Workshop participants learn orchid secrets

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Photo by JENINE C. OUILLETTE // Buy this photo

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Photo by JENINE C. OUILLETTE // Buy this photo

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Photo by JENINE C. OUILLETTE // Buy this photo

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Photo by JENINE C. OUILLETTE // Buy this photo

Orchid-growing enthusiasts gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13 to learn about orchids.

Orchid-growing enthusiasts and interested gardeners gathered at the Mackle Park main meeting room Feb. 13, to receive encouragement and enlightenment about handling, dividing and re-potting of orchids.

Approximately 70 people attended the 7 p.m. workshop conducted by The Island Garden Center’s certified presenters, Designer Karen Anglin and Pam Carney. The professional pair, who are both Florida Certified Horticulture Professionals (FCHP), were introduced by Mary Ann Kline, a member of the City of Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee, which sponsors similar horticultural workshop projects every year in association with the Parks and Recreation Department.

Alan Brown, committee member and co-owner of The Island Garden Center with his wife Robin, said, “We’re members of the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association (FNGLA) that administers the 13-week certification course, and The Island Garden Center paid the tuition. The best part is it (certification course) is geared toward Southwest Florida horticultural zone 12, the only one in mainland Florida, and one of our presenters, Karen Anglin, is also a professional landscape designer employed by The Island Garden Center!”

Robin Brown, who was providing workshop participants with information as well as selling orchid plants horticultural supplies displayed on several tables in the meeting room, noted that Carney is also a FNGLA graduate and member of their staff.

“We’ve expanded all the services at the Garden Center — we call Pam our Plant Doctor. I like to think we’re of some value to the committee and our residents and customers, especially with the current stressful growing conditions due to the drought.”

During the workshop, Anglin gave examples of potting mediums and their use such as a Prepared Potting Mix, consisting of bark, charcoal and perlite, was suitable for most orchid plants, while Sphagnum Moss was great for retaining moisture, but caution was indicated with Lava Rock and Charcoal because they tend to collect salts, she said, and shouldn’t be used if you have a high mineral content in your water. Anglin also explained that ants will collect, for instance, aphids and bring them to feed on a plant and then “farm them” for the “honey they exude.” She noted that observing ants on a plant was a good indication that the plant was infected with an insect pest and suggested dabbing small pest colonies with a cotton tip dipped in common rubbing alcohol.

Carney used a hands-on demonstration of re-potting basics and orchid division to show participants how physically demanding it can be as she struggled to release an extremely pot-bound Oncidium orchid plant whose roots were clinging to the outside of the clay pot as well as firmly entrenched inside. She finally whacked the pot, breaking it into chards that were easily picked off the root mass.

Before Anglin handed Doctor/ Surgeon Carney, a small saw to divide the root ball, she demonstrated the essential procedure of disinfecting horticultural tools by spraying them with rubbing alcohol. Carney also divided and replanted a Cattleya orchid, putting the smaller divisions into Sphagnum-filled pots.

Anglin courteously answered questions from the audience during the presentation. She acknowledged several queries about how to provide water for the orchid plants if you are going on vacation.

“It would be best to hang them in a shady, open spot and let rain water take care of it naturally,” she said, and answered more questions about orchids that produced prolific growth but no blooms, taking the opportunity to explain that the wider the leaf on Phalaenopsis species, the less light it requires. That does not mean placing them in direct sunlight, she said and then recommended an application of Bloom Booster.

Beverly Ahler asked, “Does it need to be cold for them (orchids) to bloom? Mine haven’t bloomed in years.”

Anglin suggested she bring the plant to the garden center so someone there could identify it, adding that it can take years for blooms to appear on some immature or small plants.

Another workshop participant, who said his name was simply Greg, said he learned a lot about watering, light requirements and fertilization at the workshop.

After the presentation, Syd Mellinger, chair of the City of Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee, stepped forward and thanked the audience for coming and noted that she was looking forward to seeing many of the workshop participants at next year’s project.

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