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Keysguy 08-04-2020 09:12 PM

When the big one hits, whats your plan to save your orchids?
Hope everyone on the east coast of North America fared OK over the past few days.
As we watch hurricane Isaias drift off to Quebec, I was thinking this might be a good time to have a conversation on disaster plans for our orchids. Some of us have a handful of plants on windowsills and others have maybe thousands in greenhouses or outside and probably the majority are somewhere in between.
For those that live in areas prone to hurricanes/typhoons and other major natural "events", do you have a plan? Has it been tested yet and to what degree? Some of us here have a collection that we have made a substantial financial investment in. (and afterall, isn't that what a hobby is all about?) If you haven't thought about a plan, you probably should.

Here's mine.
I grow in a 10x20 shadehouse in the lower FL Keys where I moved my collection in 2016 after growing for several years in a small greenhouse in New Hampshire.
A year after moving my plants to FL they got to experience the thrill of being 5 miles to the dirty side of the center of hurricane Irma. Nearly 150 mph winds for 8 straight hours and a tidal surge of about 6 feet. Fortunately for me it wasn't 6'6" or I would have lost every single plant.
The good thing about a hurricane is that you have time to prepare. Our house is on 10' columns and one section (12x12) underneath the house is an enclosed workshop/storage area. We moved all the plants, on their benches, into the enclosure and piled all the hanging plants on top of them. Took down the shadecloth and threw that in under the benches, locked the windows and door and left with our fingers crossed.
The plants were in there for 3 days before the storm hit and it was 2 weeks after the storm before we could get back in.
What a mess!!!!! We had 24" of sea water inside the enclosure and the bottom of my bench tops are 30" off the ground. I lost about 30 plants out of 200 which really isn't too bad in retrospect. The ones lost were lost to what I refer to as "cooking". They were closed up in that place with no water or air movement for almost 3 weeks in temperatures that had to have been around 100 degrees. What's even more amazing is when I opened that door, there were several that had bloomed.
I think I learned a few things from that experience and will be better prepared for next time in the evnt we get higher water inundation. I've created a stage set-up of cinder blocks and 2x6's that can be quickly put together that can raise the benches another 20" and now have overhead poles to put all the hangers on. I still have no idea what to do about the fact that they are enclosed for so long but at least I feel like I'm giving them a chance.
I knew so many folks who lost all of their orchids and I really want to avoid that if at all possible.

So, let's hear about your concerns, plans and experiences.

DirtyCoconuts 08-04-2020 10:15 PM

Good thread

I made a simple rack on the ceiling of the garage and it gives me 60’ of hanging rack with 9’ ceiling so I can hang off other hangers and easily get all but three of the hangers into there.

My restaurant racks are 3x4 shelves with 24” of space from the bottom shelf to the top. With all three moved into the garage I get 72’ square of space for the potted ones.

I have two Adeniums that are as tall as I am in massive pots and they might get laid on their side.

I have three plants that are on mounts that are just too big and heavy to move into the garage and I really have no plan with those so I am really open to suggestions lol

One other move I have is to put plants under the potting bench on the patio. It’s like 80% as safe as inside the house so I can stash some more there if I need

I have a few tips for specific plants and for dealing with this in general

Don’t water your plants before hand (unless you are evacuating) bc it’s easier to move dry plants and most storms pass in a day

For vandas, water them, soak them really really well and then the roots can be moved and manipulated a bit, take a trash bag and ensnare all the roots and bind it up a little, don’t crush it but you can reduce their size by a third to half and then poke a bunch of holes (carefully). This lets you save space and protects the roots while they are all crowded in the storage.

If place small pots between and around the bigger ones you can use the space most efficiently

The same goes for placing short plants between the taller ones

For floppy plants (cymbidium, maxellaria, phrags, etc) you can take a big rubber band and do one twist and you can put the leaves up like a pony-tail. You do not want to pull on the leaves or pinch them. Just to hold them “up”

I’ll add more as I remember ‘em

Keysguy 08-04-2020 10:54 PM

ooooooooooh. I like the thing about tying up the leaves like a ponytail.

DC- I honestly am not nearly as worried about wind as I am storm surge and I don't think there's a solution for that.

DirtyCoconuts 08-05-2020 12:46 AM

Nope. Unless you can put them upstairs.

I did have a decent idea for your “hot box” situation. You don’t want to have any openings that could be vulnerable in high winds but if you could add a vent into the house, while the power is out it won’t help too much but it would be a much greater area for the heat to disperse....itd have to be an exterior rated vent you could close when you did need it or maybe have a solid panel to cover it and only use it if you evacuate

Some people don’t like to talk about disasters but I find the more I think about it the more prepared I am

estación seca 08-05-2020 03:28 AM

We're extremely lucky in Arizona. No hurricanes; too far inland. We don't get violent winter storms. Hail occurs during summer thunderstorms, not in the winter, so damaged roofs don't mean frozen orchids.

There are very few earthquakes. However, one of the largest ever to hit the US hit in 1776 near what is now Yuma, Arizona, in the extreme southwest of the State. It threw down almost all the mission churches throughout California, north to south.

There are active steam vents and hot springs here and there. The last volcanic eruption was 1085 AD near Flagstaff, and about 1,000 years ago on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. This was all in the north of the State. The central and southern parts of the State have not seen volcanic activity for millions of years.

Our biggest threats are electrical failure during heating or cooling season. We get power outages during the summer monsoon, caused by lightning strikes to power poles. One orchid society member here has an irrigation spray line on the outside of her greenhouse, controlled by a reverse solenoid valve. As long as the electricity is on, the valve is shut. When the electricity is off, the valve opens, spraying water onto her greenhouse. During the summer, water comes out of my cold water tap at about 85 degrees F / 30C in the morning, and it was 104 F / 40C this afternoon. I shut off my hot water heater during the summer. The water from the hot valve is cooler than the water from the cold valve because the hot water heater is inside the house.

Arizona has mountains, all the way up to alpine zones. Metro Phoenix is in the low desert. We do have some cold winter nights, but it is always well above freezing during the day in winter. People have electric or kerosene heaters for their growing areas.

Ray 08-05-2020 08:28 AM

I grow out on my deck about 8 months a year inside in the winter. I brought the plants in on Sunday and I suppose they’ll go back out today, after we finish cleaning the windows.

Isaias came ashore about 10 miles west of us, so it would likely have been a total loss if I hadn’t moved them.

I’m thinking about building benches with wheels to make it easier to move them in and out.

SouthPark 08-05-2020 08:39 AM


Originally Posted by Keysguy (Post 932032)
When the big one hits, whats your plan to save your orchids?

The usual. Orchids first, followed by women and children. Or is it the other way around?

Keysguy 08-05-2020 09:29 AM

Was thinking about you the other day Ray. That was awfully close!

Interesting tidbit on Isaias....... a wind gust of 147 mph was recorded yesterday at the weather observatory atop Mt. Washington here in NH as Isaias passed by. That would be at 6288' plus whatever height the anemometer mast is.

DirtyCoconuts 08-05-2020 09:55 AM


Originally Posted by Keysguy (Post 932082)
Was thinking about you the other day Ray. That was awfully close!

Interesting tidbit on Isaias....... a wind gust of 147 mph was recorded yesterday at the weather observatory atop Mt. Washington here in NH as Isaias passed by. That would be at 6288' plus whatever height the anemometer mast is.

This is why I am so annoyed by people who say “it’s just a cat 1...”

Do you not understand that there are gusts??? And tornados?? Morons !

Very glad you are OK, Ray

SaraJean 08-05-2020 09:33 PM

So glad to hear that everyone is doing well! Y’all Florida and East Coast people have been on my mind. Any you’re right, at least with hurricanes we have plenty of warning.

Thankfully we’ve avoided several storms at the last minute over past few years (I always feel extremely guilty for screaming at the TV “Hook, baby! HOOK!”, and then one of our poor neighbors gets it). We’ve had flooding and some wind but nothing too crazy. I don’t take chances though. It’s good to have a plan time of the year.

My hurricane prep for the outdoor shade house is:

-get all orchids off the balcony growing area and into the second floor bathroom. Bring other plants downstairs.

-I have 6 big black storage bins that I keep my orchid hurricane supplies in (the bins are used in the greenhouse to store water for heat retention in the winter). I pull those down from their summer home in the attic, put some bricks in the bottom of three of them for weight, and use all for smaller pots and mounted orchids. I have several of those stackable cabinet organizer racks so I can make shelves in some of the bins. Stack the bins two high, with brick bin on the bottom, and secure together with ratchet straps. Put against the wall under the balcony. Furniture and other plants go in front and on top.

-move as many of the pots as possible into the outdoor laundry room. I also have two clothing/drying racks that I can set up in there and use for hanging baskets and some mounts.

-use bungees to secure larger, established pots and big baskets to the benches of the shade house that run along the back courtyard wall. Tie long Velcro straps from one side of the lattice (right behind bench and the along wall), across and in front of the pseudobulbs, to the other end of the lattice to reduce movement of the upper portion of the plants. Pots that are on the hang-a-pot hangers can stay where they are (I like those, they held fast and pots didn’t budge during the storm we had that blew a train off a bridge). I wrap each of those plants with Velcro straps as well. Haven’t had as many broken p-bulbs since I started doing that.

With the help of my hubby, it took about 3.5 hours to do all that, with 300 something orchids and other plants, the last time I needed to. Thankfully a lot of them are tiny and I don’t have nearly as many as some of the other OB members :lol:

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