The August 5th 2017 OSGB Meeting: 'Growing orchids in a Terrarium' by Helen Millner

Tue, Jul 25 2017 12:41
Helen Millner is talking to the Society at our meeting on 5 August and has something of interest of all of us who grow orchids in our homes. A mix of history and practical recommendations. Helen and her husband, Dave, have been exhibiting at the RHS London Orchid Show for 20 years, three times at Chelsea and also at the European orchid Conference, the Dresden orchid show, and the World Orchid Conference in South Africa (and elsewhere!). Originally they did floral displays but changed to educational exhibits some years ago. They have been well received and they have had numerous RHS Gold Medals for them. The last one was at Chatsworth in June this year where focussed on terraria and she will be talking about them to the OSGB in August.

Helen and her husband, Dave

Helen hopes members will find it interesting, not only learning about the history of their development and use, but also to gain ideas about different ways of growing orchids in your home. 

Helen has given us a brief summary of her talk: 

Terraria are nothing new, and in fact, have changed the world as we know it. The original terrarium was invented around 1830 by Nathaniel Ward, being known as a Wardian Case. These cases were used to transport plant discoveries across the world. The survival rate of these plants was >95%. Seedlings of crops of great economic importance were once carried in them, such as rubber, vanilla, tea and bananas. The most fascinating story for us is the way they were used to introduce tropical orchids to Western Europe. Astronomical sums were paid for each new species, only for prices to crash when more orchid plants arrived in later shipments. 

So how can this help us grow orchids today? 

Many people no longer have room, or can afford the heating, for an orchid greenhouse and so grow orchids in their homes. The main problem here is low humidity and it is this that terraria can address. Today, they come in all shapes and sizes, and make attractive features in their own right.

The aims of this talk are
  1. To explain some of the fascinating history of Wardian cases.
  2. To show how the same principles used today can still help to grow orchids in our homes.
  3. To encourage people to use their imagination so that they can grow a wider range of orchids successfully.