A Glossary for Orchidists

I recently came across this amongst some scribblings of mine from the late 1980s and realized that it’s just as true a quarter-century later as it was then! The thought occurred to me that the novice orchid grower might be able to use a bit of help in navigating the shoals of vague and ambiguous phrases dotting most advertisements, catalogs and culture books. So herewith I present The Chatsworth Lady’s Essential Guide to Orchidese, in no particular order whatsoever.

Easy to grow: Almost sure to bloom at least once during your lifetime.

A challenge: Will probably never flower, but will survive if given a special diet, a yearly vacation in Tahiti, and its own valet.

Fussy: Only a masochist would buy this one.

Compact grower: Can be counted on to not take over the entire growing area.

Vigorous grower: Stock up on plant stakes and 18” pots. A machete would be useful too.

Miniature: “Is that the flower, or an insect?”

Adequate humidity: This is a toughie. Let’s just say that if the plants are trying to crawl toward the kitchen sink, the atmosphere is probably too dry. On the other hand, if your glasses fog up when you look at the flowers, chances are you’ve overdone it.

Balanced fertilizer: An orchid grower attempting to carry one tub of 30-10-10, one of 10-30-20, one of 18-18-18, a watering can, a scoop, and a proportioner – all at the same time.

Minimum night temperature: The temperature below which a given orchid will awaken you in order to ask for an extra blanket.

Pest: (1) Any insect that is likely to damage an orchid plant. (2) Anyone who interrupts a repotting session.

Good air circulation: Ideally, something midway between the air movement needed to blow out a single birthday candle and that which would require tether lines to keep the plants on the benches.

Award quality: The plant may receive an FCC (First Class Certificate), AM (Award of Merit), HCC (Highly Commended Certificate), CBM (Certificate of Botanical Merit) or other American Orchid Society honor. If not, it might qualify for the PAA (Pest Appeal Award), AWB (Absolutely Won’t Bloom), DLC (Dropped-Leaves Certificate) or GC (Garbage Can).

Evenly moist: The mythical ideal potting-mix status. While the precise definition has yet to be established, it is generally agreed that a fair-sized insect traveling from the top of the growing medium down to the drainage hole would neither drown en route nor kick up an appreciable cloud of dust.


  9 comments for “A Glossary for Orchidists

  1. October 30, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Brilliant! This will be invaluable for the orchid that I have that has flowered once and refuses to do anything pretty again. 🙂

  2. October 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I found this very funny, and I’ve never grown orchids. Actually, with a little editing this could apply to many plants. Have you been to the orchid room at the Longwood conservatory?

  3. October 30, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Wonderfully funny guide to growing orchids, I love it.

  4. Lita Sollisch
    October 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Your humor is to be admired. Touche.

  5. October 30, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Love the behind the scenes dictionary of growing orchids!

  6. October 31, 2015 at 10:18 am

    heh heh. There’s only one term I need for my orchid glossary, and it’s not ‘vigorous grower’.

  7. November 5, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Love it! Made me laugh! 🙂

  8. November 21, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I shared your post on Twitter! Do you have a Twitter ID? My near perfect memory fails me 🙂

    • November 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

      I do have a Twitter account, although it’s only used for auto-tweeting a link to new posts on this blog and also on the Connoisseur of Malvern Archive. It’s @ChatsworthLady

      I suppose I should add that to the About page! I don’t use social media except for the blogs’ auto-tweet, so I tend to forget it’s there, LOL

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