Project#6: Mounting your orchid on cork bark

The most attractive aspects of the orchid hobby are its versatility and potential for experimentation. Mounting your orchids on various types of substrates to recreate the aura of their natural habitat can be one of the most exciting parts of this hobby. Cork bark commands a premium place among the various types of mounts, not only due to its interesting rugged texture, but also due to its lightness, strength and long life when compared to other types of wood mounts.

While it’s no mean feat to mount your orchid on cork bark, knowing about this medium, using the right material for mounting, and its correct maintenance thereafter, will help you get the most out of this coveted material. So get set to provide your prized collection a boost in terms of aesthetics and fuss-free growing. And last, but not the least, give vent to your creativity and display your orchids in the best possible way, even when not in bloom. The effect is sheer magic. The satisfaction – guaranteed.

About cork bark

Cork bark – natural, rugged and long-lasting

While cork is known for its rugged attractiveness, it is the cost that is a major deterrent for orchid hobbyists.

50% of the global cork production comes from Portugal, accounting for nearly 70% of world trade. The bark is obtained from the Quercus suber or cork oak trees. The trees are slow-growing, with a lifespan of 200 years, and are ready for harvesting once they mature. Interestingly, the bark is carefully removed without harming the tree. The tree grows back the bark over a period of ten years before it is ready for harvesting again. The slow growth and a gap of 10 years make cork a costly material. A heavy import duty of 29.8% further makes cork expensive, which is why it commands a premium price.

Give your orchid the best possible home by mounting it on cork bark

Price notwithstanding, as you become an experienced grower, you will inevitably begin experimenting with different types of media and substrates, and ultimately consider cork or even driftwood for mounting orchids. The satisfaction of growing and blooming orchids as they would in nature, is unmatched, which is why seasoned orchid hobbyists take great pride in their collection of cork mounted orchids. You have to only look at the Instagram posts of ‘Romain Orchids’ or the You tube channel of ‘Roger’s Orchids’, to understand why mounting orchids on cork or drift wood can take your display to the next level.

Premium quality cork bark mounts

If you are looking for cork bark to mount your orchids, you will find it here.

The Upside of cork mounts

While cork is attractive in a wild, natural way, what makes it a preferred material for mounting orchids is its rough texture with crevices, bumps and holes, which provide orchid roots the perfect grip to attach themselves firmly. The medium is water resistant and does not absorb water or become soggy, due to which it does not rot easily. Of course, if it is maintained soaking wet for prolonged periods without drying up in between, then rot and fungal infections do set in and weaken the bark.

Cork is seen as good value for money since it is long-lasting and can be reused if your orchid outgrows its mount after several years. All you have to do is to remove the orchid carefully without damaging its roots, and mount it on a bigger one. The old mount can then be sterilized and reused for mounting other orchids.

Since mounts are hung vertically, you also end up saving a lot of space. This way, you can grow your collection comfortably without space constraints. Moreover, you can save up on expensive media, pots, and planters, which require frequent repotting, especially if you use organic medium that breaks down periodically.

Most important of all, since your orchid is hanging vertically with minimal medium, and has a good wet-dry cycle, the quick drying ensures that the risk of development of rot disease is minimalized to a great extent.

And the downside

All  you need is a spray bottle and a mister for watering and misting your mounted orchids

The downside is that orchid mounts tend to dry out rather quickly, unlike their potted counterparts. So you need to mount the orchids that tend to thrive in a quick wet-dry cycle. This means that you will be watering your mounts every day, sometimes even twice a day, depending on how quickly they dry out. As a beginner, a quick way to gauge this would be to be on the lookout for signs of dehydration. Accordingly, you can adjust your watering routine.

Daily watering could be a daunting proposition, especially if you are preoccupied with work, among other things. Fitting this into your busy schedule could turn it into a cumbersome task. Yet, orchid hobbyists are drawn to mounted orchids because of the sheer beauty of this natural display. To be able to recreate this near natural environment within your grow space and enjoy the resultant effect, makes all the effort worthwhile.

With a sprayer, watering  your orchid mounts is easy and quick work

But it’s not as bad as you think. There are a number of ways you can make your watering routine less tedious. Investing in a good water spray will get your watering done in very little time. Some orchid hobbyists add a little bit of extra moss  (loosely packed) and this keeps the humidity levels reasonably suitable for the orchid’s healthy growth. If you are using minimal amount of moss, then light spritzing of the mount with a mister later during the day also helps in maintaining good humidity levels.

What kind of orchids should you mount on cork bark

Aerangis biloba –  a compact and mature plant that would grow well on the cork mount

Orchid hobbyists are drawn to mounting their orchids due to the beautiful effect they create. The challenge of achieving the best possible effect is something that they deliberate on and choose their orchids with great care.

First and foremost on the checklist would be to pick an orchid that is hardy and can tolerate dry conditions reasonably well. Orchids such as Dendrobiums, Brassavola, Cattleya and species Phalaenopsis will do well on mounts. While Oncidiums need high humidity around their roots, you can grow them well on mounts too if you can provide them with good humidity by padding up with extra sphagnum moss. This can be done later once you gauge your orchid’s moisture requirements.

Second, would be to consider the aesthetics depending on the cork piece that you would be using. Larger orchids such as Brassavola, Cattleya and Phalaenopsis require larger bark pieces as compared to compact or miniature orchids. This is desired so that the bark forms a natural backdrop for your orchids, thereby enhancing their visual appeal significantly.

Third, miniature orchids have a charm of their own and their water requirement is minimal (a quick wet-dry cycle). So these orchids grow well on mounts. Tolumnia, Dendrobium aggregatum, Sophronitis cernua, Neofinetia falcata and Aerangis orchids, to name a few, look amazing on mounts. An added bonus is that they look great even when not in bloom. When in bloom, they appear very exotic and wild, like getting a slice of the woods into your grow space.

Culture

Mounted orchids need a simple and easy care routine

Cork mounted orchids require very little care, unlike potted orchids that require repotting and putting together a suitable potting mix.

The most important care requirement would be to water the mounts daily.  If your mounted orchid has thick roots such as in the case of Phalaenopsis, give it a good soak for a few minutes or alternatively, hold it under running water for two minutes. The velamen turns green when the water gets absorbed. After a few minutes, again soak the orchid for a few minutes. This will ensure the roots get saturated with moisture. This, together with the damp moss will meet the orchid’s moisture requirement. You can fertilize your orchids in a similar way once a week for good results.

For your miniature and thin rooted orchids such as oncidium or Tolumnia, you can give it a good spritz with a sprayer. That will take care of its water requirements. Excessive watering or soaking in this case will lead to rot issues. Also take extra care to avoid water pooling up in the crown of your orchids as well as inside new growths or sheaths

A general rule to be followed while watering mounted orchids would be to avoid keeping the moss soaking wet for prolonged periods. Allowing it to dry out fully before watering it again will ensure that the cork does not disintegrate due to prolonged exposure to soaking wet conditions. Use minimal quantity of moss for mounting, depending on the orchid’s moisture requirement. If need be, you can always add more moss later, if the mounts dry up too fast.

Hang your mounted orchids in bright indirect light as it is important for blooming your mounted orchids. Direct morning or evening light can also be tolerated fairly well by these orchids. During summer, you will need to check on your orchids frequently and even move your mounts away from harsh summer daylight.

Fertilizing your orchids can be done either by soaking the mount for a few minutes or by spraying it. Do ensure that you do not share water between your mounts as bacterial and fungal diseases could spread to your healthy orchids. I prefer spraying the orchids and saturating their roots for a few minutes and repeating after a gap of few minutes.

Project

Enjoying the sunshine and rain on my window sill

I have always wanted to mount my orchids on cork bark, but since it is imported from Portugal, it is not easily available in India. Experimenting with different types of wood mounts brought in mixed results. Recently, I treated myself to some cork bark pieces paying a hefty price. I was excited when my package arrived.

I spent time on choosing the right type of orchids to match the cork mounts. For this project, I chose three orchids – Aerangis biloba, Neofinetia falcata and Sideria japonica. All the three are small type of orchids and create a beautiful effect when mounted.

I was excited and full of anticipation even as I mounted the orchids. When I was done, I was thrilled and very satisfied with the results. While the mounts were expensive, the joy it gives me every day more than makes up for it. I eagerly look forward to the day these orchids will bloom. It would indeed be a dream come true for me.

Execution

Requirements:

Cork bark mounts

Orchids for mounting

Sphagnum moss

Fishing line or neutral toned thread

Mini power drill

Thick metal wire hanger

Metal wire cutter/plier

Method:

  1. Clean the cork bark by scrubbing it with liquid dish wash. Ensure that you rinse it off completely so that no residue remains. Allow it to dry off completely.
  2. Get your orchid ready for mounting by cleaning it up. Remove any dead roots and old potting medium completely by giving the root system a good rinse. Moistening the roots of the orchid will minimise damage to the roots. Dry roots are more susceptible to snapping, while moistening them will make them more pliable.
  3. Sterilize your work area by rubbing it with a surgical spirit swab.
  4. Place the bark on the work surface and check the positioning of the plant. Hold the plant and mount upright to get an idea of how it would look. Try a couple of ways and assess which one will give the desired result. Mounting your plants inverted will help prevent crown rot. Once you finalise the positioning, remove the plant and mark the place that you want to pass the wire hanger through.
  5. Use the metal drill to carefully drill a hole of the desired size. The bark is soft and needs to be handled carefully to avoid damage.
  6. Pass the wire hanger and press into a loop so that the mount is firmly held and does not flop from one side to the other.
  7. Now place the plant on the cork and place a small quantity of moss on the roots of the orchid. This will help in keeping the roots moist. Ensure that the moss is not too close to the stem of the orchid. The stem should not be buried in moss as it will read to stem rot.
  8. Holding the moss and plant in place, use fishing line or thin thread to fasten the orchid to the mount. Ensure that the moss is fluffy and not very compacted. This will ensure that the orchid roots get sufficient air to breathe. You can even add cleaned up natural moss patches from your neighbourhood to give it an interesting look. The moss will grow and spread on the mount, adding to its beauty.
  9. Wind the thread several times to ensure the orchid is held snugly in place.
  10. Tie double knots several times to prevent the unravelling of the mount. Cut off any excess thread to give it a neat appearance.
  11. Attach the label on the back side of the mount, mentioning name and date of mounting. This will help in keeping it concealed.
  12. Spritz water on the moss and hang it up in place. Avoid wetting the crown area while watering your orchid.

Mounting your orchids on cork bark raises the bar for orchid hobbyists. To be able to mimic nature’s unmatched beauty and bring it into your home is one of the most creatively satisfying experiences. The orchid hobby is supposed to be savoured and enjoyed. So if you have time at your disposal and the inclination to water your orchids every day, then go for it and enjoy looking after your cork mounted orchids. Your orchids will love it even more and will thrive in this new environment.

Update: The Aerangis, well -established after five months
Update: 11 months after mounting on cork bark
Cork bark provides a near-natural environment for your orchids

Click here to purchase premium quality cork bark.

On this note, Happy growing till my next!

7 Reasons why orchids can help you beat stress

We are going through some of the toughest times, where everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in some way or the other. The morale is generally low, with prolonged lock downs taking their toll on adults and children alike. Keeping yourself upbeat and optimistic are the need of the hour. Activities such as indoor gardening, orchid growing and terrariums will add renewed purpose to your day. Bonus: Your joy will multiply when your orchids bloom.

Read on to understand how growing orchids or any other plants can help you beat stress.

Tending to my orchids after my work day, watering them, tidying them up, or inspecting the newest growths and bud spikes, I can feel the calmness and freshness seeping into me and I ponder, who needs to meditate to beat stress? This ‘me-time’ leaves me elated, refreshed, focused and active. I always ask myself, ‘Why do my orchids make me happy?’

While stress has become an inevitable part of our lives, something that cannot be wished away, it needs to be dealt with on an every day basis to come out unscathed by it. Depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, demotivated, lack of focus, trouble sleeping, worrying and indecisiveness—all leave us feeling we should do something to relieve it, but are unable to figure out a solution.

To find the answer to my above question, I did some research and came up with some interesting information.

Agnes E. Van Den BergMariëtte H.G. Custers conducted a study on a group of 30 people, who were given a stressful task and were then asked to do 30 minutes of gardening or 30 minutes of reading. It was observed that both activities led to a decrease in cortisol levels, but the decrease was significantly greater in the group that took up gardening, which restored a positive mood. The same group, when asked to take up reading after completing 30 minutes of gardening, found a further deterioration in their positive mood.

No wonder then that we seek nature to relieve us of our stress. The woods beckon us every time we need a time-out from the rigours of modern life.

My window sill comes alive with greenery and pretty blooms

Imagine walking through a vast expanse of green canopied woods, with the crunch of dried twigs and leaves under your feet and patches of moss and fern covered rocks lining your path, camouflaging nooks and crannies. And in such picturesque surroundings, you chance upon a clump of beautiful orchids bowing down from low hanging branches and rocks. It would simply take your breath away!

What if I could tell you that you could create the same magic right in your living room?

All you need to create this aura is a few orchid plants and the knowhow about their culture and care.

As an avid gardener, I have found that orchids relieve stress like none other. They are beautiful and intriguing, and have the mysterious power of drawing you to their beauty. They can contribute to your overall wellness by evoking positive feelings of joy, enthusiasm, and tranquillity.

Growing orchids, as a hobby, can be extremely satisfying. While they need dedicated care and bloom once or twice a year, it is the journey that leads to the blooms that can contribute to your wellness.

You will very soon realise that the joy lies in the anticipation of the blooms—watching the plants grow, nurturing them and waiting for the first buds or spikes to appear. The joy lies in the excitement of discovering a new growth that has the potential to bloom, and watching it reach maturity. The joy lies in guessing whether a new growth is just another new root tip or whether it is a flower spike. There is also the element of delight, when you suddenly discover a flower spike when you are watering your plants. And last, but not the least, the unmatched excitement of unboxing your online purchase of orchids. The list could go on…

However, there is more to orchids than making you happy and stress-free. It opens up a plethora of opportunities and advantages that would contribute to your overall well-being. Listed below are a few reasons why taking up this hobby would irrevocably change your life by helping you:

Become active

Greenery within your home makes you feel good

Caring for orchids means being on your feet, watering and fertilizing them and ensuring they are in peak condition. You can also experiment on mounting your orchids on wood bark or growing them on rocks and in terrariums.  All of this physical activity releases endorphins or the feel good hormones. Being active also helps us exercise our limbs and improves our agility, thereby significantly reducing the onset of lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and heart ailments.

Cruise control your life

Taking up this quiet activity will help you organise your life better. You will start planning your schedule and completing your chores faster and more efficiently just to make sure you get to spend time with your collection of orchids. This relaxing hobby also helps you plan your schedule and ponder on decisions to be taken. It helps you gain clarity on prioritising things that are important and prevent you from fretting over minor issues, thus reducing your stress significantly. It diverts you from  negativity and helps you remain unfazed by toxic behaviour of people around you.

Connect with people

Making connections with people has become more important to us than ever before. With our busy lifestyles, connecting with like-minded people can be a challenge, but not anymore. Joining hobby enthusiast groups either locally, where you can meet and learn about orchids within your city, or becoming a member of online communities on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Reddit, which provides a platform for discussion, posting images of your blooms or getting advice on caring for your orchids from experts, will help you become more social and build lasting friendships.

Set aside some ‘Me-time’

Taking some time off from your busy morning schedule to have a cup of steaming coffee and browsing through your collection of orchids and other plants can be the most relaxing way to start your day. The same goes for spending some quiet, undisturbed ‘me-time’ in the evenings after a hectic work day. This calming activity  will leave you synergised and bring out the best in yourself.

Bring nature indoors with your orchids

Challenge yourself

The positive energy you derive from growing orchids can lend direction to your life. Small little issues that you resolve every day for your orchids will prepare you to take control of your life and put it back on the right track. You can get rid of passive habits and lethargy and become proactive in every walk of life.

Take a break from work and enjoy your coffee watching your plants

The biggest bane of our times is that we spend too much time with our laptops and smartphones. Making a conscious effort to wean away from gadgets and get engaged in activity that leaves you active and refreshed, could help you become more relaxed, healthy and positive.

This could enable you change any unhealthy habits that you have been trying hard to get rid of and help you become the best version of yourself. By doing this, you can set new goals that could be life-changing, and work towards achieving them.

Work smarter, not harder

Organise your care routine to make this hobby enjoyable

This is my favourite one. While working hard is a good thing, working efficiently to achieve the same results with lesser effort is a definitive life skill that will stand you in good stead in the long run. I have learnt this by working smarter to look after my orchids and this attribute has spilled into other areas of my life, making me wonder, why I hadn’t been doing it all along.

For instance, if you want to avoid remembering each orchid’s watering needs and going crazy over their watering schedules, a smarter way to resolve this issue and reduce the tediousness of the job, would be by adjusting the moisture retentive characteristic of the growth medium. This helps in synchronising your watering schedule to a great extent. Another way out could be by grouping your orchids as per their watering needs. You could segregate them into weekly and bi-weekly watering schedule. Gradually, this aspect begins influencing other areas of your life, bringing in more organized efficiency on a daily basis. Get the picture?

Develop a positive outlook

Orchids help you develop a positive attitude, hope and loads of patience. They grow slowly, flower every year and outlive humans. Such is their resilience that sometimes the sickest plants, with no shred of hope, suddenly spring back to life by sending out a ‘keiki’ or a new plant shoot. So this ‘never-give-up’ attitude can help us build hope in the bleakest of situations and give us the grit and determination to keep us going.

Orchids can be resilient

I remember breaking a tender, newly developed flower spike accidentally during my over-enthusiastic photography. To my surprise, it sent out a new spike after a few days (to appease my anguish!).

With all these obvious advantages, the number of orchid enthusiasts is growing by leaps and bounds. You just need to explore orchid groups on Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and Instagram to know about the hobby’s rising popularity.

As a beginner, you can get a headstart by reading up on growing orchids and understanding their culture requirements. You need to keep in mind that orchids have specific care requirements that will help them grow and bloom well. To know more about orchid care and culture, read my post on Beginner’s guide to growing orchids.

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