Theoretically, they could stay up there forever. There's a watering system that runs from under the sink, through the wall and to the top row and then water tickles down to the bottom into the crawl space. I've got a couple estonian watering sensors in there right now that chirp at us when the top row is dry; eventually I'd like to hook them up via Arduino to a solenoid under the sink so that it auto-waters when conditions are right. All that aside, because of the replaceable nature of the wall we can do obnoxious shit like
- a swath of lilies at easter
- a cluster of poinsettias at christmas
- red and pink cyclamen at valentine's
etc etc etc
The question is how crazy we feel like getting with it and so far, "make it work" has been the goal.
The orchids flower in winter, which is nice. On the downside, they won't flower unless they get the proper day/night cycle, which is one reason I replaced three of the MR16 LEDs with 300W halogens; it allows me to get the cumulative light into a space more closely approximating the actual day (rather than cheating the way I was by bombing it with 16 hours of light.
On the plus side, however, they were all grown by my father-in-law, who used to sell orchids on the side. So he cultivates them in his greenhouse and then pulls them out when he feels they aren't properly representing his craft. And, as an orchid grower frustrated by his inability to spend a lot of time growing orchids (he splits time between Seattle, where his greenhouse is, and Minneapolis, where his job is), he's gotten in the habit of grabbing phaleonopsis from the hardware store and replacing the jewel orchids with them. So even though the jewel orchids finished blooming about two weeks ago, we've got four Phals in bloom right now: