Scent of Orchids

I occasionally sit out here in the mornings with a cup of coffee. This chair is just round the corner from my front door. Early in the morning with the sounds of birds and sometimes even a light mist, its quite magical. A little later and the sun will have already have taken on a force only known here in the equatorial tropics, but this spot remains an oasis throughout the day.

The nearest durian tree has already sent a branch overhead, then a bamboo fence and lush border wraps the entire area. Overhead I've fashioned a bamboo arbour from which I hang branches covered in epiphytic ferns and orchids. I've also started lifting the pots onto a  base of cinderblocks - I want whatever's at the bottom growing upwards to start weaving into whatever's on top growing downwards. The sum effect is that of a thick but loosely woven botanic shawl that creates shade and even seems to chill the air a degree or two on this dark verandah- something you can feel the minute you step into it.

A few mornings ago, besides the cool dappled shade there was something else, a fragrance, powerful like something in a bottle. A quick search yielded a broken raceme of the Aerides Odorata pictured left. Broken, perhaps because I had picked it up off the floor recently - it happens, the wood rots and when I move things round, tragedies happen - and moved it to another spot. Perhaps, a spot it likes a lot more hence persuading it to flower.

A flowering orchid is no mean feat here as I continue to fine tune this area to create more of a microclimate that can withstand my often neglectful care of these delicate creatures, not to mention a knowledge gap of orchid needs. I have just about turned a corner on keeping them mainly alive, some are starting to look quite healthy and now this, the holy grail, flowering. Often I buy them in flower and once done, never see it again. This particular orchid was a gift, which was not flowering at the time of receipt so this is a particularly momentous event.

Its name, Aerides Odorata is one of precise botanical accuracy describing both its 'airy' epihytic nature and its odorous personality. Its found widely through south east asia, the flowers are waxy and almost translucent looking.  Often with wild orchids, you have to go up close to catch the delicate fragrance but the scent of this orchid is really quite something. Scent of course is already somewhat unusual as most orchids in gardens here are varieties appreciated more their colorful appearance and devoid of scent.

Oddly enough when I first moved in here, there were a lot of things in boxes in the store room since the sixties or seventies and one of those boxes was full of a soap that was popular here with an 'orchid' scent and a picture of an orchid on its wrapper. Too perfumey for me so I gave them away - but that heavy floral scent, is what this orchid does smell like.

With all the tragedies I've had with orchids, I've had somewhat of a moratorium on their purchase since they are somewhat more expensive but I might have to lift that going forward with this little breakthrough. I'm drawn to wild orchids because of all the fascinating variations of  their leaf and root forms and sometimes the added possibility of the flowers being in that palette I love- greens and dark colors but this scent thing has added yet another intriguing dimension.

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