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  • How To : Mounted Orchids

    Mounting Orchids


    There is a natural presentation offered by mounted orchids that cannot be matched by its cousins sitting inside pots. The exposed, free roaming roots, as well as the uninhibited pseudobulbs pointing in any direction they wish just ensures that any orchid enthusiast will try mounting an orchid at least once in their lifetime. There are even orchid professionals who swear by it and insist that it is the only real way to grow orchids.

    The beauty and natural splendor of mounted orchids is not without its price however. The exposed roots means that the plant will have a tendency to dry out faster unless it resides in a tropical locale. The growers in more temperate regions will then need to compensate by increasing humidity, or frequency of watering.
    Dividing an established "mountie" also takes more skill and precision as you must extract the divisions from the mother plant without harming the attached roots.
    Mounted orchids also tend to occupy more bench real estate compared to a similar sized plant in a pot. However, this can be countered by hanging the mounts along a vertical plane (wall of mounties) to save horizontal bench space - or even hanging them from the ceiling of the growing area.
    Ask any mountie fan however if the cultural adjustments are worth it and the response will be an abosolute "Yes".

    The cultural adjustment, in my opinion, is the easier aspect of growing mounties. "Any orchid can be mounted on anything" as most growers would say. But to create a mountie with lasting aesthetic appeal (and health) one must carefully study both the plant's behavior as well as the properties of the desired mounting material.

    Mounting orchids is more than just slapping on a plant to a driftwood or a log. It takes careful attention to detail to make sure that the plant's growth habit complements the driftwood's shape and scale.
    The mounted piece should become a homogeneous entity. Plant and substrate should be viewed as one living creature and not a bunch of building blocks that you can dismantle and reassemble at will.

    It is also important to understand the properties of the wood being used. Mounting an orchid to a wood that easily rots within six months for example, is rarely a worthwhile excersize.
    Substrate size in relation to the plant's size and growth rate is also important. You must select a substrate that is large enough to accommodate several year's worth of growth for the orchid.
    If properly planned, the mounted piece will result in an organism that is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Here are some guidelines for planning your mounted piece.
    1. Select a high quality substrate. The substrate, be it a driftwood with tons of character or a log with tons of literal weight, will be the permanent home of your orchid. The driftwood must last long enough for the orchid to produce several seasons worth of growth. Unlike pot culture where you unpot and repot the orchid as needed, a mounted orchid tends to be permanent as the roots grab hold of the porous substrate. Prying the roots away from the substrate could result in massive root loss and stress the plant.

    2. Select orchids that will do well in mounted conditions in YOUR growing conditions. Since most orchids are epiphytes, they are expected to do well as mounted pieces. However, your local growing conditions might prove otherwise. Some orchids are better suited to mount culture than others in relation to their current microclimate. Do your research to determine which orchids will do best for you.

    3. Study the plant's growth behavior then choose the appropriate substrate. The orchid and the substrate will be viewed by the observer as one organism. A beautiful orchid mounted on an unsightly substrate or vice versa will detract from its overall appeal. It will be difficult to change the shape and appearance of the substrate after the orchid has grown into it. So it will be better to choose a substrate with the substance and shape that will complement the plant's long term growth habit.
    For example, if you chose a cane-type dendrobium with long arching inflorescences, then it would be visually appealing if the substrate also features the same arcs and curvatures. If you chose an orchid with strong vertical inflorescenses such as a laelia, then a driftwood that has a dominant vertical dimension would complement it visually.
    The goal is to present the mounted piece so that the observer will only need to pan their view along one axis, be it horizontally, vertically, diagonally, etc.

    Here's a step by step guide on mounting an orchid.
    1. Select your plant to mount. In this example, I chose a cane-type dendrobium that produces about 2-foot tall canes and near vertical inflorescenses.

    2. Select a mount substrate that will complement the plant's shape.
    I chose the driftwood on top as it will provide a sturdy base for a relatively large dendrobium plant when it reaches mature size. The diagonal length of the driftwood also allows plenty of future growing space as the particular dendrobium that I chose produces new growths heading in one direction.
    The plan is to have the dendrobium's future growths "crawl" along the length of the driftwood.

    3. Wash the driftwood thoroughly. Pictured here is another driftwood that just finished its bath. You never know what chemicals or other substances the driftwood has been exposed to prior to your acquisition. So take proper measures to clean them.

    4. Optional: Some driftwood pieces may not stand up on their own. So you might have to modify the piece either by cutting it or attaching a brace to make it stand up.

    Here are some examples:
    Two small pieces glued together.

    Attaching a bracket stand to a driftwood.

    5. Now that you have prepared the driftwood, it is time to determine the best placement of the plant. Again, consider the growth habit and direction of the plant.

    6. Preparing the mounting site. I usually add a small amount of moss or coco fiber around the mount site to retain some moisture while the plant establishes itself.

    7. Attach the plant to the mount site. You can use wires or fishing lines to temporarily hold the plant in place until the roots can grow and hold the plant on its own.

    8. Review the piece again. View the piece from all angles to make sure that you like what you see.

    9. Test the stability of your mount.

    10. Final touches. More coco fiber around the mount site.

    11. Review the piece again. Here's the final product.

    12. Enjoy your work. Here is the same orchid the following season.

    Here's another example of a mounted orchid that produces the desired results.

    I hope you found my article informative and enjoyable.
    If you have any requests for any particular topic that you would like me to cover, please let me know and I will see what I can do. Learn more about mounting orchids in the OrchidTalk Orchid Forum.

    John Lauchang
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