By Cristina Eyler
Have you seen the OSWP webpage lately? If you haven’t, you should! This month’s Orchid Gem is the Society’s new website manager, Jinghua Ou, and she has done an incredible job updating and revamping the webpage, so make sure to check it out. Jinghua is a relatively new member, having joined at the Orchid Show in March 2018. Despite having only been growing orchids for about three years, she has accumulated eighteen orchids of various genera and has jumped right in to the Orchid Society with volunteer work.
Jinghua’s orchid growing journey began with a trip to Sam’s Club on Valentine’s Day 2016. She wanted to buy flowers and saw that Phalaenopsis plants were cheaper than the bouquets. A few months later at the May Market at the Phipps Conservatory for Mother’s Day, Jinghua saw many orchids that looked nothing like the plant she bought at Sam’s Club and thought, “Are these ALL orchids?” At two for $8, she purchased an Oncidium and a Dendrobium. A gentleman there gave her a few pointers on orchid care and directed her to several culture sheets: “He gave me some helpful advice. He told me to soak the pot from the bottom. I still do that once a week for 10-15 minutes.”
In the fall, the Oncidium bloomed! “Wow!” she thought, “This is not too hard. The Sam’s Club one rebloomed too. Maybe I can do this.”
The orchid bug got her. Over the course of the next year, Jinghua bought two more Oncidiums and three Lady Slipper orchids. Finally, in 2018, she stumbled across the OSWP webpage and came fully into the orchid growing community in Pittsburgh. After attending several meetings and learning more about the orchid hobby, Jinghua contemplated volunteering to manage the Society’s website. She works full time as a software engineer at medCPU, so she has the skill set to offer. “Okay, I’ll do it,” says Jinghua, “It will be good for me because it will get me more involved. I will not be likely to skip meetings and I’ll know what’s going on!”
Already, Jinghua has big plans. Come summer, she will do an overhaul of the website. “The website says a lot about the Society. If the website looks old fashioned, young people might think the Society is old fashioned as well and not want to join. We need more people!”
She has also been taking more pictures of show-and-tell plants to post on the webpage: “I found that interesting and I was learning and becoming more familiar with the different orchid types.”
All of this learning at the meetings has paid off. Jinghua’s technique is simple and she has seen much success with her plants, growing them in the garden window in her dining room. “It has lots of sunlight. I don’t do much with them.” Her success even prompted a friend to give Jinghua a cymbidium she had been growing for ten years without it ever blooming. She seems to have quite the “green thumb”; Jinghua also grows succulents (“But they don’t do well”) and has a vegetable garden.
“I like to plant vegetables in the summer; tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, eggplants, peppers and many other things. I also have many flowers in my front yard too; peonies, irises, daffodils, roses, hellebores, etc. I like to plan some new things each year. I enjoy seeing things grow, from seeds to fruits. For example, the only way to see the flowers of different beans we buy in store is to grow them.”
This journey started in Guangzhou, China where Jinghua was born and raised. There, she attended college at South China University of Technology and received a degree in Architecture. “My first degree was in Architecture. I got a second bachelor degree in Computer Science after we moved to the States. I like to draw and paint probably since I was 3, which was the reason why I chose Architecture in the first place. I still paint when I find time, mostly in watercolor and acrylic. Maybe I’ll paint some orchids some time.”
She moved to Singapore after graduating, where Jinghua met her husband Jun. They lived there for about eighteen months before her husband found a job in Pittsburgh. He is currently working for UPMC as a software architect. They have been here for twenty years. Jinghua received a second bachelor degree in Computer Science from James Madison University and has been working as a software engineer for fourteen years. Jinghua and her husband have two daughters; Serena (14) and Iris (12).
Jinghua’s advice to other newcomers: “Membership is totally worth it. I learn a lot and really enjoy it. The people are very nice.”
Meet the Member