the day. The abundant moisture in the air, with the lower temperatures at night are encouraging the orchids to bloom naturally.

The next photos the medium sized lavander catleyas that were featured in my blog a few weeks back. These catleyas bloom without any artificial stimulus. Several of the other catleyas, I have on my farm, are now showing signs of flower buds, and I expect their blooms in the next week or so.

The fertilizers that I use on my orchids come from bird droppings and organic matter that fall naturally into the growing medium these orchids are attached to. Orchids actually will thrive without being pumped with chemicals, or doused in toxic sprays. I take care of my orchids as little as possible because they want to survive with the least attention. Unlike greenhouse orchids that are overly pampered plants, my orchids will exhibit characteristics that are nearest to the wilder varieties found in rainforests.

Greenhouse orchids, on the other hand, are spoiled, spoon fed and will ultimately die without professional care and chemicals.

I used to get plants from reputable stores and orchid shows. I once bought a blue vanda like the one in the photo, and nurtured it with extreme care. But eventually, it died and I was advised by the suppliers I used to get my orchids from, to buy and use a whole array of chemicals to keep them healthy and looking perfect.

I thought of giving up growing and caring for orchids when I met a horticulturalist who told me that organic orchids are a lot tougher than greenhouse raised orchids. Though there are hundreds of hybrids developed for their dramatic beauty, I decided to acquire those varieties that are common in this region.

I brought these types of "Sangumay" that are endemic orchids growing wild in forest areas. These are totally acclimated to this area in the Philippines. Immediately, these Sangumay orchids thrived on my farm. I bought a few wild orchids, and some that were from professional breeders. I had to slowly wean these plants off any dependence on chemicals. A lot of the plants I bought even at the roadside plant stalls withered away without the daily or weekly regime of inducing blooming with hormones, or chemicals. The orchids stopped looking perfect without the chemical sprays and fertilizers. After experiencing several mortalities of various diseases that affect the orchids I bought from commercial growers, I was almost ready to quit.

I did observe that these commercial orchids died, because they had lost their natural ability to ward off diseases and survive climate conditions that occur in the wild.

I was tempted to attend an orchid show to buy a few more hybrids. However, I decided I would either buy a few organically grown mother plants, or get local species that can adapt to the kind of weather in Silang. Now I have developed techniques to maintain several varieties from oncidiums, catleyas, semi -terrets, and the lovely vandas without any chemicals. All my orchids have happily adapted to less care, and have the attributes of wild orchids. These are what I have on my farm, plants that are allowed to evolve and adapt just like wild orchids. My current collection of orchids are those descendants of those original mother plants.

My organic orchids have become resilient to changes in temperature. During summer, I do water them in the dry season, and move the orchid plants into the cool shade.

Once the rains begin to fall, I pot the more sensitive species, and keep their roots moist never soaking wet. I observe the temperatures they grow best in, and will move the pots around to get just the right kind of sun exposure they prefer. Orchids also require fresh, cool air in the summers, and sometime in direct heat during the rainy months. During the typhoon season, I remove sensitive orchids that prefer in the shade in summer, but desire more sun exposure during wet season to be able to keep their leaves dry and prevent rot. I often shift materials for potting orchids. I use everything from moss, to dry charcoal made from burned coconuts, or the husks of our own buko.

Orchids are some of the most resilient of tropical plants. I don't need a large volume of orchids blooms. A few will bloom at least twice a year. Some will only flower when the temperature is just right. The leaves, stems and roots of orchids store nutrients and water and should always feel full and smooth. Wild orchids will be dormant several months during the year, and will often thrive without a single bloom to conserve water. During the rainy months, I often see some leaves rotting away from too much water. The fronds become tender and soggy, and their leaves are dotted with black fungus spots, and insect bites...but this happens naturally in any forest or habitat where orchids come from.

An orchid also must be allowed to "die" and then will be "born again" when little sprouts with threadlike roots emerge from the rotted matter in the pot or medium they are attached to. These little "baby orchids" will take at least 2 years to become adults, and become fertilized by pollinators.

Orchids thrive even in hot climates, provided there is moisture in the air. Very dry climates will require orchids to be moved to a semi shady location, and its best to water them using a mystifier, or fine spray of water during the hottest times of the day.

The results of leaving the orchids alone to enjoy their natural life??? Well, a lot of these "wild" orchids will emit a fragrance to attract pollinators. Greenhouse orchids are a product of artificial means of fertilization, and so saturated with chemicals, they lose their ability to give off a strong scent.

I definately feel so delighted when my orchids give me some of my happiest memories when I see them flourishing, and I can identify some of those organic orchids that I brought all the way from Hawaii by their very strong perfume! Like my other plants , orchids give me a sign they are happy. My plants display their silent laughter and gratitude for allowing them to live normally by expressing their appreciation by their dazzling colorful blooms!