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since April 1998



Why Orchids?

5 Nov 1998 by Ameneh Ispahani

Apartment living has come to stay and we just have to look around us to realize that it is now a fact of Dhaka life. More and more plots are being divided up into little fragments upon which buildings rise ever upwards. Not only is space a rare commodity in these apartments but so also are sunlight and ventilation in short supply. What happens to the keen gardener? Where is the space for a garden? What sort of plants can be grown in minute spaces along boundary walls? Or in narrow verandahs? And will these plants ever flower? That's why -- orchids!

Orchids can be cultivated in the smallest of spaces and one doesn't even need to work with soil or manure. Orchids can be grown inbaskets, in the littlest of containers made with bamboo slats, in perforated pots or even in green coconut husks used as containers. Instead of soil you use charcoal or broken brick. These orchid containers ca be placed on paltmforms where there is some ventilation and difused light. If there is no space whatsoever, neither roof nor garden space to make platforms on which to place the orchids, you can just hang the plants along the open verandah or porch. The wonderful thing about orchids (unlike other potted plants where there is always soil seepage from the pots onto the floor) is that there is no soil to seep out of the pot. So it's close to being maintenance-free especially as orchids need air, light, warmth, and humidity -- all of which are naturally available in our part of the world.

It's best to begin your orchid garden by investing in slightly bigger and more established plants though they will be mroe expensive than the smaller ones. The survival rate of these will be greater than that of smaller, less firmly established plants. Dendrobriums and Vandas are good varieties with which to start your collection.

Some do's and don'ts:

  • Congestion between plants should be avoided and there should be free circulation of air. Water the plants once a day, but thoroughly, with a sprayer just before sunrise if they are in the sun, or at any time if they are in the shade. Water in the pots must dry up before evening.
  • Locally available fertilizer (Bio-Fix) may be used and the plants should be spray-fed.
  • Once a week a fungicide should be used. A locally available make may be used or garlic tea, made according to a formula, may be used instead.
  • Occasionally insecticides or pesticides may be required to be used against particular problems.
An orchid grower and an expert on this subject is Zeba Rasheed Chowdhury. Zeba has a lovely orchid garden and in spite of moving house again and again the bulk of her plants have survived and flourished. She adds some more pointers to the do's and don'ts we've already mentioned:
  • Buy well-known and easy to grow orchids and make sure they have proper name tags as you might need the name for seeking remedies.
  • Make sure that the plant has one or more healthy new shoots and healthy green foliage.
"The wonderful thing about orchids," says Zeba, "is that they have flowers that last at least a month and cut flowers that last two to three weeks. It seems that they have been designed for the constraints of modern life and allows us to indulge our love or gardening even the tightly controlled environment of apartments."

Free advice may be sought and orchid plans and flowers purchased from Zeba (fahmi@bdmail) in Uttara.