Fitting In

I joined the local orchid society here in Eugene a few weeks ago; suffice it to say I am once again the youngest person in the room. Glancing about the meeting I was met with my fair share of wrinkled smiles and kind nods; introducing myself, I was asked the usual questions: how long had I been growing orchids, what sort did I prefer to grow, how many plants did I have, etc. I gave a brief synopsis of my past, bringing all up to speed on my collection liquidating, culminating with my cross-country drive with just a few of my treasures. I ended by saying that I kept mostly what I cherished and was diminutive. Post society program, I got the chance to talk with several society members, most seemed sort of addled when I professed no interest in the "easy" orchids--phalaenopsis, cattleyas, etc--preferring instead species cymbidiums & Japanese dendrobiums. Fielding more questions & comments it became clear to me that most members of the society fell into one of two groups: a) long-time amateurs--these are the sort of growers that take up whatever is in fashion at the moment, they have benches or shelves full of whatever catches their eye when it's in bloom, spend much of their time trying to coax their plants to rebloom, are ready at any moment to set aside stubborn plants (only to acquire something very nearly identical to the under-performer), just to fill out the lack of white or orange or yellow flowers in their collection or b) long-winded amateurs--these are the sort of growers that will tell you all that they know about orchids without really sharing anything helpful, they tend to be the authority on whatever happens to grace their benches or shelves, verbose to the point of tears when it comes to sharing what makes a proper planting media or fertilizer blend. I think, given time, I may find a few growers that fall into an elusive third type; those that are as informative, genuine & helpful by not saying anything as often as offering advice. I've learned over my years in the orchid world that for me it's best to not try to fit in; the amateurs feel betrayed when I dismiss their efforts, asking why they try growing plants that are ill-suited for their conditions; the third group nodding knowingly when I wave off these questions and simply reply, "This is what works for me; it's what I've learned." We elusives know what it's like not to fit in, it's why we are both shunned and so sought after; "problems" only arise if we're actually forced to speak to one another, invariably, we will skirt the issue of orchids all together. Pressed on matters, we will give the vaguest advice that we can conjure; it's not that we're trying to be mean or short, it's simply that we know by doing this we will avoid the barrage of thrice-answered questions from amateur group a & the barrage of additional anecdotal advice offered by amateur group b. For elusives, being a misfit is the surest way of fitting in; we're the society members that push the envelope, the men and women that devote entire collections to one genus or species or clone. Please understand, we will gladly share our methods of culture: open your damn eyes and look at the containers we are growing in, look at the media that fills our pots, look at the way we stake spikes (or not), look at bottom of the pot and the top. Our sphagnum is moist and sweet, can you see its strands, did you note the absence of algae or the smell of decay? Our pots are sometimes clay, sometimes tall and narrow, sometimes devoid of any media; did you notice the plants in each were robust and happy? Our flowers are open and full, fragrant (and not), colorful, fresh; did you notice? Or smell? We offer advice at every turn, in the gentlest of ways, but you seldom seem to take note; instead you see our muddy shoes or torn jeans, our unkempt hair or uneven teeth. You take note of only what you want, dispense advice you've never taken, trying desperately to fit in. We, like our orchids, are an unusual group, sought only when all other avenues are exhausted; the ironic thing is how much attention you afford us as you collectively ignore us--not that it really matters I guess, we see your lips moving, but your paphiopedilum tells us everything we really want to know.

1 comment:

  1. Have you been out to the Briggs Hill Orchid Nursery just 10 minutes outside Eugene. It's great! ~ Alan Brown