BY LORI MURRAY , Texas Superstar Specialist

Early in January I received a phone call from a lady who had a very rare plant experience to share. It seems her orchid had produced nine blooms, the first bloom opening on Christmas Day (what a present!) and the others following. I don’t know very much about orchids – in fact, I had to ask her to spell cattelya, (pronounced cat a LAY a) – but the more I heard, the surer I was that I just had to see! So the next day my GPS, her directions, a good friend, and I journeyed to Lyford to visit Frances Krnavek. Frances had told me she also had a greenhouse so I was hoping for a view of her Christmas cacti as well as the orchid. I was not disappointed.

The cattelya orchid was stunning. The colors were so very deep and vivid it looked like it had been created from velvet, but it was very much alive and healthy.

We took some indoor pictures and later she sent me some outdoor pictures taken when the sun was able to reveal those beautiful hues much more effectively than a flash. She was kind enough to show me her greenhouse where you could tell that she was quite involved in raising her plants. It was a short walk from the back door and when I entered I realized that I’d thought all Christmas cacti were red like mine.

In fact, I hadn’t expected the array of colors that greeted us. In addition to being spacious, her greenhouse has a wonderful feature – she can warm up the air there by flipping a switch from inside the house. I discovered that I was quite envious and I’ve wondered ever since if there was any possible way to add my own greenhouse to our back yard where space is becoming increasingly at a premium. It sure would have been useful recently when we had such cold weather.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR

VALENTINE ORCHID

BLOOM AGAIN

It’s important to know that an orchid isn’t worthless just because it’s finished blooming.

When it’s finished flowering, move the pot to a place with good indirect light. The orchid needs a 10 to 15 degree difference in its daytime and nighttime temperatures, and the temperature near a window can provide that warmer site.

Trim the die-back from the stem above the fourth node from the bottom. This is where it will sprout. Humidity is important so put the pot on a bed of pebbles and set up a feeding schedule after it blooms.

Water it with half the recommended strength once or twice a week, soaking it until the water runs through and drains. Don’t let the leaves get wet. And be patient. It will bloom again.

When should I prune?

By LORI MURRAY

Cameron County Master Gardener,

Texas Superstar Specialist

A number of people have asked me recently when they could start pruning the dead and shriveled parts of their plants. The answer is NOT YET. There are so many things to consider that it’s premature to start chopping on anything now – unless of course you’ve decided you don’t want that plant in your yard at all any more. No matter how bad your yard may seem, you have to practice restraint and wait to prune when the time is right, and that time is a couple months down the line. (The exception to this is roses which we traditionally prune around Valentine’s Day.)

First of all, we wait because we may have more cold weather and those low temperatures will for sure kill any tender new growth that pruning has triggered. Secondly, you don’t really know how much damage you have – even though you think you can see it.

Those dead leaves on the ground may not signal death after all but a temporary hitch in growth. In fact, the worst thing you can have is dead leaves that remain on the plant because they could signal some kind of stem damage.

Also, you could be cutting off live wood. It’s just too soon to tell what’s damaged and what’s not. One exception: If your trees have broken limbs or trunks it’s okay to cut off the jagged part but no more. If you wait until mid to late March you’ll be rewarded by little sprigs of new growth that will tell you for sure what’s going to survive.