Andrew Geimar, an aquatic and first aid representative working at York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre, enjoys challenges and figuring out new systems.
He says these qualities, which have been instrumental throughout his career, also motivate a passion for orchid growing that has seen his home transformed into a literal greenhouse.
Geimar’s roots in hydroponics grew from unlikely sources: hunger and frustration.
“I loved making my own smoothies,” he explained, “but my kale would always go bad in the fridge.”
Becoming increasingly irritated, Geimar began growing kale and other vegetables at home. As his plants began to flourish, so did his passion for cultivating them. Geimar raised a two-metre-tall kale plant, and he wanted to keep growing.
He received his first orchid – a common phalaenopsis, or “moth orchid,” – as a gift from his partner, purchased at Costco. From there, his collection started to grow, one plant at a time.
Geimar’s interest truly bloomed when, through an orchid sale, he made a friend with a collection of over 300 species. Seeing the variety of flowers and the range of colours in front of him, the seed was planted.
Today, Geimar and his partner share their home with thousands of orchids. With different climates required to grow different types of the plant, Geimar has outfitted his office and living room as functioning ecosystems. His second bathroom, now a home for orchids requiring especially warm temperatures, is typically heated to 28 degrees Celsius and includes a watering and misting system.
With approximately 28,000 species in existence, including over 700 diverse genera, choosing a favourite can be difficult. Among his own collection, Geimar is especially fond and proud of a disa orchid that bloomed in his care.
Native to his home of South Africa and typically found growing on cliffs in the Table Mountain region, the disa is usually very difficult to raise in cultivation due to its requirement for constant moisture and cool temperature.
Having raised thousands of plants on his own, Geimar hopes that he can eventually grow every type of orchid, or at least as many as he can.
“I’ve killed a lot of plants, don’t get me wrong,” joked Geimar, who maintains a “graveyard” of tags from the plants he has lost. “It’s a loving memory.”
Despite the time and resources needed to maintain ideal temperatures, Geimar says that warm-growing orchids are easiest to raise at home. Always looking for a challenge, he is hoping to invest in the cooling equipment required to expand the range of species he is able to cultivate.
“Cold-growers are a bit of a niche, but they’re really beautiful,” Geimar said. “They have the brightest, most vivid colours.”
As an avid participant in the growing community, Geimar is sharing his plant passion with others, including his colleagues at York. When he found himself with over 100 extra orchids on his hands after volunteering at a flower show, Geimar brought them to work and gave them to other staff at Tait McKenzie.
Over time, and with some guidance, Geimar has watched his coworkers’ plants grow at their desks. Some of those who brought their flowers home during the COVID-19 pandemic have been providing him with regular updates on their progress and asking for growing tips.
“The staff and the people at Tait McKenzie are super awesome,” Geimar said. “I’m just very happy that they’ve taken on a little bit of the hobby.
“You’d be surprised, there’s actually quite a few plant growers working at the recreation centre,” he continued, recalling images of windowsills lined with budding orchids.
By Aaron Manton, communications officer, YFile
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