Once upon a time someone gave Terry Kowalczuk a
tiny orchid, about one- and-a half inches long. That was more than
20 years ago. Since then, that little plant has since grown into a
collection of more than 1,000 orchids.
A landscaper by trade, Terry has a
greenhouse in back of his Toronto home and is looking to build
something bigger to house his orchid collection. Japanese orchids
are his specialty. Most are miniatures with many growing in pots
hanging in the air.
"Welcome to the wonderful world
of Neofinetia falcata!"
What is remarkable about the miniature
species, native to Japan, is that it has transformed itself into
thousands of variations and is virtually one species with more
than 2,300 distinct varieties. "These varieties have evolved
from the regular or 'wild' form that we have for years seen for
sale in North America. In the wild, the roots grow firmly attached
to trees and rocks and the flowers appear to fly in the wind. The
plants are small and produce extremely graceful white flowers that
have a fantastic scent, which incidentally is one of the most
complex in the orchid world."
For Terry, collecting and selling orchids is
both a hobby and a business. "I collect miniatures and
everything else that I find odd including a lot from South
America, especially Ecuador." He travels to Japan frequently
to purchase orchids and meet with other collectors and vendors. He
often gives orchid talks and says that the biggest question is
always "How not to kill them."
The secret, he says, is to make sure the
center is dry before watering. "I market windowsill orchids.
The best place to keep them is in a southwest window. In summer
the ideal place is outside under a tree but they don't overwinter
here and will go dormant at under 50 F."
Japanese orchids are generally four to five
inches wide, with leaves as hard as a succulent. The flowers are
mostly white and come in different shapes. "They can cost
anywhere from $15 to $300,000. Until just a few years ago it was
not unheard of to pay as much as $20,000 for a pink or green one
that now costs about $25." The most Terry has paid for a
single plant is $1,500. He prefers them under five or six inches,
"the smaller the better," he says. "They are so
There are said to be more than 25,000
species of orchids growing in the wild plus more than 100,000
cultivated hybrids. Some, known as epiphytes, grow on trees,
shrubs or rocks while terrestrials grow in soil or humus. Many can
be grown in houses and apartments. "Some of the best
collections I've seen are in condos," says Terry.