Lynnwood grower says orchids a rewarding challenge

  • By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, January 7, 2014 4:13pm
  • Life

Ellen Covey doesn’t sell the orchids you find at the grocery store, the full-blooming, unscented, insect-resistant plants most likely shipped from a factory greenhouse somewhere in Taiwan.

Covey, the owner of Olympic Orchids near Lynnwood, specializes in scented orchids, collector species, compact and miniature orchids, seedlings and preblooming-size plants.

Nevertheless, she encourages people interested in growing orchids to buy their first one in the supermarket.

“If you can keep the store-bought orchid alive, you certainly can grow the orchids I sell,” Covey said. “Orchids that are forced to grow up fast in a greenhouse don’t always do well after you get them home.”

At Covey’s home, orchids grow in a solarium off the kitchen and in a greenhouse in her back yard.

Most are in small pots and canning-jar flasks. Her orchids also grow on pieces of bark, as exotic species would grow in the jungles of Southeast Asia or South America. Covey also grows orchids native to Washington state in her garden.

A biologist and neuroscientist, Covey teaches in the psychology department at the University of Washington.

While earning her doctorate at Duke University, she was impressed by the orchid collection of a colleague and went to her first orchid show.

“I was amazed at the incredible variety of this flower,” Covey said. “But I found myself much more attracted to the wild orchids. Some bloom only once a year.”

Examples of Covey’s orchids are found on her mail-order website, including cattleya, dendrobium and phalaenopsis.

Most can grow on a window sill with indirect bright light and be watered as needed. Temperature and humidity depend on the species.

“You can’t micromanage an orchid,” Covey said. “Too much fertilizer will burn the roots.”

Above all, orchid growers must practice patience, she said.

“It’s much more fun to watch a small plant grow than to buy an already blooming plant and watch it die,” Covey said.

During the past 30 years, orchids have become one of America’s favorite houseplants. And the price for most orchids has come down considerably.

A good market still exists for the rarer orchids, such as the ones grown by Covey, though her plants tend to be affordable, too.

Inspired by the scents of various orchids, Covey also makes and sells perfumes using essential oils and aroma chemicals.

Covey is a member of the Northwest Orchid Society, which participates in the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

The show takes place Feb. 5 through 9 this year at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. More information about the annual show is at www. gardenshow.com.

Gale Fiege: gfiege@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3427.

More about orchids

More in Life

Hundreds of ways to pamper your home and yourself

Find fancy fridges to sparkling jewelry under one roof at home and gift shows in Everett.

Get tricked out in your Halloween best

Thrift stores can dress up you and your ghoul-friends.

Fox renewed O’Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

21st Century Fox defends its decision because it said O’Reilly had settled the matter personally.

Outdoor classes and activities in and around Snohomish County

Cycling: Bill Thorness, ride leader for Cascade Bicycle Club, will speak on… Continue reading

Self-esteem is important, and it’s not the same as net worth

Having it all doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. Self-worth is the most important kind of wealth.

The art and science of weathervanes

They told the direction of the wind and aided in forecasting the, well, weather.

Music in the mountains: ‘It’s a weather-dependant hobby’

Anastasia Allison of the Musical Mountaineers reflects on making music at the summits.

Most Read