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Book Review - Home Orchid Growing

You might be wondering why anyone would be interested in writing a review of a book that was originally published more that 50 years ago. That is an easy question to answer--author Rebecca Tyson Northen wrote this classic book in 1950 and continued to offer revised editions periodically. The most recent, 4th Edition was published in 1990 by Prentice Hall Press.

Home Orchid Growing is a comprehensive reference book that covers basic orchid care and specific information on more than 650 orchid plants. Chapter 1, entitled Orchids as a Hobby, goes into a brief history of orchid growing as a hobby and profession. Hybrid vs. species orchids, habitats and suggested sizes for beginners are some of the topics also touched on this chapter. Chapter 2 discusses the Basic Habits and Structure of orchids in more detail with close-up photography used to illustrate the various orchid parts and growing styles.

The next four chapters cover various aspects of the culture of adult Cattleya orchids. Cattleyas are frequently used as the starting point for discussions of orchid care since they are the most widely grown type of orchid. These chapters contain the bulk of the information about the requirements for successful orchid growing.

Three chapters follow that offer information on orchid genetics and breeding, sowing orchid seeds, meristem culturing, and taking seedlings from the flask to blooming size.

Eleven chapters are needed to give more in depth descriptions of specific orchid families and their native habitats and requirements for home growing. Each type of orchid is described in detail with examples given of species plants that are available to the home grower. Two chapters cover 'Collectors' Items' that may not be as readily available. This section is the part of the book that suffers the most from a shortage of color photographs. There is a separate 8-page spread of color pictures, but it would have been helpful to include photographs near the descriptions of each orchid.

One of the most valuable chapters covers Problems, Diseases and Pests. Black-and-white photos do a nice job of giving examples of these problem areas. Prevention and treatment suggestions are given in great detail. The final chapter goes into greenhouse basics and other possible growing areas in your home environment. A final section includes a lengthy bibliography of orchid books, periodicals and world orchid conference papers.

I think this book stands the test of time and is still a valuable addition to the library of any orchid hobbyist. The orchid profiles are excellent and contain information on enough orchids to keep a beginner busy for years.

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