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A bit of earth What flower am I? Trust the sunflower

  • Published Saturday, April 19, 2014, at 12 a.m.

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How to shop, care for Easter lilies

• Look for a plant that is well-proportioned and balanced, has flowers in various stages of ripeness, has foliage that is rich green and dense down to the soil line, and is not waterlogged or wilted.

• Water the plant thoroughly when the soil surface is dry to a light touch. Removing the yellow anthers before the pollen starts to shed gives longer life and prevents stains. Avoid putting a lily in direct sunlight, though indirect bright daylight is good.

• When it’s done blooming, remove the flowers and stalks and plant the lily outside in a spot that gets morning but not hot afternoon sun, making sure the root ball is 3 inches deep. Water, fertilize and look for flowers again next summer.

I keep saying I’m never going to take another one of those quizzes.

If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you know what I’m talking about – the quizzes that promise to tell you, after you indicate your preference among a given set of beverages, songs, vacation destinations, animals – what president or what character from “The Sound of Music” you are, or what state you should be living in.

The only thing I can really deduce from these quizzes is that the desire for self-knowledge is high – and, for people who share the results on social media, the desire to let others know who they really are is also high.

But I’m not sure what good it does for me to know that I’m Maria von Trapp and should live in Tennessee.

So I was all done with it, I tell you – how could I possibly decide between Bora Bora and Rome? and some of these songs I’ve never heard of – when Eagle reporter Suzanne Perez Tobias declared on Facebook last weekend that she was a sunflower.

How cute! “Move to Kansas and become a sunflower,” Suzanne wrote, appending the quiz that beckoned to her Facebook friends.

I did something you should never do on Facebook – I paused.

How could I not take the quiz to find out what kind of flower I was?

I should have stopped when I was ahead.

Turns out I’m an orchid.

Or at least that’s what the quiz told me. I give conflicting answers on these things that I’m sure make even the computer model shake its head. So I never trust the answer.

And I can’t even remember what being an orchid says about me either. The quiz painted it in glowing terms, I think. But the designation leaves me with the impression that I’m high-maintenance and particular and need a hothouse environment. It’s like the flower-quiz equivalent of being the Baroness Schraeder. I’m not carefree and easy-going like my sunflower friend Suzanne.

I may not even be down-to-earth. The reason I say this is because of a phone call I recently received. Beverly Marchand of Wichita expressed concern that many people who buy or receive orchids – a common enough occurrence this Easter weekend – are not given the most basic information to be able to care for them. In particular, they do not know one crucial fact about what orchids are planted in.

“How many know it’s not dirt?” she asked.

As a person who needs to replant her own Easter orchid from a couple of years ago, I called Sarah Pratt, president of the Kansas Orchid Society, to get some clarification.

There are native orchids – yes, native even to Kansas – that do grow in the soil, Pratt told me. But when we move on to tropicals – the kinds you usually see sold in stores from Home Depot to Dillons, usually phalaenopsis – Beverly Marchand is right: They grow in a medium that mimics their native habitat of living on trees as epiphytes. And their tropicalness calls for humidity – a problem when your house is dry.

Hold onto the tag that comes with your orchid, Pratt recommends; if it lives to be replanted, you’ll need to know what kind it is so that you can pop it into the right mix, and give it the right care.

Unfortunately, a lot of the grocery-store orchids do not give this type of information. They just say: Water with three ice cubes once a week. But these are phalaenopsis, or moth, orchids.

Pratt recommends a couple of websites for help:

• Repotme.com helps match your orchid with the potting mix (67 types!) and sells the mixes, including in small bags for those of us who are not orchid collectors.

• The website of the American Orchid Society – aos.org – has tons of information, too, including photos to help with identification and culture sheets for each type of orchid. (You will not find instructions here for watering an orchid with ice cubes. I follow the lift-the-pot-and-water-if-it’s-light method. I can also see that my phalaenopsis needs more light and humidity, and a porous mix when I repot. I’ll probably just get one from the garden center.)

Under the website’s frequently-asked-questions section, it gives this reassurance about orchids: “They are no more difficult to grow than many popular flowering plants.” As with all plants – and people – you just need to get to know them, as Beverly is trying to do.

On this road, you can also sound out the local members of the Kansas Orchid Society. One place you can catch them next is at Hostapalooza, on May 24 at the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road. The orchid society will have a booth there; the event runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you have a pressing question, Pratt will take your e-mail at svcsjp@pixius.net.

Despite these pro-orchid assurances, my sunflower friend contends that I am not an orchid.

“Did you answer all the questions truthfully?” she demanded. Considering the sketchy nature of some of them, it’s quite possible that it’s impossible to answer them accurately. So I’m swearing off the quizzes. I saw one today that promised to tell me what kind of book I am. Moving right along.

Suzanne thinks you should call me Daisy. And we all know that a sunflower is trustworthy.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.

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