Hi to all orchid lovers!
To introduce myself — my name is Tomas (Bajza) and I am the orchid addict — I call it lover though 🙂
I originally came to the USA from the Czech Republic, and settled down in hot tropical Miami, Florida some 13 years ago where I run my own package forwarding business.
I adored orchids during my teenage years, but there were not many to see in my country at the time. My neighbour grew a few of the Paphs and Phals amongst her windows, and when they bloomed, I could just go across the street from our house to hers and stare at that window for hours! I always dreamed about growing orchids somewhere warm one day!
My orchid beginnings were funny and sad at the same time. I managed to obtain few orchid plants back in the Czech, two Phalaenopsis plants, and one Cymbidium plant. I had neither knowledge nor options to do some research (the Internet was really nowhere), so I grew as I felt. That approach was of course totally wrong. My poor Phals were overwatered constantly and kept by the window right above the heating, so the humidity was at zero. They must have hated me all these year as they were suffering and barely surviving, but I got at least one spike once, before they both went to the orchid heaven. My Cymbidium was even “better”. That sucker did nothing except growing leaves for years. Then I went to college and moved out of the house, completely forgetting about that plant. Once I came back home in the fall, and my mom called me outside to our courtyard. When I got there, she pulled out from behind her Oleander bush my forgotten Cymbidium with absolutely amazing long spike carrying some 40+ green waxy blooms. I was shocked, as I was not able to bloom this plant for many years. So I asked her what she did with it. She replied, “I just throw it outside behind the Oleander bushes early spring, water it with the hose when watering oleanders, and fertilize it with chicken shit when fertilizing my oleanders, that’s it!” I was laughing my ass off about my over-caring this plant for some four years with no success whilst my mother just threw it outside behind the bushes. And that’s it, she gets the blooms!
Even though I am living in Florida surrounded by orchids for some 13 years, I got into growing orchid only 7 years ago, starting with the usual grocery store selling Phalaenopsis and Dendrobiums, slowly adding some Cattleyas and Vandas since these were the orchids that everyone in Florida grows! All of these were large orchids and mostly hybrids. Some three years ago on one of the orchid forums, someone posted about Lepanthopsis astrophora — that was the very first time I have ever seen a miniature orchid. I had no clue that such a thing even exist! I fall in love totally and completely, and immediately ordered a few. When they came, they were even smaller than I ever imagined!
That was it, I’ve got bitten by a “huge” miniature orchid bug — and in the past years I was fortunate enough to collect hundreds of micro and miniature orchid species, many of them pretty rare. I am a very stubborn grower — I do not listen to anything, and I do not like the word “impossible”. I like all orchids, but I do love huge amount of cold- or intermediate-growing species. Many growers in Florida told me that I cannot grow this and that here, because it is too hot or they are too hard to grow. I do not believe any of this till I try myself and either succeed or fail!
I grow most of my collection at the balcony in North Miami, where my orchids are outside year round. Summers get very hot (even over 100F), and winters can have very cold fronts passing through — just a few weeks ago, we had only 38F early Friday morning. Growing from the apartment balcony has many challenges and it is truly only for an orchid addict! Since I cannot use any hose, I have to water with buckets and baking pans when I soak my orchids some 2 to 3 times a week, and also with spraying bottles for any misting. It is nonstop work around the clock, each soaking taking me anywhere between 2 to 3 hours now. And on the top there are some that need to be misted every morning. There are some advantages too though — since I have to take down every single pot and mount every time I soak, I can control over-watering, check for any issues and fix them before they become real issues. My balcony also protects most of my orchids from constant rain during our rainy season, so I do not deal with fungus and rot as many Florida growers do.
I have some 50 orchids that are cool-to-cold growers, which I keep inside year round in very simple vivarium setups and one tall hygrolon cylinder.
Last year I decided that it is time to get rid of all large- and medium-size orchids — there was just absolutely no space to even turn at my balcony — and I dedicated my growing to only micro, miniature and small orchids (keeping still some 20 large plants). My collection shrank from some 350 orchids to some 200+ micro, miniature and small size orchids, 99% are species. 90% of my collection is grown mounted.
Through extended research, reading and being active on different orchid boards and in orchid groups, I’ve learned tremendously. I do not consider myself in any way orchid expert, but someone once told me that a beginner orchid grower is someone who killed less than 10 plants, advance orchid grower is someone who killed more than 100, and orchid professional is someone who killed over 1000 and doesn’t count anymore. By this yardstick, I do belong to advance growers 🙂
I’ve been very fortunate with meeting and becoming friends with many international orchid growers and nursery owners. At the beginning, I bought only plants sold by the US nurseries. But in the past two years, all of my orchids come from abroad (either pre-orders for the shows or even personal imports shipped directly to my house), all of which I am starting to like more and more. Buying orchids from the US growers is safe and the majority of the plants come nicely established. Unfortunately there are no offerings for the species that I am looking for at this stage of my growing. I was really pushed to search and start my own importing because I could not just find any of the plants I wanted to own. Importing plants always brings high risks and costs — paperwork cost, high express shipping cost, any delays during the shipment or at the agriculture when clearing the customs, communication with the sellers abroad, when many does not even speak good English. This all makes importing stressful, but still worthy for me. Imported plants are 99% bare root divisions and they need extra love and care. I would not suggest buying imported plants to any newbies, these plants are sometimes very hard to establish and many can die within days from receiving them.
To end this long essay, I would like to wish all the luck to orchid-growing people in Australia. And I hope many will choose the way I grow — hit and miss, learning from our own mistakes and errors, but giving it all! Rewards are endless and orchid blooms bring so much joy to our lives! Your continent has so many amazing orchid species and I hope that one day I’ll be able to visit and see with my own eyes (I do have family in Adelaide, so it is on my bucket list!).