The wonderful monster-phal

I counted my orchids in the greenhouse in the weekend and discovered that I have crossed the magic line of 100 or more. I also discovered that I’m in need of more space and have begun to look into expanding my growing area. I’m looking at small garden tunnels rather than conventional greenhouse and at the moment I’m dreaming about a 4 meter wide and 12 meter long tunnel that could perhaps even house a papaya and a mango tree and a water feature. It would be so amazing to make the growing area into a small, lush jungle rather than how it is now: A tiny polycarbonate box crammed with pots hanging, standing and fighting for space. Did I mention that I’m expecting another 20 or so plants in the next couple of weeks? *Eeeerrrrr….* I know I’ll fit them somehow, but I’m just closing my eyes and ears to all common knowledge and good advice regarding spacing and contamination risks at the moment.

As the collection grows, the  supermarket-bought unidentifiable NOID phals are shuffled down on the rank hierarchy to the extent that I’ve actually manage to not buy any of them in a while. It feels weird to be able to walk past them and still be relaxed and empty-handed. I used to be like Scrat in Ice Age every time I saw an orchid, regardless of what it was. It was physically impossible to resist temptation whenever a NOID phal was looking for a new home.

Over the years I’ve ended up with around 20 NOID phals. More if I include those that I’ve killed over the years, but in the greenhouse at the moment there are around 20 and unless my growing area expansion goes according to plan they’re living on borrowed time and might be up for adoption in the near future. Not all of them, mind you, but certainly some of them.

Now and then, after a NOID phal has gone through some kind of darwinistic Survivor test and come through it alive, you realize that you’ve managed to find a winner amongst all those hundreds of thousands of commercially grown hybrids.

My monster-wonder-phal is a common, white NOID phalaenopsis bought about two years ago as a normally sized plant in a normal clear plastic container. It had five leaves, two spikes, 15 flowers and was in all aspects a completely normal, average phal. One of those that you know will provide you with some eye-candy on the kitchen table for a couple of months and whatever happens after that is anybody’s guess.


Well, two years later the plant has 14 leaves and has been potted into a self-made pot made of a 5 liter water bottle since I could not find a clear plastic pot large enough for the roots.

This phal flowers once per year, and last year it was still in the ‘average’ category with a dozen of flowers and it’s normal pot. This year on the other hand…

The plant only have two spikes, but it has decided to branch of at every possible node making it look like a tree. The spikes are around 70 cm tall, before they bend of and begin growing sideways. On the 8 August, it had 25 flowers open. 5 had already wilted away and it still had more than 50 buds that could potentially flower. It will be interesting to see how long this plant will keep going since it’s still developing more buds and the tips. When I look at this phal I’m wondering how large can they actually become?! Will I have to grow this one together with my imagined mango tree in a couple of years?

If anything, this is a ‘hail to the NOID phal’! The plant that was the introduction into the weird and wonderful world of orchids for so many of us. It is the perfect beginner orchid. It comes at a reasonable price and it can survive all sorts of mistreatment. This plant has sunburned leaves and the leaves are full of lime deposits. The pot is green of algae growth. It’s been tossed around by the dogs when they invaded the greenhouse looking for lizards. It’s been infested with mealy bugs and a cricket has munched at it. It’s been suffering from root rot, over-fertilizing and drought and it just keeps on going. What is there not to love? All in all, despite that they are tagless, nameless and numerous, they’re actually really great orchids.

4 thoughts on “The wonderful monster-phal

  1. Silje – Not sure about your climate, but might a shadehouse work better than a solid plastic “tunnel”? I imagine it would lower the humidity, but it might also be cooler (I recall your winters and nights get quite chilly however!). Aluminised shade cloth looks quite interesting for applications under the African sun! A water feature might well help with your humidity, but a misting system would probably be ultimately more effective (but unless fed with rainwater or RO water, probably cause your “limescale” problem to worsen).

    • I tried with a shade net structure in the beginning and discovered that it was impossible to keep humidity at an acceptable level with just shade. I need plastic to keep it in. Obviously my present greenhouse and also a future tunnel or whatever I will go for, will probably also need additional shading, even if I go for plastic that diffuse light. I’d like a tunnel with doors on both ends and the possibility of opening up for additional ventilation. And I’ll obviously need fans that runs 24/7. I’ve been looking at these ones (4×10-12m size): since Haygrove is available in SA and the price seems acceptable. I would like a bit more height, but I will have to compromise somewhere… It’s a hobby after all, not a livelihoods. A new greenhouse though, must be accompanied by a better and bigger misting system AND a RO system, and then we really start talking big bucks and a project that it will take a bit of time and saving to complete.

  2. p.s. one way of “making more space” is to toss the under-performing plants… it’s hard to do though! 🙂 Every few months I glare at the more recalcitrant plants. They usually buck up and do something when threatened with dismissal. I have a massive Dendrobium moschatum which is not long for the Balcony if it doesn’t flower this year!

    • No no no…! Definitely not there yet. All plants get to stay until they are petrified, rotten all the way through or just plain…dead. I have…er…made life very hard for a few of them though… And a couple of them have not managed to deal with whatever challenge I’ve thrown at them.

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