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A Garden With Orchids is Wonderful

By Judy Adamson
When it comes to glamour in the garden, there's no doubt orchids are high on the list. Growing and cultivating one of the thousands of species of orchid is no longer confined to the wealthy - or the wealthy with time on their hands - but it can still be an expensive hobby for those who become really passionate about the flowers.

"Once you're hooked, you're hooked," says Debbi Wares, who has been growing orchids for years with her husband, Garry.

"They're not cheap to buy and there's the ongoing time spent fertilising and caring for them as well.

"But the problem is once you get hooked you keep buying them - you keep seeing new ones ... it's just limitless, the varieties of colour you can get. You could never get one of everything."

The author of books on orchids and editor of The Australian Orchid Review, David Banks, says that while young plants can be bought for as little as $5 or $10, the cost can soar into the hundreds and thousands.

"There's a bit of mystique about them," he says. "A hundred years ago orchids were only for the very, very wealthy - and that's obviously changed now, because superior propagation techniques have made the plants more readily available. "I still believe there's a status sort of thing with them ... to me orchids are the pinnacle of the flowering plants. But I think the main thing that gets people in is that there's so much variety in orchids. There are more than 30,000 species - and a lot, obviously, that people have never seen".

"They cater to everybody: they're in every single colour that you can think of - even blues and blacks - and you get flowers from a couple of millimetres across [to more than 60cm]."

Living in Australia makes growing and caring for orchids much easier than in many countries overseas. Our climate means plenty of orchid varieties can be grown in the garden instead of a special greenhouse with heating or air-conditioning. However, Banks warns those new to the art to research a plant's origin carefully before they decide how to look after it.

"You've got to do a bit of detective work because not only do you need to work to find out what country the orchid has come from originally, but also its habitat," he says.

"It's no use just saying it comes from Ecuador, because if it grows on the coast it's hot and tropical there, so it needs a heated glasshouse and wants to be kept warm and cosy all the time. But if it grows up in the high mountains just under the snowline it needs to be kept cool all the time. And it might be grown in a really wet area or a dry area. Reference.

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