30 in 30: Violet Vanda Orchid

Violet Vanda Orchids
Acrylic and Copper Leaf on Canvas
5″ X 7″

Under alternate lighting, the painting changes color
Under alternate lighting, the painting’s background changes color since it is copper metal leaf

Today I painted one of my all time favorite flowers, a rich blue-purple orchid. This one is a favorite for the depth of its color. I placed it on a copper background to take advantage of a secondary color scheme. The background changes color depending on the lighting, but I like how it contrasts with the deep violet.

Denver Botanical Garden's Tree of Orchids and Epiphytes
Denver Botanical Garden’s Tree of Orchids and Epiphytes

I love to garden.  This vanda orchid plant is in my orchid tree (a tree with many orchids planted in its branches). I have always wanted an tree filled with orchids ever since I saw a fabulous example at the Denver Botanical Garden. Theirs is a concrete structure festooned with air plants and orchids, but I saw the possibility of placing orchids in trees, and definitely wanted to plant one of my own.

My orchid tree is a magnolia tree that we were lucky to purchase with our home. It was already mature with fragrant white flowers the size of a bread plate. In its branches, I have grafted six different orchids of pink, white, purple, and magenta. The first orchid I planted on the tree is about 2 years along and has bloomed several times and gained a remarkable size. I saw its success and decided to add more orchids, but I want to be careful not to crowd the tree too much, so I have the six I mentioned for now. I place the draping orchids high and the upright orchids low. If you want to plant orchids in a tree, you need to check which climate zone you live in, which species of orchids can survive outside, and then consider water. Are you willing to water? Do you get enough rain? If you live in a rainy tropical or subtropical climate, the watering will often take care of itself and it may be easier than keeping them in pots. Simply tie the orchid to a tree branch using string or bird netting with a little puff of sphaganum moss around the roots to keep the roots wet between storms.

Magnolia Tree with the first of my orchids (not the same ones I just painted) grafted 2 years. It's larger now, and the roots encircle the tree branch.
Magnolia Tree with the first of my orchids (not the same ones I just painted) grafted 2 years ago. It’s larger now, and the roots encircle the tree branch.

They will quickly grow to anchor the plant on the tree and become free of maintenance, though if you are a doting plant parent, you could give them an occasional spray of orchid fertilizer. So far my orchids need nothing additional. They are getting everything they need in the trees. The colder climates might not be able to support outdoor orchids, but there might be a surprise species of cold-hardy orchid (A lot of them are bulbs, but you never know), or you might find a climbing vine or rose bush to give you a similar flowering tree effect. It’s nature’s original vertical gardening.

I have a couple of orchids on the trunk of a palm tree as well. I placed them on the side that gets shade in the hot afternoon sun, and they are also doing well.