On Buying Orchids on Clearance

I love orchids. It’s strange because when I first started gardening, I was staunchly opposed to the idea of ornamentals. A plant should be purely functional—edible or medicinal or somehow serving a practical purpose in the garden. I soon learned that, of course, blooms and blossoms serve many purposes in the garden beyond just looking nice. They attract pollinators among other tasks.

The older I get though, the more I appreciate beauty simply for the sake of beauty. Orchids are one of those things for me that serve no purpose except delight. For years I wanted them but they proved too complicated for my brown thumb. They were also too expensive to buy experimentally…. anytime I was gifted one or splurged, it died so soon that it seemed such a waste.

At some point in the last year or so I realized that even I, expert serial killer of even the most sturdy house plants, could keep orchids alive, thriving even. I simply tuck them into my shower windowsill, which is flooded with natural light because my idea of remodeling any room is putting in as many windows as possible even if it happens to be in an inconvenient place. In their bathroom hideaway, I never need to water the orchids and the humid environment seems to mimic their tropical habitat just enough.

I have five or six lined up now. They were all rescued from the clearance section of various garden centers, sad and abandoned and without bloom. They called to me with their little yellow markdown stickers, begging to be saved and nurtured once more. I didn’t even know what colors they were when I salvaged them. But now, finally, two are blooming (a gorgeous violet and a light pink) and two more will open in a few weeks. It has been such a great exercise in patience and gratitude. I really didn’t believe that they would ever bloom but I chose to be happy with their green leaves and the fact that they were at least staying alive. Then the first little bud started to form and I allowed myself the tiniest glimmer of hope. The hope turned to faith that a bloom would come… and now here I am.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I spend a gratuitous amount of time every time I shower simply adoring their blossoms and the unexpected success of my clearance flowers. I live in a house with five guys and a male dog…. I am not sure anyone appreciates the flowers like I do, although they humor me when I come dragging my flowers out to the living room to announce, “Look, a new bud! Look how tall this one is! I have a bloom! A bloom!!!!!!” (Indeed, I think some of the household members would appreciate a less cluttered space in which to tend to their personal hygiene and also less time spent discussing my horticultural successes and failures.)

I feel like I spent the entire decade of my 20’s thinking that my life would never bloom. Even now that it has in many ways, I struggle with feeling constantly terrified that some tragedy will strike and take it all away again. What I now know in the deepest part of my heart is that even when life seems empty and like nothing is changing or growing, roots are still forming. The plant is still alive. The blooms are coming. Keep hope alive. My orchids to me are a reminder that no matter what has happened in my life—and there have been times that I have felt very much like a flower so wilted it should be in the 90% off bin—or no matter what will happen, Life has a way of somehow rescuing me and seeing me through to the other side.



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