When the winter doldrums set in and I find myself longing for something alive and beautiful to brighten my home, an orchid is my first choice. Fortunately these once exotic and expensive plants are often priced less than a bouquet of fresh flowers. This coupled with the fact that they require little care, can bloom for up to four months, and can, with a little luck, bloom more than once make them a winner in my book.
With over 30,000 species and 100,000 hybrids, it's no wonder some of nature's strangest plant specimens are orchids. Although thought of as a tropical plant, they grow on every continent, in every climate, from the Arctic Circle to the Macquarie Islands near Antarctica. The smallest orchid is the size of a dime, while the largest weigh several hundred pounds. The vanilla orchid (and its vanilla bean) is the only commercially grown orchid crop. Some orchid flowers bloom for a few hours and others last up to half a year.