Perched within the various nooks and crannies of the Green Cottage are a variety of lovely orchids for sale and for use in our beautiful flower arrangements. They come from Taida Orchids, a one-acre orchid greenhouse in Pine Bush New York. This greenhouse is small potatoes compared to the 50-acre mother plant in Taiwan, where more elaborate orchid production is done, growing plants from seed and shipping them in orchid flasks around the world. Sammy Lei worked at the San Diego Taida for ten years before coming to the Hudson Valley in 2002. The shipments of orchids he receives from Taiwan start out in flasks, "very tiny, 100 baby plants in one flask, very tiny and very cute." It takes two to three years to grow orchids from the flask stage to their full size, whereas it would take six years from seed. The many natural variations that result from the seed method makes growing orchids as a small business not feasible. "Orchids are like siblings, with the natural variations you would get from any seed. Some come out taller, or smarter, or more shiny hair...but once you clone them you can keep the size and color the same. Taiwan is where they produce hybrids using seeds and experiment in the laboratory until they get the orchids they want and then they make clones. Also a lot of hobbyists do hybrids. Individual people will grow hybrids and invite the commercial growers to come see what they have produced and then sell them the hybrids in flasks. Clones are like software. You buy them to use like an operating system."
"Most orchids grow in the wild on trees, epiphytes. We grow them in pots but in Taiwan they grow them in bark. Bark is better because there is air flow around them, they can breathe, but in pots they hold water better. In the bark you have to water them every two days, but in the pots I only have to water every two weeks. The phalaenopsis we sell to Green Cottage just needs water once a week and not too much light. Don't let them stand in water. Once they are done flowering, cut off the stem and the leaf it comes from so it will grow a new leaf and start again." The paphiopedilum, slipper orchids, are a little harder to grow. They need more water and light. But Sammy assures us beginners can do it.
Our tour concluded, Sammy bowed us out with a catalog and our very own orchid! Thanks Sammy! Come see his very beautiful orchids this week at Green Cottage.