Blackwelder column: Dr. Koontz has passion for orchids

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 29, 2020

When pediatrician Dr. Wayne Koontz is not caring for children, he’s busy at home taking care of his other responsibly, a vast orchid collection and other outdoor plantings. Dr. Koontz has a large selection of over 100 phalaenopsis-type orchids he’s been collecting for more than 30 years. The phalaenopsis, or ‘Moth Orchid,’ has very large blooms that last literally for months. His love of plants was engrained as early in his youth working with his grandfather on a tobacco and cotton farm in Davidson County. Dr. Koontz still utilizes these skills, maintaining his mother’s favorite begonia which he has nurtured for more than 50 years.

The blooming beauties are carefully positioned on a bakers’ shelf in a sunroom on the east side of his house. Here the orchids receive ample amounts of indirect sunlight to grow and reproduce blooms each year. Correct amount of light is paramount in producing high-quality blooms. Overhead grow lights are implemented to ensure ample light at certain times of the day or year when extra light is needed. Correct watering is also important. Dr. Koontz often utilizes ice cubes to correctly apply water evenly to the plants every Friday.

Fertilization is also another aspect important to continually produce blooms. The plants are fertilized every other week with liquid nutrients to maintain proper growth. Special orchid fertilizers formulated for foliar feeding by misting on the foliage keep the plants constantly growing. Constantly growing plants with ample light are necessary to produce ample, beautiful flowers.

Phalaenopsis-type orchids produce blooms more than once a year a with the capability to last two to three months. The ultimate beauty and longevity of bloom make this type of orchid the perfect choice for Dr. Koontz. Although there are more than 20 different kinds of houseplant orchids, Dr. Koontz prefers the phalaenopsis because of the beauty of its bloom and ease of growth. He is constantly searching for different bloom shapes and colors shopping locally — from drug stores to garden centers throughout Rowan County. His favorite bloom color is white with the many shapes and color combinations, but he collects them all.

Dr. Koontz is still active as a pediatrician but is also an avid farmer at heart. He still maintains a small farm with 600 feet of grapes (mostly for the deer) and other plantings. He begins his growing season outdoors with different cultivars of daffodils and experiments with other plantings in his landscape in Salisbury. He loves to experiment with plants — the difficult art of rooting Old English boxwoods is as easy to him as taking a child’s temperature.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.