Are you an avid Orchid collector? Are you itching to have something that none of your Orchid buddies do? Of course and absolutely! That something that none of your buddies have is an Orchid tree! Your very own, one- of- a- kind Orchid tree! It’s really not that hard to assemble, I can take you along on a step-by-step journey!
George and I love creating new and interesting ways to showcase our plants. Surely you remember our blog about terrariums. And I doubt that you could forget our blog about container gardening with Succulents. Or our “how to” tutorial on mounting your Air plants and Orchids to bark. This project will outshine them all!
Imagine having a tree in your yard or home covered entirely in Orchids! You can’t formulate a mental picture of that? Fair enough: I’ll show you how to make it!
A thousand “thank yous” go to “Orchid Gal Extraordinaire” Carol Gravens. She has imparted her Orchid wisdom over the past few years, answering any question George or I had about the care, feeding and raising of Orchids. Friends Judy Pass, Mary Jo Anderson and the “Orchid Queen” Babs Wagner were also invaluable as we began trying to replicate the awesome Orchid trees that are on display at Missouri Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Show.
The first bit of information that we gleaned from Carol was about the best type of wood to use. Thinking about the way Orchids grow in the tropics brings up a mental picture of old, large trees laden with blooming Orchids, hanging onto the tree by their roots. Orchids use their roots to cling onto the trees, grabbing all the water and nutrition they need from the heavens.
In the Midwest, it’s unlikely to find a tree that can handle being wet all the time. Carol told us that the garden uses Osage Orange trees for their Orchid displays. Not having an Osage Orange tree in my backyard, I began a search online where I could get a limb or small tree of the dense Osage Orange. It was as easy as eBay!
I entered “Osage Orange” into the search bar and came up with a vendor who makes canes and other wood products with Osage Orange. His name was Alex Ring. After I told him what I needed and sent him a few photos of the trees in the Orchid show, he got to work. Alex is the Owner/CEO of Teraprom Properties in Illinois. You can contact him at www.teraprom.com if you have an interest in obtaining wood for this unusual project. Alex found the most perfect tree for George, I got an Osage Orchid limb- I don’t have all the space George does to overwinter my project. Many thanks to Alex for getting us some great wood as the base of our trees!
The next step was to find a way to mount the tree on a stand. Carol Gravens told us the way that Babs Wagner has the trees assembled in the greenhouse. You need a stand, some PVC to slide the tree trunk into and some brackets to hold it all together. When George and I got a tour of the Orchid range in May, we got to see exactly how to assemble it. George is one handy guy, he was able to assemble the stand in under 2 hours. George’s current stand is wood, it will need to be changed out soon as the wood will undoubtedly crack and bow as it continues to get wet. Step # 3 involves Orchids. Lots and lots of Orchids!
If you are an Orchid collector, you might be able to assemble a tree with plants you already have. George wanted most of his Orchids to be of the same type and color. We lucked out the day we went to the Garden Gate Shop- we found 12 Orchids that were all the same! Once Orchids finish blooming, you can purchase them for a song on the sale tables. It took some searching, but we were able to find a total of 18 orchids for the tree. They were of perfect size, not too big to overwhelm but big enough to impress. Our treasures were packed up and it was almost time to create a masterpiece!
The assembly portion of the project was a little tricky. It takes an artists eye for design, while also trying to attain something that looks like it was plucked directly from the tropics. Each Orchid was affixed to the tree with fishing line. We pulled each Orchid out of its pot, shaking off the potting bark that still remained. Then, we took the Orchid and figured out where it would look best. Some went into the crooks of the tree- it was a very natural sight. As we began affixing each Orchid to the tree, we placed some moss (we soaked it in a bucket of water for about 15 minutes) under each plant, hoping that it would stay moist and help the new plants root quickly. You’ll need a helper for this portion of the project- I held the orchid in place as George wrapped fishing line around the Orchid, keeping it tight (not TOO TIGHT!) so it would root well. We had many Orchids to secure, we probably spent an hour and a half on this part of the project.
The day that we created the Orchid masterpiece was very, very hot. We used more of the wet moss to cover the Orchid’s roots. Our thought was that the moss would keep the freshly exposed roots wet and cool. We will check the roots occasionally, making sure that the moss doesn’t rot the roots.
Now, our tree was finished. We sprayed it with water, admiring how natural and lovely it looked. As we were commenting on the stunning creation, I told George that a party was in order- he just must show the tree off. He just chuckled- I’m pretty sure that he’s not going to do that.
So, if you love Orchids and want to create a fun and unusual way to display them I heartedly suggest grabbing a friend and making an Orchid tree. I bet none of your Orchid buddies has one…at least not yet!
So, you’re just a little curious- what supplies do I need?
- A STAND- George used a square piece of wood, a piece of PVC, and some brackets
- ORCHIDS- Use ones you have to go to the Garden Gate Shop at Missouri Botanical Gardens. Buy the ones on the “sale” table
- FISHING LINE- Rob someone’s tackle box or go to the sporting goods department
- MOSS- Michaels, Hobby Lobby or any nursery
It’s that easy!