Dendrobium Golden Aya is a very attractive primary hybrid between D. aphrodite and D. capillipes. Vegetatively, the plant falls between its parents, and most closely resembles a hybrid from the D. nobile group, with comparatively soft leaves that are mostly deciduous after a single season, and tall, quite thick canes covered in leaf sheaths.
I got this plant from Chantelle Orchids at a show several years ago. It was just coming into flower, and I couldn’t resist it. I have to say, the plant wasn’t in the best condition, with only two canes and very little in the way of roots (although I couldn’t have known that at the time without taking it out of its little polythene pot and removing the moss packed in there). I assume it was a fresh import from Thailand. The plant bloomed magnificently when I got it home, and who couldn’t fail to be captivated by those blooms? It had four or five spikes of flowers back then, and I thought at the time that this seemed rather a lot for two quite shrivelled canes to support, but I couldn’t bear to cut them off (in fact I rarely remove flowers on ailing plants on the grounds that if there is a risk of losing the plant anyway, I might as well enjoy the blooms while I have the chance). Once it had finished blooming, I removed all the sphagnum moss and potted it in medium bark chips with two bamboo canes to hold it steady.
I have to say that I didn’t hold out much hope for it at first. As my readers will know, you can’t force a Dendrobium (or any orchid, really) to do something it hasn’t a mind to. It’s always a race against time whether it’ll pull itself together and do something before it runs out of energy, whilst ticking over in its dormant phase. However, it didn’t take long, maybe a couple of weeks, before it started to grow a new cane. I expected it to be shorter, but it grew to the same sort of height (around 8 inches), and produced an extensive and vigorous root system, the plant appearing completely recovered by the end of its first growing season with me. For the next couple of years, the canes stayed a similar sort of size and the plant bloomed every spring, mostly on new canes. Last year, however, the plant didn’t bloom in the spring as usual (which I blamed on the warmer temperatures in my growroom), but instead, grew a cane that was two feet tall, not the 8 inches I had come to expect. Whether it will continue to produce canes that tall I don’t know; time will tell.
The plant finally bloomed for me at the time of writing (February), after I gave it a cooler rest in my living room. It has five spikes, with four to six flowers per spike. There is also a delicate scent, very sweet without being sickly. I had always had this hybrid down as being temperature-tolerant, but it does appear to bloom better when kept cooler for at least part of the year. Possibly the very large growth of last year was the result of growing it warmer, but it still needs the cooler temperatures after growth is complete to get it to bloom. As it isn’t cold by any means in my living room, I wonder whether what it actually needs is more temperature variation between night and day and between summer and winter to give it the seasonal cues it requires to produce flowers.