11/25/11 9:00pm

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Becky’s inventory of orchids fills the window of the Shelter Island Florist. This collection is on view at Lynch’s in Southampton, also in time for holiday giving.

Now that we’ve been “introduced” to orchids it’s almost time to start discovering how to care for them. I just need to take a few lines to go back over the fact that they already existed in prehistoric times. In case you missed last week’s column, they co-existed with the dinosaurs. I’ve put my new one on the floor close to the chair where I sit to read, which means we’re sort of on eye level with each other. Now when I look at it, I think about dinosaurs and wonder, with all those herbivores around, if orchids were dinosaur-proof or dinosaur-resistant. They weren’t featured in “Jurassic Park” — maybe they had already been eaten — or the screenwriter wasn’t a gardener. It’s hard to tell about these things.

So now that I have my new orchid, what do I do with it? I didn’t have the foggiest. Now, you gardeners who still aren’t computer literate, don’t you see the need to be? You can’t take the course at the library this winter because of the renovation. But you can’t convince me you don’t know someone, a child, a grandchild or a friend who would give you lessons. Especially if you thought up a really good quid pro quo. Winter is almost upon us so you can’t say you don’t have the time. After the holidays? Okay, but I certainly hope you mean it.

Let’s start with watering. The web says water every 5 to 12 days — that’s quite a spread. But then the instructions go on to say, it depends on the time of year. In summer, water more frequently since the days are longer. Now the complications — you always know they’re coming. Some have to be kept moist and some have to dry out between waterings. Varieties that should be kept evenly moist at all times, and of course they don’t mean soggy, are Paphiopedilum, Miltonia, Cymbidium and Odontoglossum, Those that should be kept evenly moist during active growth and allowed to dry out when not are Cattleya, Oncidium, Brassia and Dendrobium. Those varieties to keep nearly dry between waterings are Phalaenopsis, Vanda and Ascocenda.

Wanting to know how much light is needed? Pay attention to leaf color. The leaves should be bright green, rather than dark green. Dark green indicates too little light, reddish green (I find that hard to visualize) indicates too much light. “Those orchids requiring higher light intensities, such as Cattleyas, Dendrobiums and Oncidiums, should be placed in a south or west facing window, but be sure to protect the leaves from the hot mid-day sun on summer days. Miltonias, Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilums prefer lower light intensities and should be located further away from the window or placed in a window facing east or north” according to the “Beautiful Orchids of San Francisco” website.

It’s apparently important not to feed with anything other than “orchid food”, i.e. food that is formulated specifically for orchids, following the instructions on the label. In general, the recommended usage is once a month. Less may stunt growth and inhibit flowering; more may burn the roots and leaves. Temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees are best, so that would be most homes during winter.  Orchids can withstand temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees but only for very brief periods.

Now all I have to do is find a picture of mine so I know what kind I have. I know there was a little card with it, but as usual, I seem to have managed to throw it out with the cellophane wrapping.

Tip of the week: Marders in Bridgehampton is having a Thanksgiving weekend bash — hot cocoa, homemade cookies, live music and sale prices. May the force be with you.