Henrietta Deters demurs when asked about her interest in orchids.
“I have only taken orchids up in the past five or six years,” said Henri, as she likes to be called.
Five or six years may seem like a good start on a hobby, but for 96-year-old gardener, it represents just a tiny fraction of her time on this planet.
“My late husband was the real gardener in the family but I liked to use the flowers he grew to make arrangements,” said Deters, with daughter Nancy Click at her side.
“She’s being too modest,” Click said. “When we lived in Houston, she won a lot of blue ribbons from the garden club for her flower arrangements.”
Orchids introduced themselves to the mother-daughter pair by chance one Sunday after a church service at Grace Lutheran. It was Click’s birthday, and she suggested a visit to Lakeside Mall for the Orchid Show and Sale, coming up this year on May 30 – June 1.
Captivated by the gorgeous blooms and the welcoming smiles of the Orchid Society members, Deters and Click decided to try one of the monthly meetings. Now they are regulars.
“I love learning about orchids and seeing everyone,” Deters said. “But there is also Max’s cake.”
“Max’s cake” is a strawberry and whipped cream confection that Orchid Society member Max Mipro buys at Maurice’s Bakery for every meeting.
“We meet, then we eat cake,” Deters smiled.
But the orchids themselves are also draws. Deters tends to like phalaenopsis best because they bloom the longest; the one in her kitchen has been blooming since December. Recently, she has turned her attention to cattleyas, the kind that are often used in corsages. A couple of dozen of orchids crowd the counters in her kitchen.
“I would love to keep them outside where they would get better light but I am worried about the crows,” Deters said, and explained the vexations the feathered fiends have caused her. “One day I went outside and they had picked up a plastic pot off the ground and dropped it in the birdbath. The next day, I found a second pot in there, then a half-eaten sparrow. So I decided to get rid of them.”
Deters had read that a dead crow placed in the right location would keep other crows away for six months or more. So one morning when she found a dead crow at the foot of her birdbath, she transported it to the top of the brick wall surrounding her garden and left it on display to scare the crows away.
“It was sort of gross but no crows until after it disintegrated. Then they came back,” she said. Not to be outdone, she thought about alternatives. What about something that just looked like a dead crow? First, she wrapped black cloth around Styrofoam, but the ersatz crows were too light and blew off the top of the wall. Then she wrapped bricks with black cloth and placed them in a prominent location. So far, so good. But a scarecrow she installed at the edge of her meditation patio hasn’t fared so well.
“The crows are always pulling his hat off and I’m always putting it back on. He used to have buttons for eyes, but the crows ate them,” said Henrietta, acknowledging that the well-intentioned scarecrow may be more of a crow magnet than a crow repellant.
Despite the flying pests, Deters isn’t afraid to grow various herbs and flowering plants in pots in the filtered light of her covered patio.
“I have garlic chives, cardamom, sweet basil, mint, parsley and some other herbs that I like to cook with,” she said. “I bought a few flats of begonias and petunias and have been potting them up.”
Other demands on Henri’s time include her involvement with her church and her volunteer work at the Lakeview Shepherd Center, where she teaches a class in clay.
“I took up pottery and throwing on the wheel when I was about 55, but when I broke my wrist, I began hand building instead and that is what I have been teaching. I am only the second oldest in the class — one lady is 101!” she said. “The kiln broke at the center so now I am going to have to switch to self-hardening clay. I’ve been researching different kinds.”
Deters loves the company of others and plays host whenever she can. When the Orchid Society features a speaker from out of town, she puts him or her up in her Lake Terrace home.
This weekend, she has a friend visiting from Houston and plans to take her to the Greek Festival. During the Orchid Show and Sale, Deters will help out by selling raffle tickets.
She attributes her longevity to good genes, taking vitamins, spending time with others and something more abstract: “I have a positive attitude,” she said. “I would hate to turn into one of those negative people.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. She can be reached at email@example.com.