Orchids and the Aztecs

This month’s featured bouquet consists of white Dendrobium Orchids, accompanied by Bamboo Orchid foliage and novelty Ti leaves. The white orchids will be either the UH 306 “Uniwai Pearl” (a white blossom with a tinge of light green), or a “UH 44 “Uniwai Blush” (with a light purple blush to it), or a dazzling mix of the two.

Orchids were first known in the Mediterranean region as “Orchis,” a reference to the Greek word for testicle because of their twin oval tubers. While orchids were considered useful in medicine over the years, the only orchid of true economic value was the Vanilla planifolia, the source of vanilla flavoring. This was cultivated by the Aztecs and brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors.

While wild orchids were imported into Great Britain in the early 1700′s from the wilds of the West Indies and China, most did not fare well despite very expensive steps taken by the wealthy to raise them in hot, damp greenhouses. Those that survived sold for exorbitant prices – hence the reputation of orchids being a “rich man’s plant.” The prestige of owning an orchid has been perpetuated and has continued to this day.

Because of the ideal growing climate and natural growing conditions in Hawaii, the University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture started work in the 1950′s hybridizing orchid plants. The goal was to develop cultivars, which would take advantage of the environment and exhibit the characteristics of high yields with long shelf life, while still preserving the beauty of the orchid blossom. By the early 1980′s, the University released a number of commercially viable cultivars, which today represent a vibrant industry in Hawaii. Once thought to have no fragrance, it is now known that some orchid species offer stunning aromas.

The orchids in this month’s bouquet  from your favorite Flower of the Month Club were grown especially for you on the Big Island of Hawaii, also known as the “Orchid Island.” Properly handled (see right), you can expect days of pleasure from your orchids. Your bouquet is made more beautiful with the addition of foliage from Bamboo Orchids, and the always stunning novelty Ti leaves.

SPECIAL CARE OF YOUR DENDROBIUM BOUQUET

1) Immediately remove the orchids from the shipping box, removing the plastic and cotton reservoirs from the bottom of each stem. Immerse completely in cool water to draw any accumulated heat away from the flowers.

2) Cut about one-half inch off each stem, enabling the stems to draw fresh water up, keeping the flower heads fresh and vibrant. Use sharp shears or a knife, and cut at an angle to prevent the stems from resting flat on the bottom of your vase. Remove foliage that will fall below the water line. Take care to keep the cut ends in water at all times.

3) Fill your thoroughly clean vase three-quarters of the way with cool water.

4) After about five minutes, you may arrange as desired, leaving enough room between the flowers to avoid bruising, as orchids are fragile.

5) Refill the vase with cool fresh water and re-cut the stems every other day. To prolong freshness, display out of direct sunlight, and away from drafts and fruit. Remove damaged or dying stems. To freshen, soak the entire stem and flower in room temperature water for 45 minutes. Best to allow the stems to air dry before re-arranging.

 

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