Orchid Gems



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Natalie Turicik:

Standing up for OSWP, Community, and Ukraine

By: Norma Raiff

Natalie Turicik is a relatively “newer” member of our society who will shortly become more familiar to our membership at large. That’s because she’s slated to become OSWP’s First Vice President in July.

You may already know her through several channels. If you attended our recent Spring Show perhaps you took some time to study Natalie’s stunning display that featured beautifully arranged orchids and her homemade pysanky: gorgeous, decorated eggs that she dyes using intricate traditional (and sometimes non-traditional) designs. And if you listened to Natalie’s recent talk on growing under lights you may have learned a lot about orchid culture.

It’s also possible that you are aware that Natalie and her family are long term members of a local Ukraine community. Although her parents and some of her grandparents grew up in the US, her family’s Ukraine connections remain strong. Natalie’s parents, grandparents and her own children (five generations in all) are members of St. Peter & St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Carnegie, PA. However, congregational prayers are being supplemented with direct action. Starting the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Church made the news by packing thousands of donated items (such as non-perishable food, diapers, and medical and emergency supplies) to send for civilian relief. To quote Father John Charest of St. Peter and St. Paul Church, "It feels amazing. Being in a Pittsburgh community, this is a Mister Rogers' story. Where is God in this? Well, look for the people doing good” (Source: Carnegie Church receives huge donations for Ukrainian civilians – CBS Pittsburgh).

And about the pysanky: “I began learning from my maternal grandmother as a young child. She was the real master, who learned from her mother and grandmother in Ukraine, as they did before them. I love the process of dying the egg, adding wax with a kistka (stylus used for applying melted bee’s wax), and repeating that with each color that I want in the design. Although I’ve been writing pysanky for a long time, I’ve only recently started featuring orchids on them!”

You can see more of Natalie’s work by visiting an upcoming Stand with Ukraine multimedia exhibit at the Sweetwater Center for Arts in Sewickley from June 13, 2022 - July 22, 2022. Its focus is on how artists of Ukrainian descent are aesthetically expressing themselves as they respond to the ongoing war’s horrors.

Background information: Natalie grew up in the Pittsburgh area and returned here after working out of state. She and her husband, Louis (an engineer at Westinghouse), and their two young children, Sofia (age 4) and Dmytri (age 1), live in Kennedy Township. An engineer by profession, Natalie’s also a Product Manager at FedEx Ground. She values the Pittsburgh community for its friendliness and its culture, diversity, and affordable life style which she judges to be ahead of comparable communities of the same size.

Natalie’s journey toward orchid involvement has been several years in the making: but how she became an OSWP member is unique. Like many of us, Natalie enjoys gardening and learned it from her family. “I’ve always liked having plants around.” However, she became attached to orchids about 10-11 years ago after winning an unnamed phalaenopsis at a bridal shower. Natalie’s was charmed by its color and, although many years went by with no sign of re-flowering, she hung on to it because of her love of plants. Her guardianship was rewarded several years later when, now in a new house and having been relocated to a sunnier window, the plant once again bloomed.

Orchid collections often grow in fits and starts. Natalie started buying sales phals at places like Lowes, “and all of a sudden I had 10!” At the same time, she became known at work as the “girl who likes to take care of orchids.” Which meant that coworkers began to come to her with questions. So, never one to treat things lightly, Natalie started searching for reliable sources of orchid information and came across the OSWP website. And to me, the amazing part of her orchid journey is this: Natalie immediately signed up as an OSWP member even though she had never attended any of our shows or meetings. Her action also astonished OSWPers helping at the membership table who soon realized their outreach was unnecessary.

And yes, Natalie’s orchid journey has become more diversified. She now has about 200 plants not counting seedlings. And while some are in a window sill (read more about that below), she primarily grows under LED lights which she finds promotes better growth and is much less expensive than fluorescents.

Natalie’s collection includes phals, Cattleyas, Oncidiums, Paphiopedliums, and Odontoglossums. She loves hybrid phals, such as Phal. Art Nouveau or Phal. Zheng Min Anacond. Another of her favorites is Encyclia (Prosthechea) cochleata, commonly referred to as the clamshell or cockleshell orchid. “I love its shape and that it holds its blossoms over time.” For those who are not familiar, cochleata not only flowers in succession, the remarkable thing is that the flowers resemble a swimming 2 to 4 inch octopus!

At this stage of her “orchid cycle”, Natalie has decided to only keep plants that she can successfully raise and to prune the rest either by giving them away, dumping, or selling them to others.

When asked “What your funniest/weirdest mistake or experience?” Natalie’s response illustrates her sense of humor, love of family, and the care with which she instructs her children about how to respect the things she values.

Story #1: About 2.5 years ago, Natalia came across Sofia (then aged 1.5) “hiding” within the area of the shear drapes that cover a windowsill area where Natalie grows some of her orchids. And she overheard: Sofia softy speaking - “Orch-DiD (points)… (pause); Orch-DiD (points and pauses) …Orch-DiD (points and pauses) …. (Sigh)…Mama’s… Don’t’ touch!” Clearly a lesson learned!

Story #2. She recently caught Dimitri trying to eat a handful of potting materials. Clearly a lesson in progress!

So be sure to come up and congratulate Natalie during the June election, feel free to ask about her choice of lights, and to find out more about where her art and conscience are taking her.