A postcard from Sunny Chang
Many years ago I had a client take over some greenhouses in the fens to import and grow orchids for sale in the UK. Previously these greenhouses were used for the houseplant market so I found the business fascinating.
A lovely lady called Sunny Chang explained the growing to me and this is what I remember.
She was from Taiwan and she explained that orchids come into flower largely due to temperature change and that between flowering they require resting. The example she gave me was that if orchids flower in a house, once they stop flowering you should put the plants in a cool outbuilding, I suggested, to her amusement, the outside toilet. There they can rest at a cooler temperature for a few weeks before returning to the house to flower again.
Sunny explained that in Taiwan they achieved this commercially by growing on mountainsides and moved plants to different altitudes on a vermicular railway on the mountainside to change the temperature they are exposed to. A similar comparison may be the chilling of tulip bulbs to force them to order.
In the fens of the UK there were no such mountains or even a hill. Instead the greenhouses were environmentally controlled, but in a traditional Taiwanese method. The lower panes of the glasshouse were replaced with corrugated cardboard panels that allowed air to flow through and slats were adjusted to enable this. I found this fascinating. She also showed me how the orchids were grown in moss rather than soil. This had many advantages in reducing disease, preventing over-feeding and being environmentally friendly. Nowadays this use of moss is common.
A few months later she sent me this card from Taiwan, that I have kept to this day. Thank you, Sunny.