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January 4, 2005     Cape Gazette
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January 4, 2005

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s CAPE GAZETTE, Tuesday, Jan. 4 - Jan. 6, 2005 - 17 GARDEN &amp;: FARM Native plant expert to speak at next meeting of Sussex Bird Club Steven BIIlups photo Sussex Gardeners donate wreaths The Sussex Gardeners met Dec. 7 at Westminster Presbyterian Church to build wreaths that will be donated to local convalescent hospitals. Shown standing in the back are (l-r) Lou Gille- spie, Mary Lee Smith, Barbara Negus, Judy Naughton, Ann Lyons, Wanda Davis and Bo.bbye Barlow. In front are Leigh Hill, Pat Harris, Jennifer Hagy and Cicely Sandmeyer. On Sunday, Jan. 9, Bob Edelen, a member of the Delaware Native Plant Society will present Native Plants for Beauty, Birds and But- terflies at the regular monthly meeting of the Sussex Bird Club. The meeting will be held at the Visitor Center at Prime Hook Na- tional Wildlife Refuge. The meet- ing starts at 2:30 p.m. and guests are welcome. Edelen is retired from the De- partment of Defense and lives in Lewes. Passionate about the envi- ronment, he is happiest when out- doors birding, gardening, fishing, hunting or just walking in Delaware's woods and wetlands with his wife Nan. Edelen has dedicated much of the 10 years of his retirement to understanding promoting and planting native plant s for birds, butterflies and other Critters that are attracted and dependent on them. The Sussex Bird Club was formed more than 20 years ago to promote the knowledge and en- joyment of birds. In addition to nine monthly meetings the club runs about 12 field trips each year. Most of these are to Sussex Coun- ty birding areas, such as Cape Henlopen State Park, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and the Great Cypress Swamp. The club also actively supports environ- mental activities throughout Sus- sex County. Guests are welcome at all functions at no charge. For more information, call president Dave Weber at 645-5491. gateway from outdoor gardening to indoor growing : It's now January, the month named after Janus the Roman god of gateways or beginnings and endings. This is why he is often shown with two faces. So while the garden and farm fields seem dead and dormant, we pass through January's door to life in- doors. Rather than bemoan our inabili- ty to garden outdoors we find that our indoors allows us to grow things that frankly wouldn't have a chance to survive outside. The urge to grow the exotic or even difficult plants goes way back. During the Victorian period, coal- heated homes with drafty win- dows and no insulation were try- ing places to grow tropical plants. So orchids were prized house- plants. Indoor orchids were rare because most orchids did not sur- vive the long journey from the jungle to greenhouses. As if to give up by the turn-of- the-century, the Victorian popular- ity of potted houseplants waned. Soon orchids were only available as cut flowers. Now there are orchids that are easy to grow indoors. One of the easiest is the Phalaenopsis. Its big, glowing white flowers on tall stems that appear like white moths in flight gave the Phalaenopsis or- chid its common name of "Moth Orchid." Despite the develop- ment of new colors, such as pink, red, yellow, spotted and even striped blooms, the white'pha- GARDEN JOURNAL Paul Barbano Like many orchids, lhalaenop- sis orchids are native to the trop- ics. There they attach themselves to the bark of trees where their thick, white roots absorb moisture and dissolved nutrients. The secret is to try to duplicate the moth orchids' native growing conditions. Because they grow high in the trees, rather than on the forest floor, moth orchids are accus- tomed to good air circulation with lots of light. Not surprisingly, moth orchids prefer the 12-hour daylight of the tropics. It's not called the rainforest for nothing, so moth orchids are used to daily rainstorms and 80 to 90 percent humidity. You can easily increase humidi- ty by setting your plants on a tray filled with pebbles that will hold run-off water after watering. Keep laenopsis are the most popular. The fleshy blooms stay fresh for the bottom of the pot above the " can also mist them gently each morning. From the time a flower spike appears it takes another 120 days for the flower to open. If your moth orchid plant is healthy but has yet to start bloom- ing there are a few tricks to get them to bloom. Try lowering the temperature by 10 degrees for two weeks. Also try a location close to window, but out of drafts, where the tempera- ture is lower. Also try to increase light. Phalaenopsis often react to brighter light by flowering. Use grow lights. in the winter to give your moth orchids an extra boost to bloom. A good way to tell if you need to water is to pick up the plant. If the pot feels light, the potting mix is dry and needs to be watered. When in doubt, don't water for another day or two so you don't over water and rot the plant. Fertilize your moth orchids with a balanced fertilizer. Fertil- ize "weakly, weekly," that is, fer- tilize every week but with a weak solution of only one quarter to one half of the recommended amount of fertilizer. This steady stream of light nutrients is better than overdosing. You should repot your moth or- chids every year or two in late spring after your main flowering season. Use special orclfid mix- tures. Choose the pot size by the amount of roots, not by how big the top growth of the plant is. Or- chids prefer to be slightly root  =: <.-, : :: . :: - i gods will be pleased. With a very little care you can grow exotic moth orchids. Like Janus, this can indeed be your own gateway month from outdoor gardening to indoor growing. The Because they grow high in the trees,.rather than on the for- est flooi-, moth orchids are accustomed to good air circulation with lots of light. Paul Barbano wriWs about gar- dening atJd farming from Ins home in Rehoboth Beach. Address questions or comments to him c/o the Cape Gazette.