Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio  
Marlene Paiva Valim

Teacher of Artistic Education, Secretary at High School; Technician in Soil Analyze; Regional and national tourist guide; commercial employee and nowadays president of OrquidaRIO




  ON- How did you start cultivating orchids? Which was the magic moment of attraction?
MP - In fact, I did not start to cultivate orchids, I used to take care of some "parasites" which were quite common in the region where I used to work (South Bahia).
Only after being transferred to Rio de Janeiro, four years later, I was receiving some friends of mine who became charmed by the flowers of my "parasites" and told that those plants were too similar to an orchid that another friend had. So I started to look after books about the little girls and found out that my "parasites" were nothing less than wonderful Cattleya bifoliate.
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Cattleya harrisoniana
  The magic moment of attraction? It happened when I was, with my staff, getting samples of the soil in farms, in Teixeira de Freitas. I even have seen the flowers but the irreverent form of the plant which did not need soil, the way its roots embrace the trunks, enchanted me.

  ON- How long have you been cultivating orchids?
MP - Considering the time of "parasites" in 1968... Good Heavens!!! Since 35 years ago.

Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Sophronitis cernua
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Acacalis cyanea alba

  ON- How many plants do you have?
MP - Some 540 plants between adults and teen-agers.
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Pleurothallis sp
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Bulbophylum sp
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
L. pulcherrima
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Oncidium sp

  ON- Which orchids do you have more?
MP - The bifoliate: Cattleya guttata, amethystoglossa, forbesii...
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
C. forbesii

  ON- Between yours, which is the favorite plants?
MP - A Cattleya amethystoglossa (my first "parasite")
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
C. amethystoglossa x Lc. Rolf Altemburg

ON- Do you prefer hybrids or species?
MP - It is understood that the species are the apple of my eye. They are free, they are not slaves of laboratories, they have their own will and style and more: when we captivate them in a habitat which is not theirs, they tell us, in an energetic way, that they "do not like", even more: if they decide to stay there, they tell us what they need. They have personality and because of that, I love them with passion.
  Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Laelia grandis
Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
  ON- How long do you spend taking care of your orchids, daily?
MP  - Very little time. Due to my job, I just have an hour in the morning and in the late afternoon to stay and to talk with them.

Besides this first attraction, was there another factor (person or an event) that influenced in your feelings regarding to the orchids?

MP - Yes. In fact, still in the south of Bahia, when we did the cuts of the areas to take samples, we got in contact with the Pataxós Indians and I learnt from them that those "parasites" which grow on the rocks (Cyrtopodium) and on the palms of Buriti (Catasetum) besides to feed the cattle, they were a medicine to cure eyes' inflammation.
This let me more astonished and curious about them.

  ON - Which are the climatic conditions found in your environments?
MP - The worst. I cultivate in a small terrace with too much wind and heat.

  ON- Do you have a cultivation tip to share with us?
MP - As I told, due to the worst conditions I have, I developed a different style, putting some small logs of Samambaiaçu (tree fern) which I try to keep alive, with many Maria-sem-vergonha (Balsaminaceae family) which are my thermometers of humidity, a shading material of 75% and an accurate watchfulness against scales and snails.
I use a balanced fertilizer formula every 15 days and when the sun is too much strong, I keep a small flood of water in the floor, beneath the staging.

Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. PolonioFoto/Photo: Sonia de A. PolonioFoto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio

  ON- Is there a short or an amusing story connected to orchids that you want to tell us?
MP - There are many stories: One of them happened here in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Resende, precisely, when I visited my mother-in-law, I saw a very upset lady telling magic spells in a avocado tree and instructing the housekeeper to cut an avocado tree where was a pompous Aerides odorata".  She told: "-This ... killed my avocado tree. It should be burnt. This is a plague". So, very calm, I asked her if could get off this "parasite" and also asked if, by chance, she did not have another trees with the same plant. Surprised, I heard her to answer:"- There were but I poisoned all of them. This one is hard to be killed"
Finally, I got this "wonderful and scent plague", which follows me until today.

  ON - One said that orchidophilia is a soft manifestation of madness. Have you done any "orchidophilic" insanity?
MP - A soft manifestation? I think is completely madness! We should be name orchidmad instead of orchid lovers.
My biggest madness happened when I was visiting a Pataxós tribe and the chief, an old friend, gave me a big ball of Coryanthes that I put immediately in the car. However, in the ball, formed by the roots, lived an enormous colony of Azteca ants.
  Foto/Photo: Sonia de A. Polonio
Coryanthes sp
I do not even need say, you can imagine what happened in my way home with my car crowded of voracious and nervous ants. After many stops and many "sacrifices" I got home, proud of me, in spite of the stings. I wanted to be kind with them and tried to keep what I thought was a natural partnership. I took a hope and did a bridge, from the plant to ipê tree (Tabebuia) and they worked a lot, coming and going. However the ungrateful ants were moving. They have all gone. They became "cariocas" (*).

  ON- Thank you, Marlene.
(*) People born in Rio de Janeiro city

  Photos by Sônia de A. Polonio

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