Friday, November 1, 2013

Fragrant Hawaiian Orchids

I have acquired a few new orchids for my farm. All the orchids originate from Hawaii, and I was delighted to see these were adult size, and already in bloom. I purchase these pampered plants from their growers, who raise them in greenhouses, and feed them chemicals. I do the reverse...I allow these plants to go and live in the tropics, in their natural environment on my farm. If they make it, I am very pleased, but if these plants cannot cope without the attention they are used to in the greenhouses, then they will collapse and die. However, even in death, these plants can suddenly come back to life, and produce new shoots, to start life over again in a more natural setting.




My garden is located in the highlands of Cavite, in the Philippines. The weather can go from extreme heat of 100F to a cool 63F. Our weather in the Philippines is very hot during summer months beginning in early March, to late May, then the climate can change to very damp, and soggy, as the monsoon rains start in June and end sometime October. The hurricanes that normally come in from June to late September, can bring strong winds, heavy rainfall, dark skies during the day. There may be periods of hot and humid days during breaks in the monsoon rain. In summer there will be radiant sunshine in the morning, to scorching heat in the afternoon.


Silang and Tagaytay, has salty air because it is near the China sea . The monsoon months, have heavy rainfall for weeks at times. Even during the rainy months, the evaporation of water from the China Sea and Laguna de Bay, and Taal Lake causes the high humidity. factor In these parts of the Philippines, there are many elevation changes – many within very close proximity to each other. So one variety of orchid will do better for you than others, in one area , so it just depends on how much vegetation you have in the garden. Large trees planted around my home, keep my gardens cool all year, and prevent strong rains from directly drenching my orchids that I place on the terrace.


I have noticed that I have different climate areas in my garden. Full sunlight will be the hottest area near the cement wall, where the heat is absorbed by the concrete. Orchids like the coolness of gravel stones on the ground, or red lava rock on the floor in greenhouses. Orchids also love to be preched on tree trunks, or on driftwood displays. These plants cannot stand very hot weather with full exposure to the sun. There has to be some shade, and they can tolerate the warm air in summer provided they are watered very early in the day. The other areas in your garden may have a cooler temperature in summer, or in the rainy season, areas to be avoided are those with full shade. Orchids like to be cool with sunlight hitting their leaves in the morning, and during the hot afternoons, they prefer semi shade. Some ground orchids can tolerate full sun, but most prefer to be hung on trees and like absorbing humidity from the air.

I find that I like quite a variety of different orchids in different areas of my garden. I observe them closely, and monitor the way their leaves look, and that in itself will give you clues how they are doing. Their stalks are their water reservoir. The leaves must be plump and green. The commercial growers will tell you to feed weekly or monthly with chemical fertilizers, but I am lucky if I remember to feed them a special mix of a “tea” made with bird manure gathered from leaves of my large hardwood trees!! I know that it may be difficult to locate bird dung, but leaves usually has residues of bird droppings, especially fruit trees. Orchids that used to thrive in the wild, are fertilized by bird droppings and they still flower in abundance when rain dissolves the high phosphorus content of the droppings off the leaves of trees where these orchids hang with roots firmly anchored on the bark.

One of the biggest things I have learned is to be sure to water at least once a week, and more than just spraying moisture in the air. They actually want some warm water – just do not let the roots sit in water, soaking. The water should not pool in the pot, and one has to make sure they are in an area where their roots will dry out. Watering during the week, should be at least 20 minutes of drenching the roots, because the leaves are very sensistive to too much water, and can cause fungi growth that will soften and rot the leaves. There must be a potting mix for the orchid, that allows the roots to drain out, because they tend to also soften. Roots must feel firm to the touch.


Orchids are not that hard to grow and these plants will bloom naturally 1 time during their preferred season.