Thailand is full of orchids of every shape, color and variety. I am constantly amazed by the seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to orchids. Rich purple stripes, yellows that fade to violet, vibrant blues, majestic magentas. The way the face of an orchid falls open in such unique patterns, thick petals twisting and curling. They have a light, citrusy scent that doesn’t overpower. Gorgeous.
I have been lured into buying these exquisite plants from several vendors at street and flower markets in Chiang Rai, and I have learned one thing: orchids are hard to keep alive. This must be why they charge so much for them in America.
My first attempt at keeping orchids alive was a miserable failure. I purchased three plants, meant to be hung, long roots akimbo in the air. Within a week, I was flowerless. The roots were dry, the leaves stiff, and the flowers dead. The plants haven’t given up completely; I have kept them alive, albeit in a vegetative state, but without hope of once again having flowers.
Second time around, I got a small orchid for fifty baht from the local flower market. Its little flowers, heads about the size of a quarter, yellow and spotted, seemed slightly neglected and covered in spiderwebs, but struck me as resilient. In a ceramic pot, rather than plastic or a wooden box, moisture seemed to last longer. Roots and flowers seemed happier. And, as time passed, new flowers replaced old, even as many as five at a time.
This has given me great confidence in my orchid-tending abilities. And then an amazing thing happened: I discovered a stall at the flow market where some lovely Thai ladies were selling full-sized, living orchids for 40 baht apiece. That’s right, less than $1.50. So, I bought three, potted and boxed them as best I could (they get very top-heavy), and I am hoping for the best.
I might be overly ambitious due to my recent orchid success. I know virtually nothing about tending to orchids. But at that price, I can afford to fail. So, I will just keep doing what I did with my successful little guy and hope for the best. And, in the meantime, our porch is brimming with big, beautiful orchids.