October 22nd, 2007
It’s A Jungle


When I wrote a post on local nurseries for Metroblogging Austin last spring, I missed several nurseries that I’d never personally visited. Eager to make amends, I’ve since been to Red Barn, Emerald Gardens, Hill Country Water Gardens, and It’s a Jungle.

I had tried to find It’s a Jungle, which specializes in roses and orchids, a couple of times before; this time, armed with better directions from its website, I succeeded. Located in a converted suburban house on Kramer Lane, it’s easy to miss. The tiny parking lot was almost full when Margaret and pulled in although there didn’t seem to be anyone about. We peeked in the back yard which is completely filled with potted roses and one very prolific pear tree. We wandered up and down aisles of roses in containers grouped by type. I spotted quite a few that I was unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, some of the labels were difficult to read, faded by Austin’s glaring summer sun. Few things irritate me more in a garden center than poorly labelled plants. So I was beginning to feel dismissive until the owner came by to see if we had questions.

In Austin, most local nurseries get their roses from The Antique Rose Emporium. I didn’t see their labels on these roses so I asked who supplied them. “Oh. We grow them all ourselves. Except the ones that are patented. We get those from Jackson and Perkins.” I just stood there with my mouth open. “You grow all these yourself?” “Most of them. And we have free classes so you can learn how to propagate them yourself, too. We use the same “bag” method that the rose rustlers use.” Now I was suddenly very impressed.

We wandered around the grounds with a new appreciation for what we were seeing. Then we decided to check out It’s A Jungle’s other specialty, orchids. I’ve never been the least bit interested in orchids or houseplants of any kind. But I do like visiting greenhouses and orangeries. The first hothouse we went into seemed to be a working greenhouse and many of the orchids were out of flower. Still Margaret and I both saw things we liked.

Then we entered the main hothouse and were stopped stunned in our tracks.

It really was a jungle.

We wandered around and around enchanted by flowers each more exotic and beautiful than the next. How could anyone decide among them? I can see why orchid people become fanatical. The owner was at the potting bench repotting several orchids and Margaret said that she could tell by the way he lovingly cradled each plant that he absolutely loved them. She insisted on buying me one. And, indeed, we could hardly walk away from such a personally tended collection without supporting it in some way. But was I ready for the commitment? Me, who’s never met a houseplant that’s survived the experience. Aren’t orchids horribly fussy? Maybe I should read some books on them first.

Within a few minutes I was walking out the door with a little dendrobium and a pamphlet from the American Orchid Society on how to take care of it. “Come to the class next month and learn how to repot it.” the owner said as he rung up the sale. I promised I would. Is this the beginning of a new passion?

by M Sinclair Stevens

9 Responses to post “It’s A Jungle”

  1. From Pam/Digging:

    Thanks for letting me know about this specialty nursery. The greenhouse full of colorful orchids is beautiful. I’m glad you were able to bring one of those babies home with you (what a nice MIL you have). I’ll have to go visit It’s a Jungle sometime.

  2. From Annie in Austin:

    It’s A Jungle is an amazing place, isn’t it? Dicke Patterson has been on the local PBS show Central Texas Gardener several times – I really enjoyed hearing him talk roses with Tom Spencer!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Thanks for “introducing” us. After I left, I felt remiss that I hadn’t caught his name. I figured that finding out was just another excuse to go back for a visit. Is he the owner? — mss

  3. From Carol:

    Be careful, one orchid can quickly lead to another, and another, and by the way, they aren’t all that fussy really. Just don’t overwater it, which is what most people do. That’s a beauty. Now I want a new orchid!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

    I think I’m going to have to get a little mister so I can keep it misted it rather than succumb to the temptation to water. The air, in our normally muggy Austin, is very dry right now. My house is not very “climate controlled”; that might be a problem, too. Orchids seems amazingly sturdy for such delicate looking plants. — mss

  4. From Ki:

    Great choice of a Dendrobium. I’ve never seen a pink one like that before. What a lovely color. We bought a blooming Dendrobium several years ago and although it grew well indoors in our portable greenhouse, it refused to bloom. Last year the nursery woman told us that she put her orchid outdoors all summer under shade when the temperatures didn’t fall below 50f. So we put the Dendrobiums and Oncidiums which also didn’t bloom and voila they both sent out sprays of flowers. The Dendrobiums can actually take quite a bit of light though I wouldn’t put it in direct overhead sunlight but we had ours where it got some morning light and dappled light through most of the day. You should be able to keep the orchids out much longer in Austin than we can in NJ. The other thing we learned about orchid culture is don’t overwater! I just read an article that said more orchids are killed by being waterlogged than any other cause. Good luck with your new plant. It’s a beaut.

    I do like delicate blush pinks, especially if they have pale green in the throat as this one does. I don’t know if I’ll put my orchid outdoors because it gets so hot here in the summer. No danger of the temperatures falling below 50F. I get a lot of morning light indoors and I hope that will be enough. I am worried about how cold the house gets on some days in the winters. Still, probably not below 50F. I’m more concerned about providing enough humidity. — mss

  5. From Ki:

    MSS, We bought several portable indoor greenhouses to keep the humidity high in the winter. The forced air heating is otherwise just too drying for orchids. They usually have them at Lowes but I’ve only seen the greenhouses sold in Spring. Maybe they can special order it for you if you want one. This is what it looks like.

    Portable greenhouse

    I think it cost less than $50. We place a large shallow pan filled with water on the bottom rung with a fan circulating the air so mold and mildew doesn’t become a problem. We run the fan only during daylight hours when the indirect light of the sun heats up the inside and creates condensation on the plastic.

    Alternately, since you only have one orchid you could put a tray of water with a mound of pebbles on which to place the orchid pot but make sure the bottom of the pot isn’t touching the water. Then fashion some kind of plastic tent over everything.

    It really is a gorgeous dendrobium.

  6. From Angelina:

    I think my heart started pounding reading this post-I want to go on some nursery adventures! That nursery sounds like a total treasure. I’m interested in learning to propagate roses from cuttings but I’m intimidated by it.

    I am totally charmed by orchids but am impatient with plants that only flower once a year. Perhaps there’s a zen lesson here for me?

  7. From ml, maine:

    M: Your dendrobium is beautiful, but I have a cautionary tale. A beautiful orchid nursery opened up near us about eight years ago. Here in Maine, slogging through three-feet of snow to a greenhouse full of blooming orchids warmed at night by a woodstove is a super treat. I became so enamored of orchids that I volunteered to work in the greenhouse one or two afternoons a week. I also joined the Maine orchid society. And I built up a collection of about twenty orchids.
    Now, I’m gladly down to three: the phalaenopsis “Balban’s Kalaideoscope,” pictured at the top of your post, as the first orchid; the paphiopedilum “Pulsar x
    Shadow Wing,” with beautiful spotted foliage; and the oncidium “Shari Baby” whose blooms smell like vanilla. These three are the only ones I didn’t have pest problems with, and that reliably bloom year after year.
    Now bear in mind that this is just me, a somewhat lax caregiver who hates to use pesticides, and my conditions: Maine. I’m very happy with these three, though, and then a patch of wild yellow ladyslippers I’ve been cultivating in my outdoor shade garden.
    Good luck with yours, though. It could be the start of a beautiful hobby, with wonderful people associated with orchids. I was always surprised and impressed to find more men than women at our state’s orchid society meetings.

    My history with houseplants leaves me doubtful about my chances for success with this orchid. However, even if it continues to bloom for the next few weeks and then dies, it will be as if we’d spent money on cut flowers but will last longer. — mss

  8. From Jenn:

    I’m trying an orchid again. I will need to find a way to up my humidity for it when next summer comes around, but it’s holding on okay for the moment.

    I do need to investigate fertilizer. I usually go organic, but I don’t know how that will work with these guys…!!!

  9. From cullen:

    it’s a jungle is an excellent orchid nursery. i have been there quite a few times and every time i go everybody that works there is so friendly and all of the plants are very healthy.