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  • Writer's picturehawaiichocolate

Roadtrip to Millers Orchids

I have always had a “plant addiction” and it has taken different forms over the course of my life. When I lived in Albuquerque, NM my indoor plants were mainly cactus. I enjoyed a yearly spring trip to Tucson, AZ where I’d head out to a greenhouse that grew a lot of cactus. Peak blooming season for many of them was March, so it was always fun to bring some new treasures home. I had a large greenhouse window where I kept this collection and sadly when I moved to Hawaii I could not take the plants.

Outdoors I grew a lot of daylilies and even tried my hand at hybridizing a few. This versatile flower comes in all sizes and shapes, blooms at a variety of times, sometimes reblooming, multiplies quickly and the buds can even be eaten.

When I moved to Hawaii I had to start fresh with plants and of course became attracted to the beautiful variety of orchids there. Even grocery stores had inexpensive plants and with the humidity there, orchids were fairly easy to grow. When I moved up to Volcano, HI on the big islands the temps were colder. I lived at 4000’ in a rainy climate. There we had stunning Cymbidium and Miltonia orchids that I grew attached to my outdoor trees. Every farmers market had gorgeous orchids, so with a huge variety you always had something blooming.

On Maui I learned all about vanilla orchids, which are a vining species that produce the edible pods that turn into vanilla for cooking. (after months of growing and special curing). I had a cacao farm there for a while and planted tins of fruit trees- mango, starfruit, oranges, lemons, soursop , apple bananas, and various spices- kaffir lime, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Even a few Rainbow eucalyptus trees.

Fast forward and I am in Texas. I know….Texas. It’s a long story but primarily one of economics. I miss my tropics terribly but the cost of living in Hawaii just didn’t make sense and being a renter there was even worse.

Texas has spectacular wildflowers in the spring, most notable being bluebonnets, but many other colorful wildflowers as well. But ,the outdoor gardening is a challenge here. The soil is tough and rocky (limestone), almost impossible to dig a hole.

The summer heat during June, July and August is relentless. And over 100 degrees. Very disappointing. At least there are beautiful trees here like giant live oaks and colorful Crepe Myrtles.

Yes you can have a garden, but it’s a lot of work. I opted for a small amount of drought tolerant natives and some spineless prickly pear cactus. I have a beautiful and productive little lemon tree that comes in for the winter and out onto a mostly shaded porch for the summer. I pick about a dozen lemons from it each year. That little tree rings me so much joy!

Spring bulbs I grow in pots because it’s too hard to dig the soil. Daffodils, amaryllis, Dutch iris and crocus now bloom on the porch.

Indoors I have a bit of a jungle including a huge snake plant, seasonal amaryllis bulbs, and different varieties of Xmas and Easter cactus. A few succulents and a few small orchids.

New for me are ferns. NM was always too dry for ferns, and in Hawaii there were other plants that captured my attention. But here, with higher humidity I can grow ferns .

I learned about a greenhouse in Dripping Springs , TX that grows orchids and also exotic staghorn and other ferns . So I decided to take a mini road trip to Millers’ Tropicals for their first open house of the year. Dripping Springs is about 1 ½ hrs. from where I live but it’s a scenic drive and who doesn’t love a little Springtime outing.

Millers is a large greenhouse and the variety of orchids is pretty amazing. Every time I step into a greenhouse I am transported to some other dimension and this was no exception. In addition to orchids there were the variety of staghorn ferns, lots of air plants and even some cactus but the ones you usually find growing in tropical trees not the desert.

I came home with a couple small orchids, a cactus and a fern. I hope they adjust to their new environment!

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