Re-potting orchids after work until 1am

Senior manager Mark Choo's orchid passion is driven by the chase to find a rare variety as well as the desire to make it flower. There are more than 1,000 orchids in the bungalow garden (above) belonging to Mr Choo's parents in Sunset Way, including
Senior manager Mark Choo's orchid passion is driven by the chase to find a rare variety as well as the desire to make it flower. PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, MARK CHOO
Senior manager Mark Choo's orchid passion is driven by the chase to find a rare variety as well as the desire to make it flower. There are more than 1,000 orchids in the bungalow garden (above) belonging to Mr Choo's parents in Sunset Way, including
There are more than 1,000 orchids in the bungalow garden (above) belonging to Mr Choo's parents in Sunset Way, including the Bulbophyllum macrobulbon.PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, MARK CHOO
Senior manager Mark Choo's orchid passion is driven by the chase to find a rare variety as well as the desire to make it flower. There are more than 1,000 orchids in the bungalow garden (above) belonging to Mr Choo's parents in Sunset Way, including
There are more than 1,000 orchids in the bungalow garden (above) belonging to Mr Choo's parents in Sunset Way, including the Bulbophyllum macrobulbonv (above).PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, MARK CHOO

Mr Mark Choo, 29, has a colourful obsession. There are more than 1,000 orchids - over 500 types - growing in the garden of his parents' bungalow in Sunset Way.

It is all about "the chase to look for this orchid that people don't have". "There's that desire to collect them all," says the senior manager at the National Orchid Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

He started getting interested in orchids as a teenager, while helping his mother, an orchid hobbyist, re-pot her orchids."Half the satisfaction comes from when I manage to find it, in the chase. The second part is when I am able to make it flower," adds Mr Choo, who is married to a horticulturalist passionate about begonias.

He visits nurseries and talks to hobbyists and suppliers on weekends and goes on trips around South-east Asia every year.

He once spent $1,000 on several divisions of a "very rare" Bulbophyllum macrobulbon, which he bought from a private hobbyist here. The plant he acquired, he adds, has flowers that are "relatively big compared with the plant itself".

Pay closer attention to some of the orchids in his family garden and you might start to notice some lesser-known tricks deployed to entice pollinators.

Some of the Paphiopedilum species have markings on their petals to mimic aphid infestations - which attracts pollinators such as insects.

Paphiopedilum orchids also have pouch-like flower segments that trap bees that fall inside.

 
 

"They get disoriented by the fluid inside the pouch and panic. They find that the only way out is by a series of ribs on the back of the pouch. They squeeze through a small hole near the stigmatic surface," says Mr Choo, who has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Plants) from the University of Queensland.

Meanwhile, the Bulbophyllum species, when in bloom, can be "as smelly as rotting flesh" to attract flies which serve as pollinators.

Mr Choo and his wife, who do not have children, live in a Housing Board flat in Clementi, where they grow mostly succulents such as different Aloe species. These, he says, are easier to maintain.

Mr Choo, who is helping to run the Singapore Garden Festival's Orchid Show, was involved in creating the world's largest flower basket made of 27,000 flowers, which was on display at Takashimaya Square in Ngee Ann City last month.

After a typical 12-hour workday, he often heads to his parents' garden, where he stays up to re-pot orchids till as late as 1am at times. But the constant gardener says that being able to see his orchids thrive and bloom - "they are like my kids" - makes it all worthwhile.

What does his wife think of his hobby? "She has given up on me," he says with a sheepish grin.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Re-potting orchids after work until 1am'. Print Edition | Subscribe