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Dispelling the orchid myth; gardening TOP TIPS TO GET THE BEST OUT OF EXOTIC FLOWERS.

Byline: By DEBRA GREENHOUSE

THERE'S a hotbed of interest in exotic flowers in North Wales - and enthusiasts are only too pleased to encourage that interest to grow.

But while their fascination in their subject is unbridled, members of Cheshire and North Wales Orchid Society are also keen to remove some myths long associated with growing orchids.

Society member and former chairman Sheila Morten has observed how people unfamiliar with these flowers approach them almost reverentially.

"It's as if they feel there's some deep mystery and they're uncertain how to treat them.

They also see them as quite precious, as they consider them expensive," she said.

But in value for money terms orchids are among the best plants to buy.

Sheila explained: "If you think how much it costs to buy a supermarket bunch of flowers, they last only a week or two, but a moth orchid will last years and costs only a few pounds more."

Moth orchids are the ones most commonly found in supermarkets and are grown in their thousands in Taiwan.

"These are the type most people are talking about when they ask us questions at exhibitions and shows," said Sheila. "The most common mistake is over-watering. They need to be drenched in their pots once a week in summer and once a fortnight in winter, but people tend to give them 'a drop or two every day' and it results in waterlogging."

Gardening enthusiasts can learn more at the annual Chester Zoo Orchid Festival from February 12-17, part of Cheshire's Year of the Gardens, a celebration of the county's home horticulture.

"We'll be supporting the event with an exhibition of some of our members' plants, set against a backcloth of a mock up Burmese temple. Our members will be on hand each day to answer any questions," added Sheila, who recently handed over her role as society chairman to fellow grower Tina Stag of Llandudno.

The society offers a regular programme of talks and newsletters offering advice on care and propagation.

Sheila is now used to being approached by people with the phrase: 'I have an orchid, can you tell me....?' "The first thing we have to establish is what sort of orchid it is," she said.

"Usually it's the moth, but there are many others. The moth orchid is most popularly sold because it is easiest to look after and long flowering. Despite all the mystique, this really is a tough customer and almost thrives on neglect."

People are often worried about roots creeping out of the top of the pot or clinging to the sides, but the plant is only behaving as it would in the wild when these roots would cling to trees. Sheila's advice is not to cut them off or try to tidy them up.

A newly bought plant will not need re-potting for about three years.

Mark Sparrow, Chester Zoo's curator of botany and horticulture, said: "We're grateful to Cheshire and North Wales Orchid Society for their support. Festival visitors can see some stunning displays.

Zoo experts will also be on hand with advice and tips and even children can get involved with activities in the Grow Zone or tour our greenhouses."

diary dates

today

Open snowdrop garden at Henblas, Llangristiolus, Anglesey 11am-4pm today and tomorrow. Proceeds to Snowdrop Cancer Appeal and Cancer Research UK. Admission pounds 2. Refreshments and snowdrops for sale.

Ring 01407 840993

monday

Denbighshire County Council warden Nick Critchley talks about his work to Bwlchgwyn Gardening Society at King's Head Pub, Bwlchgwyn. Also Andrea Evans talks about Wrexham in Bloom 2008

wednesday

Michael Kemp of Chirk gives a demonstration called Amateur Dramatics to Colwyn Bay Floral Art Club, Methodist Church Hall, St George's Road, Rhos on Sea, 7.30pm Send gardening events to davidpowell@dailypost.co.uk or see address on P2 of main paper

For more details about the orchid society visit www.cheshireandnorthwalesorchidsociety.org.uk. For details of Chester Zoo Orchid Festival visit www.chesterzoo.org or call 01244 380280

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Sheila Morten, of the Cheshire and North Wales Orchid Society, admires a phalaenopsis
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2008
Words:681
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