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Wild Costa Rica

The Gongora orchid grows across a wide geographical range, from wet forests at sea level to mountainous regions.

Amazing orchids in Costa Rica

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Published on Friday, July 5, 2024

By Victoria Torley

I am building an orchid greenhouse! It’s a “real” greenhouse with concrete block walls with transparent roofing and siding right at the back of the house.

I can open the bedroom door and walk right into it. All sunny and warm and ready to receive the orchids that won’t survive outside in our climate like Cattleyas.

I had a Cattleya once and kept it on the deck. It dies. I gave my Phalaenopsis orchids to a friend because they were dying as well. Now I will have a special place where they can be babied and displayed.

Who knows, I may even move them into the house when they are blooming.

Of course, my first love will always be the mini orchids that abound in Costa Rica. The delicacy of the Sievekingia, the exotic shapes of the Gongora, the tiny beads-on-a-string that are the Stelis, and the best-seen-through-a-magnifying-glass Sigmatostalix. Most wild orchids are small, even tiny. Before people tour the garden, we always hand out the magnifying glasses.

Those orchids and others are my buddies. It took me some time to learn to recognize them, not from flowers, but from leaves, roots, and pseudobulbs. It took even longer to find accessible –legally accessible – orchids, which are only those on dead wood like downed trees and branches or old rotting fence posts. Some were easier.

The Gongora I found by following my nose, the scent of cloves pulled me in. Best of all, these local orchids thrive outdoors attached to trees and special posts. Yes, my orchid garden looks like someone was tossing pieces of wood here and there, but the orchids love it.

Yes, I may have over a thousand orchids outside, but most of them are unmovable because they love where they are. Now there will be an orchid house, warmer, safer from bugs, and ready for the splendid colors of hybrid orchids.

All of this because I messed up my leg and Metric Man wants me to slow down. I guess he figures that, if I can play in the dirt in a greenhouse, I can’t get into too much trouble. HAH!

Plant of the week. The Gongora orchid grows across a wide geographical range, from wet forests at sea level to mountainous regions.  The white aerial roots are very thin, growing in a dense mound. The stem first grows upright but bends early in development and becomes pendulous. The numerous flowers hang upside down, with the lip upwards. The flowers of many species have distinctive fragrances. Some smell like unburned candle wax, others like nutmeg, cardamom, or cinnamon.

Find more amazing stories about gardening in Costa Rica on the Costa Rica Garden website. Regarding questions on this article, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached by emailing

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