Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Prune to Bloom: Heart Lessons Learned from Orchids

I've done it. I've joined the blogging world. I suppose it was just a matter of time given that I fit the stereotype quite well...20-something, newly-married, and currently job-less. Ok, I know all types of people blog, but let's be real. I'm sure you know at least a few bloggers who fit that stereotype.

This post will hopefully give you an idea of why I decided to start blogging. I'm attempting a change of heart. The last year of my many life changes have shown me that my faith and life needed some work. I needed a life overhaul. My faith, although very dear to me, was lacking. A Bible reading here, a prayer or two there, and attending church every week just wasn't cutting it.

God has shown me that all areas of my life need to be devoted to Him. I know you've probably heard that before, and it sounds good and all, but have you really tried it? Do you devote your eating, exercising, work, hobbies, friendships, etc. to God? What the heck does it even mean to devote your eating to God? This is what I've been pondering recently, and I'm just starting to discover how it can lead to some crazy awesome freedom. My orchids are a great illustration of where my heart started in all this. I hope this makes you think about where your own heart is...and maybe you'll learn a little bit about orchids too.

My Phalaenopsis (notice the tiny new leaf growing! YAY!)

A Phalaenopsis in Bloom

Orchid #1 - A white flowered Phalaenopsis. When you think of an orchid, this is probably the one you picture in your mind. They're the easiest orchids to grow, and it was my first. Aaron gave it to me for Valentines day a few years ago, and I loved it. Amazingly, I've gotten it to re-bloom about 4 times and have even gotten a new flower spike to grow. I thought I was a natural when it came to orchids (ha!). Then we moved from Colorado to Nashville in August. After a few weeks here, I saw a white mold growing on the soil and roots. I tried to cut back on watering, but it didn't seem to help, and then the leaves starting turning yellow and falling off. I know that isn't always a bad thing, but I was worried.

Heart Lesson #1 - I thought I had things under control with my faith and life, but my heart was growing a white mold. My roots weren't healthy; I wasn't absorbing God's Word as I should have been. I wasn't excited about my faith, nor was I showing very much fruit (or "blooms").

My Dendrombium

A Dendrobium in Bloom

Orchid #2 - A purple flowered dendrobium. Keeping the tradition going, Aaron got me another orchid (after a little hinting on my part) on the next Valentines day. This orchid was also doing great in Colorado. It was blooming, had two shoots when I got it, and starting growing a third after it was done blooming. It was growing fast, and I thought it would bloom again soon. After arriving at it's new Nashville home, it decided to stop growing. And I mean stop. It hadn't done a thing since we got here.

Heart Lesson #2 - I had stopped growing spiritually. Sometimes my Bible reading and prayers were consistent and sometimes they weren't. Looking back at my old growth, it was all still there, but there really wasn't anything to show for it.


My Oncidium

An Oncidium in Bloom

Orchid #3 - A burgundy flowered oncidium. My orchids were doing so great in Colorado that I decided to try my hand with a tougher-to-grow oncidium this last summer. I worked at a greenhouse, and it was much too tempting to take one home. Once again, it didn't agree with Nashville and soon a few leaves were turning yellow with brown spots. I knew that it was normal for oncidiums to do this sometimes, so I wasn't concerned at first.  But soon most of leaves were either tipped or completely covered in it. I noticed some white mold on the soil too. "Oy...not you too." It needed a lot of things, but a pruning was the first order of business.

Heart Lesson #3 - My life needed a pruning. Pride, discontentment, frustration, and a need for control were just a few things that were causing my lack of fruit and growth. God had to resolve these issues in me and help me find peace with them before I could do any growing.

How did I solve my orchid problems?

First, for the white mold, I re-potted them with new soil. Then I began using hygrozyme mixed with water. I was skeptical when the bearded guy at the gardening store told me to use this versus the traditional fungicide, but I can now say I'm believer. This stuff works not by killing the fungus, but by killing the stuff that the fungus feeds on. So instead of controlling the symptoms, you're killing the actual problem. Smart right?? It doesn't work immediately, but keep using it and you will see results. The only con is that it is a little pricey, but I use about 1/4 tsp per half gallon, so it lasts forever.

Second, I began feeding more. Yellowing leaves are a sure sign of over-watering and under-feeding (although it can also be a sign of over-feeding...confusing right?). Orchids need different compositions of food depending on what stage they are in (blooming, growing, or maintaining). I was just interested on getting them back on track, so I chose the maintenance route. The maintenance formula is usually 20-20-20. This means equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  I had African violet food on hand that was 7-7-7, so I used it. Although it's smaller amounts than the traditional orchid formula, it's still equal parts of N, P, and K. I figured this would be ok since I was changing from watering once a week to almost every day.  Note: if you are going to buy orchid food, I suggest buying the Grow More brand.

Third, I changed my watering habits. Instead of giving them a good long ice cube drink once a week, I switched to spraying them with the water/hygrozyme/fertilizer mixture about once a day. This ensures that they stay moist, but not soggy (perfect for orchids). The bottom line here is to be observant. Stick your finger in the soil, and if it is dry, water it; if it is really wet, don't!
The formula for my mixture is 8 cups of water, 1/2 tsp hygrozyme (0.6 tsp if you want to be exact), and 20ish drops of plant food (you will need to change this if you buy real orchid food which I suggest doing). Mix and pour into spray bottle.

My Orchid Formula!

And so far, it's working ok! I know they could use more sunlight, but until I get some artificial growing lights set up, there's nothing I can do about that in our northeast facing apartment.

What about the heart problems? Well I think I listed the "lessons learned" above pretty thoroughly and now it's just a matter of dealing with them. This isn't something you do once; it's something you do every day. Things like pride and discontentment (and most other sin for that matter) are things that will constantly plague us. That's the sad fact of having a sinful human nature. The key is overcoming them. I find this is easiest to do when I stay in the Scriptures as much as possible, am constantly in prayer, and try devote all areas of my life to God. Easier said than done, my friend, but boy is it worth it.

Do you still think I'm crazy for comparing my spiritual health to my orchids' health? I probably wouldn't blame you, but stick with me if you're interested to see where this goes! Don't worry, not every post will be like this. I promise to post some really yummy recipes with no life lessons attached...

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