By Charline Lee

My home is not a greenhouse and will not become one! That is the rule and I have to remind myself of it when I try to overcome my impulse to buy another beautiful orchid. I dwell in a confined city apartment in Toronto.

My first orchid, a NOID (meaning no identification) cattleya was bought in a local nursery, when attending my first year at law school. I was instructed to grow it in tree barks only. The cattleya was placed, with my small collection of houseplants, on a northwest windowsill in the doorway. It was soon forgotten. One day when I returned from a short trip, a delicious fragrance was so conspicuous in my bedroom that I was determined to find the source. Guess what? The forgotten cattleya was beaming with two big gold yellow flowers in the deserted doorway, and, that was the source of the fragrance!

The following Summer, I had to go away, so a friend offered to look after my plants. She kindly repotted the orchid with the soil from her backyard. When I got back, my cattleya was barely alive. Most orchids are epiphyte plants, the roots need to breath air. The soil prevented the roots from breathing, making survival impossible, in common soil. That was my first experience with an orchid.

In the Summer of 1999, at a Toronto flower shop, I happened to see an extraordinary plant with beautiful blue flowers. It was hanging in a humble plastic basket with the roots dangling in the air! There was no potting media at all. I was in love with this plant at first sight. Since the store clerk couldn’t tell me the name of the orchid, I had to search through many bookstores and flower shops. Eventually I discovered that it is called “Vanda”. A few days later, I went back to the store, it was sold. Nevertheless, it re-started my relationship with orchids.

Then I started to frequent the discussion forum of the American Orchid Society. A friend from the American Orchid Society Forum sent me a beautiful Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), as a 2000 Christmas gift. The elegant flowers lasted for eight months! Visiting friends often asked me if the flowers were artificial. Phalaenopsis is an easy orchid for apartment dwellers since it does not require a lot of direct sunlight and the flowers are very long lasting.

Some Paphiopedilums, or lady slippers because of their slipper-like pouches, also love to grow in the shade and they can also be very long lasting.

You may learn more about how to grow orchids, or trade orchids and chat about orchids at
Charline grows orchids in her apartment and office. She is a member of the Southern Ontario Orchid Society.