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

Mark Ellinger works with fire to create unique texture and color on a float. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Glass Quest: Find clue balls to trade in for hand-blown floats

The ninth annual Great Northwest Glass Quest is on Camano Island and in Stanwood through Feb. 25.

See migrating snow geese at birding festival next weekend

The Port Susan Snow Goose Festival in Stanwood features speakers, bus tours and kids activities.

Mixer vs. maker: War for counter space is like Game of Thrones

Is there a correlation between weight gain and the small appliances we keep on our kitchen counters?

Welsh revival: Cardiff sheds rust-belt past for glossy future

Just an hour from major English destinations such as Bath and the… Continue reading

The farm-to-table concept in an easy-to-grow container garden

Through container gardening, you can grow edible plants in pots instead of the ground.

How do plants survive freezing temperatures? With genetics

Plants have evolved to tolerate the weather conditions of where they are growing.

Beer of the Week: Scrappy Punk’s Dark English Lager

The Snohomish brewery’s English-inspired lager was created by a first-time brewer.

Barnard Griffin’s award-winning rose is a wine to fall for

Looking for a bottle of vino to go with your Valentine’s Day weekend dinner? Think pink.

‘Black Panther’ builds a proud new superhero world

The movie presents a vision of what central Africa might have looked like without colonialism.

Most Read