Passions: Orchid killer qu'est-ce que c'est?

Why do Alison Gray’s once-guaranteed green fingers now carry touch of Death?

My first ever orchid a was pretty glamorous affair, boxed and couriered to the office from Chanel in thanks for a magazine feature. I took it home, marvelling at its bright white blooms with architectural yellow details. Commonly known as the moth orchid, the Phalaenopsis is said to be easy to grow, and happy in centrally heated homes.

I kept that orchid alive for at least a decade until earlier this year when it decided to rot from the roots upwards. This was the first in what has now become a steady decline of such plants falling off their perch in my home and I'm not happy about it. I've become a reluctant member of The Dead Orchid Society.What's going wrong? I consider myself reasonably green-fingered, a keen student of both Monty Don and Beechgrove. I've paid homage at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore, probably the finest collection of these exotic blooms in the world. I've been to Kew, I've bought special compost. But one by one my precious epiphytes are becoming ex-epiphytes.My sister in law bought me a beautiful specimen to cheer me up when I had Covid. Until recently I had placed it in my line of sight, just behind the monitor of my computer so that I could see its delicate purple flowers every time I looked up. It is currently dormant though I can see the beginnings of a new spike. I have hope, although something has nibbled its newest leaf so that it now resembles a Swiss cheese.My most recent acquisition was in February, from the shop at the RBGE. It is also between flowerings, but its leaves are looking glossy and I'm turning it whenever I remember so it doesn't grow too much towards the light.I'm down to four and none of them is in flower. I'm trying to be patient, not to overwater, to think about repotting rather than giving up. It's just that the hybrids that we buy descended from species originating in the Asian jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia and stretching to Northern Australia are so glorious when their spikes are loaded with vibrant colour. You can expect ten weeks but they will often still be flowering after six months. I miss them. At least their popularity and widespread availability means that I can pick a new one up from the supermarket next time I pop in for a pint of milk.


Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.