Nearly all the genera of this enormous family have species which grow in a temperate climate, if not in the temperate zone. At this moment, in fact, I recall but two exceptions, Vanda and Phaloenopsis. Many more there are, of course—half a dozen have occurred to me while I wrote the last six words—but in the small space at command I must cling to generalities. We have at least a hundred genera which will flourish anywhere if the frost be excluded; and as for species, a list of two thousand would not exhaust them probably. But a reasonable man may content himself with the great classes of Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Cypripedium, and Lycaste; among the varieties of these, which no one has ventured to calculate perhaps, he may spend a happy existence. They have every charm—foliage always green, a graceful habit, flowers that rank among the master works of Nature. The poor man who succeeds with them in his modest “bit of glass” has no cause to envy Dives his flaunting Cattleyas and “fox-brush” Aerides. I should like to publish it in capitals—that nine in ten of those suburban householders who read this book may grow the loveliest of orchids if they can find courage to try.
Odontoglossums stand first, of course—I know not where to begin the list of their supreme merits. It will seem perhaps a striking advantage to many that they burst into flower at any time, as they chance to ripen. I think that the very perfection of culture is discounted somewhat in this instance. The gardener who keeps his plants at the ne plus ultra stage brings them all into bloom within the space of a few weeks. Thus in the great collections there is such a show during April, May, and June as the Gardens of Paradise could not excel, and hardly a spike in the cool houses for the rest of the year. At a large establishment this signifies nothing; when the Odontoglossums go off other things “come on” with equal regularity. But the amateur, with his limited assortment, misses every bloom. He has no need for anxiety with this genus. It is their instinct to flower in spring, of course, but they are not pedantic about it in the least. Some tiny detail overlooked here and there, absolutely unimportant to health, will retard florescence. It might very well happen that the owner of a dozen pots had one blooming every month successively. And that would mean two spikes open, for, with care, most Odontoglossums last above four weeks.
Another virtue, shared by others of the cool class in some degree, is their habit of growing in winter. They take no “rest;” all the year round their young bulbs are swelling, graceful foliage lengthening, roots pushing, until the spike demands a concentration of all their energy. But winter is the most important time. I think any man will see the peculiar blessing of this arrangement. It gives interest to the long dull days, when other plant life is at a standstill. It furnishes material for cheering meditations on