I love gardening almost as much as I love fishing. As a matter of fact, it’s a very close second. There’s something about digging in the dirt and making something grow and bloom that absolutely fascinates me.
I also find it to be the same kind of mind eraser as fishing. When you’re focused on either endeavor it’s hard to think about anything else. While I love to work with native flowers, herbs and the hundreds of varieties of bromeliads, the top of my plant list is orchids.
A great many gardeners have a deep seated fear of these beautiful flowering plants. I have to admit I was one of those early on, but over time discovered that they are truly the ‘be-all end-all’ of flowering plants. Here in Southwest Florida, our hot humid summers and mild winters make growing orchids much easier than in cooler northern climates, including central and northern Florida.
My first orchid was purchased at Publix. It had a long stalk covered with beautiful purple flowers, and, as I found out later, was a variety of Phalaenopsis. I hung it on one of the lower branches of my backyard mango tree and pretty much ignored it, except for occasional waterings. I found that the less I cared for it the better it seemed to do. I didn’t know that this particular variety of orchid was in fact the easiest to grow.
Over the next several months I added more of the same. Phalaenopsis aren’t terribly expensive and their blooms come in an amazing array of colors. All went well until I changed gears and tried my first Vanda orchid. Oh my. I became the killer of the Vanda. They are unique in that they have no need of a pot or medium to grow in. They simply hang in the air with their roots exposed, and that requires much more care than I was giving the Phalaenopsis. It seemed I had jumped from the easiest to grow orchids to one of the most difficult. Lesson learned.
My addiction was now fueled. I bought books and I read online articles and orchid blogs. I consulted a good friend who had been raising orchids for years and had a beautiful orchid garden. Her first bit of advice was to slow down and focus on just a few plants. Hmm. Sounded a lot like the advice I have given amateur fisherman when they say they’ve never fished in saltwater, but want to go after tarpon. Whoa, horse. Perhaps tackle a few jacks, snook and redfish first, and then graduate to the silver king. Her advice was taken to heart.
Over the past few years my orchid garden has grown and I have a couple dozen plants now and all are doing well. I’ve had success with many blooms and even propagated my first ‘baby’ orchid from an adult plant. Let me say right now, if that sucker blooms there’s going to a be proud papa party.
Our local area has a great many places to purchase and learn about the art of growing orchids. Driftwood Gardens is one of my favorites and I also love going to Sundance Orchids & Bromeliads in Fort Myers. They have seasonal specials and also pass along valuable advice.
For those of you who just don’t have the room or the green thumb to grow orchids, do yourself a favor. Take a trip to the Naples Botanical Garden and be sure to walk through the LaGrippe Orchid Garden. It’s absolutely beautiful and their Vandas are very much alive.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman and retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association.