LINDSBORG — The names roll easily off of Donna Nelson's tongue — cattleya, dendrobium, cymbidium, oncidium, bulbophyllum — just some of the types of over 100 orchids she grows in her greenhouse near Lindsborg.
"I've just always loved plants — but the orchids are my passion," Nelson said. "...When I was a little girl, I remember going through the seed catalogs and I don't think my mom ever told me 'no.' If I wanted to order something — within reason — she would let me."
Nelson, who displayed several of her orchids at the recent Lindsborg Collects exhibit, is the current president of the Kansas Orchid Society.
"I take them to the meetings for our monthly show and tell," Nelson said. "It has to really be unusual for the orchid people to appreciate it."
Though she brings her flowers and herbs to the Lindsborg Farmers Market, Nelson said some people are still surprised to learn of the depth of her passion for orchids.
"I just love to look at each individual little flower," Nelson said. "An orchid is not an orchid like a rose is a rose."
Nelson, like many orchid growers, started out raising the flowers in her basement from plant stage.
"People do start them from seeds, but it's really hard to do," Nelson said. "You have to grow them in a flask that's sterile."
In the past few years, she has transitioned her plants to a greenhouse, which has its pros and cons.
"It's harder to maintain in the summer than in the winter," Nelson said. "You'd think it would be the opposite, but in the wintertime you can shut all the doors and turn the heat on. In the summer, it's so hot but you don't want to run the air conditioning because that takes out the humidity, so you keep the water coolers going."
Still, Nelson admitted she appreciates having a warm place filled with the smell of orchids to visit in the winter months.
"Some aren't fragrant until the evening while some are fragrant in the morning," Nelson explained.
Most of the orchids grow in or around pieces of bark, and thrive in a warm, humid environment.
"You don't want to overwater them," Nelson said. "That's the fastest way to kill them."
An orchid's blooms start off as small spikes.
"It's exciting — almost even more than when they start to flower," Nelson said.
Some types of orchids only bloom for a week, while the flowers of a phalaenopsis orchid can last for several months.
"Phalaenopsis are the most common type," Nelson explained. "Those are what you usually see in the grocery stores."
Nelson also grows other tropical plants, succulents, herbs, air plants, and oranges and grapefruit trees in her greenhouse.
"It's constant, picking off the dead leaves," Nelson said. "I could do it all day long, I think."
You can find Nelson selling her orchids and herbs at the Lindsborg Farmers Market, held from 7:30 to 11 a.m. each Saturday at 206 S. Jackson St. in Lindsborg.
Nelson said she would love to have more people involved the Kansas Orchid Society, which currently has around 60 active members. For more information, visit https://www.kansasorchidsociety.com.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.