The story behind the orchids

27. July 2017

When I came to Portugal more than 6 years ago, my neighbour gave me 6 orchids. She was thinning hers out and gave me cuttings.

Never in my life had I taken care of orchids or put orchids seedlings in a pot. I was told what soil to use and someone gave me some tiny pots for the huge orchids. There they were, poor things, one cold winter in my balcony. To make the story short. They all died.

Not one survived.  I threw the pots away and named the ones I saw everywhere, the ugly ones. I was jealous. Of course. The ugly ones looked ugly and nothing special for most of the year but then one day the flowers came out and every garden in my neighbourhood was full of them.

I was never going to try this again. There was some Portuguese magic between the ugly ones and the people, that I did not understand. My friends mother had some amazingly beautiful orchids and I talked to them every time I came for a visit. How did she do it? They seemed to be blooming most of the year.

One day when I was taking my walk, a man in a house not far from me, was in his garden and I stopped to talk to him and admire his beautiful ugly ones. He had just planted some in new pots and gave me one. I took it home and killed it few weeks later. It was not my intention. I was going to take really good care of it. I just did not know how.

I tried some inside ones. They are different. Everything went the same way, they died.

Two years ago I got really sick and needed to stay home and could not travel around the country as I had done before. I was bored and needed to figure out something to do. Something challenging, more challenging than my illness. Guess what! The ugly ones, they were the best challenge I could come up with.

My friends mother gave me one in a pot. She, the orchid, gave me beautiful flowers and now I was sure I would be able to keep her alive. Oh no! One day all the leaves had gone. Was she dead? I would not let go. I nourished her, talked to her and told her stories. Then came the winter and I just left her alone.

My balcony was really cold and the wind blew heavily. Almost during the whole year. The apartment was cold. There is no insulation in houses here and I was paying a lot for heating during the winter. There had to be a solution. Yes. I could put up a glass wall or rather glass windows and doors around the balcony. That would solve the heating problem and even safe me money when looking to the future, the gas bill would be less.

Since the wall would come next October I began to experiment with the ugly ones again. The one my friends mother gave me had not passed away. She came around with happy leaves. I was not hopeless after all. Then I invested in 3 outdoor ones. They were on promotion and not that expensive. I asked the family, my friends who run the flower shop, how to take care of them and they sold me bigger pots and soil and I did everything right this time.

October came and I had broken my shoulder in September, but the men came with the wonderful glass doors and sliding windows for my balcony and I was happy. This winter I have been warm. I spent less on gas and the big surprise is that I am becoming an orchid specialist.

The ugly ones have become the beautiful ones. The one that I managed not to kill 4 years ago, an inside orchid, gave me flowers and opened the first one on the 23rd of May this year and is still blooming.  You can see her outside the kitchen window.


There are 2 others, inside ones, that will bloom next year, I think, and some others have given my amazingly beautiful flowers all the time. I told Philip that I would treat myself with one orchid per month. That was 6 months ago. I am not going to buy anymore. I have got different colours and different shapes. The outdoor ones will bloom in September, I hope, and there are wonderful colours in waiting there also.

Now they are just in a green group protecting each other.


The culture here in Portugal is to share the orchids. When you need to thin them you give your friends and neighbours one.


One day I will be able to share mine. At the moment I am learning to keep them alive. I sing for them, talk to them, read for them and take care of them. They need love and nourishment just like we, the people.

Hulda Björnsdóttir




Author: hulda98

I do blog about different matters that interest me.

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