Friday, July 24, 2009

Big Changes Coming to the Orchid Conservatory... OR... Fantasy and Reality Rarely Mesh

I guess the best place to start is all the way back at the beginning.

Once upon a time there were grand plans in place for an Orchid Conservatory at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The garden staff anxiously awaited architect's and garden designer's plans for a luxuriant tropical oasis. When these plans arrived they ooohed and aaahed and there was much rejoicing in the land. Part of this glorious vision was that of lush vines covered in blooms cascading and rambling over the structure of the building, creating a true jungle vision and camouflaging the ugliness of man's creation.
"How perfect!" they exclaimed. "There are no steel beams in the tropical rain forest. It'll be beautiful!"
And it was. Careful research and plant selection began to find THE PERFECT vines and lianas for the space.
"They must be beautiful." the staff said. "They must be strong and healthy" others added.
Come October the most excellent vines were selected and planted lovingly at the column bases of the Orchid Conservatory. By the grand opening in January they were all they had wanted them to be. With lots of sun, water, and a little TLC the vines thrived rambling, scrambling, and climbing towards the sky. The staff was delighted, they had done well.
Through the first year the vines grew, and grew, and grew, and the nervousness began.
"Ok, you can STOP growing now." The staff said. But the vines had grown so tall they could not hear them from the tippy top of the conservatory, fifty feet from the ground. And if they had, they would have only replied
"We can't stop. We have indeterminate mature sizes you see. You've fed us, watered us, and loved us, so we GROW."
"Indeterminate?" said the staff. "What on earth do you mean you can't stop? This label right here says thirty feet is your maximum size! And this book says twenty five!"
"Ahhhhh, said the vines. Books and tags tell lies. In a normal environment of harsh sun, drought, leaf eating animals and insects, and an occasional hurricane our growth is limited. But here we are in paradise and nothing harms us, we can reach our full potential and cover all that is here to cover."
"Oh." Said the staff.

The moral of this story is be very careful with what you plant, and be sure to temper your desire for instant gratification with knowledge that down the road you will have to maintain, yes maintain, the plants you select. Vines especially can quickly get out of hand, as any of us who just had to have a purple wisteria on the arbor now know. The garden's solution to this increasingly vigorous problem is removal of the vines, once so small and cute and now raging thugs from the conservatory all together. Considering said vines are now fifty to sixty feet from the ground this will include some extreme acrobatics and equipment provided by a local tree service. So next time you step into the Orchid Conservatory and grimace at the exposed steel beams of the roof supports, remember our tale, and don't let this happen to YOU.

The End

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