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Green Acre #370: The Subject Was . . . Orchids

These phalaenopsis hybrids, from the 2019 Smithsonian orchid show, demonstrate the orchid’s capacity for providing luscious color. The 2022 show, “Orchids: Hidden Stories of Groundbreaking Women,” is free and open to the public through April 24.
/ Photos, above and on the front, by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

I KNOW you’re just dying to know what My Prince got me for Valentine’s Day.

Tiny orchids. Three of them—just what I suggested in my column several days before the holiday. Each is a delicate shade of pinkish purple and comes from Trader Joe’s, which I noticed the other day is more awash in flowers than it has been of late. Like a blooming flower show, it is.

These were not the single pots of orchids ($6.99), but the expensive ones ($9.99) that come in little white ceramic boat-shaped pots and sport a small green ruffle of bird’s-nest fern alongside.

 I put them on the mantel, as planned, but first—with some trepidation—removed them from their boats, separating ferns and orchids and repotting them all in silver vessels—a gravy boat, a cigarette urn, a baby cup, a squat creamer—and interspersed antique rabbits, a small copper bird house, a this and a that, along with sprigs of baby’s breath left over from a previous arrangement.

It looked cheerful, springy, but I was, as I said, filled with trepidation. I assumed My Prince was attracted to the sleek little boats as much as he was the orchids and would object to my dismantling the display, which to my eye was glaringly white and had an air of deliberation, of uniformity, of organization, all of which make me itch.

 The boats, as I said to myself, working up an excuse, could be used for something else like, um, horseradish dishes, olive servers, beet dishes—dark red would look dashing in them. I like them fine, just not as planters. I might also point out that they were made in China, which he avoids like . . . the plague.

 As it happened, he said nothing.

 However, as a very late comer to computers, and having recently discovered the wonders of the Internet, and even more recently Google, he took pleasure in instructing me about orchid care. I was, he said, to put an ice cube in each plant once a week and that was sufficient watering, and that they absolutely should not be put on the mantel because with heat from the nightly fires they’ll dry out and die.

He likes to point things out to me, being older and wiser: “I was riding a tricycle when you were still in diapers,” he says.

How true, I smiled and nodded, and left everything in place.

If you can’t get enough of orchids, their myriad shapes and hallucinogenic colors, the US Botanic Garden in DC has an extravaganza for you.

With the greenhouse at the foot of the US Capitol still Covid-closed, the 26th annual orchid show is once again being held under the vaulted glass ceiling of the Kogod Courtyard, the centerpiece of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Hundreds of varieties of orchids are brilliantly displayed—none of them from Trader Joe’s—along with the stories of women who have enriched our understanding of these magnificent exotics through botanical art, science, and exploration. 

“Orchids: Hidden Stories of Groundbreaking Women,” is free and open to the public through April 24.

Tiny orchids and other treasures top the fireplace mantel chez Cavanaugh. The silver creamer, cigarette urn, etc., are unpolished. LittleBird Stephanie claims that either Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich said that without tarnish how would people know they were silver? Good (and convenient) point. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

5 thoughts on “Green Acre #370: The Subject Was . . . Orchids

  1. Jean B. Gordon says:

    Beautifully done…love the way you put it together.

  2. Your fans require a photo of the mantel with all the antiquey orchid vessels & objets.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      I’m on it: Stephanie!!!!

      1. Nancy McKeon says:

        See above!

    2. Nancy McKeon says:

      Margaret! There’s your mantelpiece picture, inserted at the end of Stephanie’s column, above.

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