All the colors!

A few weeks ago,  I was able to attend a Garden Writer’s Association meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the places we were able to visit was the home of Just Add Ice Orchids – Green Circle Growers. I had no idea all these orchids were only a couple of hours from me or I would have been there a lot sooner! Who knew? I thought they must be grown in Florida or some other tropical area. But no. Surprisingly, they are raised right herein the midwest in Oberlin, Ohio.

So what is Green Circle Growers? They are a wholesale grower of houseplants that are sold to retail stores and they grow these plants under 100 acres of glass. They grow many kinds of houseplants, but 1/3 of the acres are phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids. They grow over 8 MILLION per year! Can you imagine? I saw A LOT of orchids, so I can believe it. This facility is state of the art. They use rain water that they collect to water the orchids as the local water system could not supply enough water to care for all the plants they grow. One inch of rain becomes 1.5 million gallons of water. Isn’t that mind boggling?! They heat the greenhouses using recycled tree waste and pallets for wood boilers from tree trimmers, landscapers, and arborists. If it is really cold, which it can become in Ohio, up to 20 loads of tree waste and pallets can be used in a day. Floors are heated by boiling water that is pumped through the floors. The operation is MPS_ABC certified . Here is an explanation from AmericanHort.com (“MPS-ABC is the environmental certificate for sustainable operations. A participant’s scores on the environmental score yardstick becomes clear when the use of crop protection agents, fertilizers, energy, water and waste are registered. The MPS-ABC certificate is a unique global industry standard in the world and it is used and recognized in most parts of the world. Besides being a monitoring and management tool, it is also a social responsibility and in the fresh food chain it is a marketing tool to demonstrate performance related to the environment.”) They use IPM or Integrated Pest Management to control unwanted pests. They use spiders to control insects and if they get too prolific, then they release frogs to control the spiders. They use no neonicotinoids.

Now, I have to admit that I have been the biggest critic of putting ice on any plant. It seems “cold” and heartless. Yet since there has been a study done by The Ohio State University and Georgia State University proving that it in no way hurts the orchid or its roots, I guess I must change my mind. I was sent an orchid to try and I am going to use the three ice cubes per week (1 cube for a mini orchid) and will report on my findings later.

Mini orchids as far as the eye can see!

We split into two groups and were off on a guided tour. I told them if they couldn’t find me, not to look for me. I could have lived there.

All the orchids

Who doesn’t like stripes?

We started at the beginning or at the tissue culture room. The time from tissue culture to a  plant in the store to sell, is 18 months. I think that is a long time to grow a plant that can cost under 30$ at a store. It’s crazy. The pictures below show where the new plants start life at Green Circle Growers. The tissue cultured plants are in this room 1-2 days after arriving from Holland and/or Taiwan and the lights are on 24/7. The plant babies in the box are 6 months old. When they are one year old, they each get their own “room” or pot.

The picture below shows the small plants that are 1 year old, waiting to be put into their own pot.

Each one gets its own container

The workers put one orchid in the metal slide and they then are planted into a container

Bark ready and plant to be potted up

Down the conveyor belt they go

Putting the pots into saucers on conveyer belt

One of the most interesting things to me was the process that occurs in the machine below. Each plant has its picture taken. If there are not enough green pixels in the picture, it means it isn’t mature enough to continue on and is dropped off onto another conveyor belt to be taken to grow more somewhere else.

Every single plant get its picture taken

The “mature enough” orchids continue on and are then grown until bloom time at which time they are sorted by size and color. The conveyor belt has a camera on it that helps sort the orchids as it scans a bar code on the container. It lets the machine know the color and size and it then has an arm on each row that reaches out and grabs the orchid as it goes by. It was amazing!

I am going to write another post to let you know some more information about this amazing place and the process they go through to get these gorgeous plants to the retail locations for us to purchase. Can you believe this process and the beauty of these plants? Have you tried growing an Ice Orchid and how is it working for you with the ice cubes? I want to know, so please leave a comment letting me know how yours is doing.

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