Ariana Thornton '24
Orchids have a reputation of being notoriously difficult to grow. When I was little and my mom kept a garden both in and outside our house in Ashburn, Virginia, the orchid was by far our favorite flower. While my favorite features are the arching stems and bright colors, my mom is particular to the symmetrical petals and simple shape of the leaves. We both love to watch our orchids bud and blossom, and curl their way into the sunlight. It’s enchanting to observe the transition from brown to green to gold, purple or white, and the varying flecks of color within the flower. Since moving to DC as I started sixth grade at NCS, our family of orchids has continued to thrive, and they always brighten the room.
Orchids’ blooms appear dainty and delicate, and maintaining the plant may seem daunting. In reality though, orchids are adaptable and resilient. In the wild, they grow in all kinds of diverse corners of the earth, from the Russian tundra to treetops of tropical rainforests. Many varieties grow just as well indoors; while growing orchids is different, they are not demanding. All they need is consistent care and a friendly environment. A well-cared-for orchid can be in bloom for months each year and live for generations.
I’ve picked up the main steps for maintaining an orchid from my mom: 1) Most orchids only need watering once a week; simply pass the pot over a stream of water or place ice cubes on top to melt into the soil. 2) Keep the orchid by a windowsill with just enough natural light. 3) Trim the stem after the orchid has finished blooming to allow it to grow back and rebloom. 4) Every couple of years, repot the orchid so it has more room to grow.
To me, however, orchids don’t just represent resilience and beauty, or a series of steps to produce that beautiful flower. They represent the connection I share with my mom, and the memories made possible from that connection.
On one occasion, I was so excited to visit the Hillwood Museum with my mom and a family friend whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. The previous resident of the estate, Marjorie Merriweather Post, was enamored with beautiful, finely-crafted objects. While this is shown with the art displayed throughout the mansion, she also had a greenhouse constructed to house her extensive collection of exotic orchids, and included them in flower arrangements in various rooms. It was therapeutic and relaxing to walk in the aisles of the greenhouse with my mom and friend, surrounded by warm air and flowering orchids on all sides. And in the lavish halls of the house, seeing a familiar flash of my and my mom’s favorite flower made the tour all the more interesting.
Growing out of mere tree bark and moss, and in other environments no matter how harsh, does not detract from the orchid’s elegance and allure. On gloomy days, I look to the orchid sitting on the bright windowsill, and find a sense of inspiration and hope.