Here you will find all of the older ‘Orchid of the Month’ items.

Orchid of the Month – February 2016 – Paphiopedilum x leeanum.

Paphiopedilum x leeanum is an attractive and easy to grow British-bred primary hybrid between Paphiopedilum spicerianum (pollen) and Paphiopedilum insigne (seed), first made in 1884. Flowers have some variability, but mostly fall between their parents, the pouch being reddish brown, the petals greenish with longitudinal brown stripes, and the dorsal sepal white with a green base and reddish speckling. Foliage is uniformly green and sits fairly upright. Each fan of foliage only blooms once and new fans may be produced either before, during or after flowering, each of which will bloom in its turn. As more than one new fan may be produced together, plants can become quite large over time, with several flowers being produced simultaneously, usually in winter. My plants bloom around Christmas, lasting several weeks.

Most modern Paphiopedilum hybrids are quite complex and originate from both warm- and cool- growing species, making them quite adaptable, and allowing them to be grown together. Paphiopedilum x leeanum, despite being an old and less complex hybrid, is no exception and enjoys coolish room temperatures, though I have found that it doesn’t object to my warm grow-room either, as this encourages nice large growths more likely to produce a bud during Autumn. I have found that blooming can be induced by cooler night temperatures in Autumn, much as Phalaenopsis hybrids can be induced to bloom by temperature manipulation. Flowers last longer when plants are kept on the cool side.

As with other Paphiopedilum species and hybrids, it should not be allowed to dry out, as it does not possess pseudobulbs as many other orchids do. Instead, it grows terrestrially under trees in leaf litter, and should therefore be kept evenly moist, but not wet, at all times. I have found most paphiopedilums to be fairly undemanding when it comes to growing medium, and I have taken to using a mix of medium bark chips and hanging-basket moss, though bark chips on their own will do equally well, provided plants are kept well watered. A very graceful and undemanding orchid to grow. For best results, grow in bright, indirect light for most of the year, then with a little more shade as buds form, as this is said to enhance flower colour.

I have read that this hybrid has calcium-loving parents and should be grown with a little limestone added to the growing medium, but I have found this not to be necessary under my conditions. Mostly, calcium can be supplemented by regular feeding. My plants get fed around once or twice a month with a weak orchid feed. Excess feed should not be allowed to build up in the growing medium, as this can lead to leaf burn and eventual root damage. Underfeeding is always better than overfeeding.

I have to admit, I have never been much of a slipper grower, but this one is worth making an exception for. This article is only meant to show readers what I do with my plants, and not what they should do with theirs. Hopefully it has been informative and will encourage others to grow this lovely hybrid for themselves.

Paphiopedilum x leeanum

Paphiopedilum x leeanum

 

Orchid of the Month – March 2016 – Brassolaeliocattleya Young min Orange

Believe it or not, I was given this Cattleya (along with quite a few other orchids, including a very large blue Vanda) by a friend a couple of years ago. It bears a Chantelle Orchids label, and when I first had it, was potted in very compressed Sphagnum moss. I believe Chantelle imports her orchids from her brother’s nursery in Taiwan, and the moss is the only medium that can be brought through customs. Anyway, the root system was nice and healthy, and after a good deal of fiddling, soaking and swearing/persuasion, I managed to get all the moss off the roots. Moss as a potting medium just doesn’t work for me. I find it either too wet or I can’t wet it enough. At any rate, the plant got potted into medium bark chips and, after its initial sulk, has grown away very well indeed. Pseudobulbs are now outgrowing their predecessors, and the flower count is increasing.

At only 6 inches tall, the plant is a true miniature and produces a good number of flowers for its size. It currently has two lead growths, and once it has produced a few more pseudobulbs I shall sever the leading four pseudobulbs from both leads to encourage the production of shoots from the back of the plant. Pretty as it is, this plant is not without its faults. The most annoying for me is that the flowers don’t last very long at all. I’m lucky if I get week out of them before they start to deteriorate. Since the flowers open sequentially, this means that by the time the last few flowers open, the first have already dropped. I’m sure this can’t be right, and I wonder if it is because I grow my cattleyas at the warm end of their temperature range. This plant also seems to be a magnet for scale insect, probably the worst out of all my cattleyas. I believe I have it under control now though, but it has been a real struggle involving cans of Provado, and lots of drenching with pure soap solution. I am quite careful about removing the old leaf sheaths from around the pseudobulb, including the really tiny ones that clasp the rhizome, as this is where the critters like to hide. The third fault with this one is its lack of scent. It admittedly doesn’t look as if it came from scented species, but I always think it is such a shame when scent has been lost in the search for colour or form of blooms.

All in all, I think this plant has good potential, that is if I can at least manage to overcome the poor flower longevity by placing the plant somewhere cooler just before the blooms open. One very agreeable tendency it has is to produce roots at a convenient stage of growth. Some cattleyas produce a growth and even bloom before new roots are produced, which can be very frustrating if one is waiting to repot or divide. This plant produces roots while the new shoots are still growing, resulting in the least amount of disturbance when repotting. The sharper eyed among you may have read elsewhere that I like to pot cattleyas in coarse bark chips. This is true only for my standard-sized cattleyas, but as this plant is so tiny, I grow it in medium bark in a small pot. The bark chips are proportionally the right size for the plant, and allow it to dry down quickly.

Finally, a note on naming. I do find these constant name changes rather tedious, especially where complex hybrids are concerned, and I have seen this plant labelled as Cattleya, Brassolaeliocattleya, and Potinara. I have no idea which one is correct, and no desire to dredge through the RHS website only to find out which they think is correct. The label from Chantelle says Brassolaeliocattleya, but I’m afraid I have taken to simply calling them all Cattleya, as the current name for the plant has no bearing whatsoever on the way I grow it.

Blc.Young Min .

Blc.Young Min Orange

Blc. Young Min Orange

Blc. Young Min Orange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchid of the Month – April 2016 – The Epidendrum floribundum Conundrum.

For my plant of the month article for April, I thought I would present you with a bit of a mystery. Maybe my readers can help me shed some light on this. I purchased this plant from an orchid show a few years ago labelled as Epidendrum floribundum. I’ve always rather liked Epidendrum, Encyclia and other Cattleya relatives. I admit that when I purchased it I had no idea what it would look like in flower. When I got home, I did a bit of research on the internet and found that Epidendrum floribundum appears to be a synonym for Epidendrum paniculatum. I was perfectly happy with this until the plant bloomed not too long afterwards.

X Epidendrum 'Floribundum'

X Epidendrum ‘Floribundum’

It doesn’t look much like an Epidendrum to me! In fact if you Google Epidendrum paniculatum, you will see that the latter looks nothing like this at all. This appears to me to be an Encyclia of some description. It could even be a hybrid. I find it difficult to believe that there are that many unnamed ‘proper’ Encyclia hybrids out there, at least not this side of the Atlantic. That leaves us with an unknown species then. A friend of mine who worked in Singapore for a while informs me that we are probably dealing with Encyclia floribundum. Not that this helps a great deal since there isn’t a lot of information out there about this species at all. Encyclia presents a taxonomic minefield at the best of times, and one species looks much like another, and they are all very variable. We had better take a look at the rest of the plant then, hadn’t we?

X Epidendrum 'Floribundum', plant habit

X Epidendrum ‘Floribundum’, plant habit

Aside from my truly amateurish photography, we can see that the plant doesn’t look very Encyclia-like at all, and more closely resembles a short stemmed Epidendrum (in fact the plant very much reminds me of Epicyclia Serena O’Neill except that the flowers are smaller but more numerous). So maybe this brings us back to the possibility that it is a hybrid after all. More recently (but still a year ago), I found Epidendrum floribundum for sale in a German nursery I used to use as one of my suppliers when I was more involved in plant sales. As I was putting together an order at the time, I ordered a few plants, and they appear to be the same as my mystery plant. Consequently I have spare plants for sale.

Aside from the confusion over the name, this is a very lovely plant to grow. It is easy-going, grows well in my warm grow-room and is very generous with its flowers once it reaches a modest size. The cane height is gradually increasing, and this is its best flowering yet, producing a branching inflorescence bearing 32 flowers. As a bonus the flowers are very sweetly scented. The plant is rather on the untidy side, and the roots like to wander out of the pot, but provided the plant is healthy, I am happy to let them! A little less water when the plant is resting is a good idea, but it appears not to be quite as sensitive to watering at the wrong time of year as many Encyclia species (E. cordigera, I’m looking at you!)

My plant is due for repotting once it starts to show either new aerial growth or new roots (I forget which comes first on this plant), and I think it will be better in coarse bark chips as opposed to the medium chips in which it now grows. This might encourage the roots to stay in the pot.

At any rate, feel free to contact me if I have tempted you with this enigma, or if you have any answers for me!

X Epidendrum 'Floribundum', detail.

X Epidendrum ‘Floribundum’, detail.

 

Orchid of the Month – May 2016 – Eulophia guineensis.

This month, I thought I’d feature an orchid that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Eulophia guineensis has been a favourite of mine for quite a few years, and after I started to re-build my collection six years ago, I made sure I found one. Well two, actually!  The entire Eulophia genus is grossly underrepresented in many collections; these plants have a somewhat fearsome reputation as being fussy and difficult to bloom. This may be true for some cultivars, but my experiences with Eulophia guineensis have generally been good.

Eulophia guineensis is quite a widespread species native to Central Africa and the Arabian peninsula. From what I can gather, plants are vegetatively quite variable, although I have not seen any vastly different specimens in cultivation. In keeping with its wide distribution, it seems quite tolerant of a variety of growing methods. These plants grow as terrestrials and have very robust, thick, white roots of an unusual texture that reminds me of popcorn or polystyrene. They don’t seem to be fussy about the growth medium, growing equally well in bark chips or a denser mix. This year, I am using my standard houseplant mix which consists of equal quantities of multi-purpose compost, orchid propagating bark and coarse grit (although in my case, I use chipped plastic which I get from my work for free, works just as well and is much lighter). Temperatures are warm, and I water copiously when the plants are growing. Leaves drop during autumn, and at this time I stop watering altogether, giving nothing until plants resume growth in February. I have heard that these plants can be shy to bloom and I think the reason for this is watering when they are resting. Giving water during winter seems to do no actual harm and neither does it cause the plants to break their dormancy early; it just seems to prevent them from blooming. I don’t keep the plants any cooler during winter, a cool period doesn’t seem to be necessary, and besides, I assume that cool temperatures would have an adverse effect, given the place of origin of the species.

Eulophia guineensis

Eulophia guineensis

I am very pleased with the overall form of this flower, good shape and colour to the lip (I have seen them with much more white than this, and some are a good deal narrower). The upwardly pointing tepals always remind me of a little crown – quite endearing.  Another feature of this species that I like is the upwardly pointing nectar spur.

Eulophia guineensis

Eulophia guineensis

I have two plants of this species. The first (the plant photographed) is labelled Eulophia quartiana x E. guineensis. As I understand it, Eulophia quartinana is a synonym for Eulophia guineensis, so I guess it is simply a cross of two forms of the same species which might explain the nice flower shape and colour. This plant has put out one growth and two flower spikes, bearing ten flowers in total. The other plant (labelled simply Eulophia guineensis) has put out three new growths and only one flower spike. I shall be interested in comparing the flowers of the two plants, but I have a couple of weeks to wait for that, alas.

Eulophia quartiana x E. guineensis

Eulophia quartiana x E. guineensis

Once it has finished blooming, I will pot this plant on into a larger pot. It is tempting to remove a backbulb for propagating, but the plant is a little young for that as yet, and I would like to grow it on for a couple of years before I consider encouraging more lead growths. Also, it has been my experience that the plants resent being disturbed. Potting on seems fine, but removing backbulbs doesn’t seem to be. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that disturbing the plants kills them – it doesn’t. However, disturbing them does seem to prevent flowering. I am hoping that the flower count will increase in future, especially as this species seems capable of producing multiple spikes per pseudobulb.

I’ve probably made it’s cultivation sound far more difficult than it actually is. All we need to remember to get this plant blooming regularly is to keep it dry over winter and not to disturb its roots too much. In many respects it’s rather like growing a Catasetum – strongly seasonal with a distinct rest period. I’ve read that it does well under a variety of light conditions, although I haven’t experimented with this. My only real word of warning is that this species may be attacked by scale insects during the rest period, and spider mites are fond of the soft foliage. I spray with a soap solution, and that seems to keep them both under control.

Orchid of the Month -June 2016 – Phalaenopsis mannii.

I have a lot of time for Phalaenopsis, both species and hybrids. They are easy to grow (at least, most of them are) and very rewarding. I’m aware that a lot of growers are rather sniffy about Phalaenopsis, presumably because they have become so common and are so often sold without names. I will say that I prefer them to have names, but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ if I like the flower. Many of the species seem as easy to grow as the hybrids, and this month’s feature, Phalaenopsis mannii, is no exception.

I originally got this plant, along with a few others, from a nursery in Germany a couple of years ago. It was at one time really badly attacked by red spider mite, probably as a result of me keeping it too dry, I can’t be sure.  At any rate, the plant did have a relatively small root system when I got it, so I changed the potting medium and the root system seems to have grown back very nicely (at least, it is showing out of the bottom of the pot, which I take to be a good sign). Once it shows root growth and leaf growth, I know that it has settled in properly and now there is a nice new leaf, too. I particularly like the purple speckles on the foliage, but I have to say I find the plant as a whole rather untidy, as the leaves are quite long and strappy without the stiffness found in other Phalaenopsis species and hybrids. It is a pendant species that is found in the eastern Himalayas in seasonally dry forest, and is apparently adaptable to cool conditions, though I haven’t experimented with this. A dry winter rest helps this species to bloom in spring. Under my growing conditions, the vast majority of Phalaenopsis species and hybrids spike at the same time as a result of cooler temperatures during autumn nights, and this species seems no different, so I wonder whether a month of cooler nights is the important factor in initiating flowering here.

The flowers are not large for the size of the plant, but they are produced in little bursts from a seemingly ever extending flower spike, and are fairly long-lasting. I very much like the colour combination and patterning. I have never been a big fan of large, rounded flowers, as I don’t find them very interesting. This species seems to be quite variable both in terms of flower form and the overall size of the plant. I also grow a variety called ‘Zarbitter’ which is tiny compared to the regular form, but yet appears to be an adult plant.

The flowers are fragrant. At least to my nose, I’d describe the fragrance as ‘Frazzles’, which is a bit odd, but it really does remind me of fake bacon-flavoured crisps. It’s not unpleasant, just unexpected!

Phalaenopsis mannii

Phalaenopis mannii.

 

Orchid of the Month – July 2016 – Phalaenopsis tetraspis

I have always been a fan of Phalaenopsis, but until quite recently I grew only hybrids. I think I had read somewhere that the species were difficult to grow, so I avoided them. These days, although I grow a few species of Phalaenopsis, I find them no more difficult than the hybrids. Of course, many of them are also not as showy as hybrids, but I tend to prefer plants of ‘botanical interest’ to those with big, blousy flowers anyway. This month’s orchid, Phalaenopsis tetraspis, has quite a pretty flower, but is definitely a collector’s plant. It is quite a variable species. The flowers are basically white, but with varying degrees of red on its petals. Flowers on my plant appear to be entirely white with just pink markings on the lip, but various plants might produce red marks on the petals, an entirely red petal or even an entirely red flower. All the flowers on one plant are subtly different, and just because the first bloom on my plant is entirely white doesn’t mean that subsequent blooms won’t have red markings. The flowers are fragrant too, although I find the scent rather soapy. The fragrance seems strongest during the morning, much less so during the afternoon and hardly at all at night.

Phalaenopsis tetraspis

Phalaenopsis tetraspis

This species is nice and compact, and appears to be an easy grower and a willing bloomer. Multiple spikes are produced, and these remain green and capable of producing further buds sequentially for several years. Consequently, mature plants can carry quite a lot of flowers on multiple stems. Flowers are only produced a couple at a time from the tips, but they are long- lasting, giving an extended flowering period. I very much like the detail on the lip. Unfortunately it doesn’t come across very well in photographs, but the apex carries bristles, much like a miniature toothbrush.

I grow all my Phalaenopsis plants very warm, so I find this species no trouble at all. Nevertheless, it is one of those species that are less tolerant of cool temperatures, and this can delay blooming and cause bud drop. Like most Phalaenopsis, it enjoys high humidity, but seems tolerant of much lower levels than it would experience in its natural environment. Overall, a species well worth growing for its compact growth and interesting flowering habits.

Orchid of the Month – August 2016 – Miltonia spectabilis.

Miltonia spectabilis is a truly lovely species when in flower, but is definitely not grown by enough people. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the whole genus Miltonia is overshadowed by the practically impossible to grow and ubiquitous Miltoniopsis. Secondly, the plants are sprawling, badly behaved and untidy.

There is a little confusion over the whole Miltonia spectabilis complex, and some authorities now consider Miltonia spectabilis var. moreliana to be a species in its own right, M. moreliana. I grow both, and there do seem to be differences between the two. Whether they are sufficiently significant to give M. moreliana species status is for taxonomists to decide. For the time being, I shall continue with the old name until I am unequivocally told otherwise. (The monocot checklist of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew recognizes it as a distinct species – ed.).

I’m pleased to say that Miltonia spectabilis var. moreliana is much better behaved than the regular species. The internodes between the pseudobulbs are much shorter and the growths are much more upright, making the plant much better suited to pot culture. The internodes are still on the long side, but much more manageable. It grows in my warm grow-room with most of my other orchids, with temperatures in the upper twenties in the day and in the mid- to upper teens at night. I have heard that it is a very tolerant species, and it will probably grow and flower quite a bit cooler than this. As is typical with many Miltonia species, it is quite shallow-rooted and there is no point at all in growing it in anything other than a broad, shallow container. It is also finely rooted, but I generally advise against using too fine a potting material – my plant does well in medium bark chips. Regular repotting is necessary because of the length of the internodes, and the plant quite quickly reaches the edges of its container. It has a pleasing habit of frequently ‘breaking double’ and regularly produces two growths from its leading pseudobulb, with the result that plants can either be fairly frequently divided or will quickly grow into  nice specimens. A favourite trick of mine is to leave the plant in its pot and make a back-cut a few pseudobulbs back on the rhizome so as to force the plant to make new growth toward the back, where there are often no leaves or flowers.

The blooms are borne on single-flowered inflorescences as the new growths mature. Spikes appear to be quite slow to develop, but at least the blooms are long-lasting when they finally open. I prefer the species to all of its hybrids because although it passes on the lovely purple colour, it also passes on the low flower count and the hybrid flowers tend to be clustered and crowded at the end of the spikes making the flower spikes rather untidy.

I can heartily recommend this species to anyone who can provide a bit of heat and humidity but this is a plant that will probably also perform perfectly well as a houseplant.

Miltonia spectabilis var. moreliana

Miltonia spectabilis var. moreliana

Orchid of the Month – September 2016 – Prosthechia cochleata.

For this month, I thought I’d feature a hybrid that I have been growing for quite a while. I picked this up at one of the larger orchid shows from a German nursery that was exhibiting there. Sadly, the name of the nursery escapes me. They did, however, tell me that there were quite a lot of seedlings from the cross, and that most of them had taken on the colouring from the Prosthechea cochleata parent (green). Only three plants came out purple, and I got the last one. Clearly, the plant is around three quarters Prosthechea cochleata and most strongly resembles it.

There are a few hybrids around that are similar to this cross, but with Prosthechea green hornet and Prosthechea lancifolia being crossed onto Epicattleya Miva Etoile. I have the P. Green Hornet cross in my own collection, from a different nursery. The blooms are a little smaller and not so twisted. I can’t say which I prefer because I like them both for different reasons Both hybrids are vigorous and free flowering, though. I also like the fact that they both seem very flexible as far as temperatures go. I grow my plants warm, but some growers have their Prosthechea species and hybrids growing cool, and they seem to do equally well. Hybrids with P. cochleata seem rather variable as regards flowering time. Sometimes, they flower once new growth is completed, but just as often there is a delay of several weeks or even months before flower spikes emerge. I’d blame temperature, but all of my P. cochleata species and hybrids do the same and one plant might perform differently at one time or another.

This hybrid grows much larger than its parent and is a vigorous grower. After the plant had finished blooming, I divided it up into several pieces. I have two left, both of which are now in bloom. Looking back, I divided the plant up too small, and it has taken some time for the divisions to reach flowering size. Lesson learned.  One of the most unusual characteristics of this hybrid is that on larger plants the flower spikes develop branches, and my divisions are now reaching the size at which they begin to branch. This is the only Prosthechea cochleata hybrid I have ever seen that is capable of this. I would very much like to know from which species in its background it inherits this characteristic.  Flowers are produced sequentially from the tip of a seemingly ever extending spike with usually four or five flowers open at a time per spike. The larger the plant, the more flowers the spike will produce before it eventually runs out of steam. Individual flowers last for a couple of weeks, but overall flowering time can turn out to be very long indeed, and larger plants are almost constantly blooming.

Yet another taxonomic conundrum- (Ed.)

According to the Kew Monocot Checklist, both plants formerly sold as Encyclia (now Prosthechea) cochleata – the well-known Cockle-shell Orchid and Encyclia (Prosthechea) lancifolia (cream with a red-striped lip) are now considered to be conspecific, with P. lancifolia assigned to P. cochleata var. cochleata. Others, however, consider the latter to be P. trulla.

Prosthechea cochleata hybrid

Orchid of the Month – October 2016 – Coelogyne Rebecca Howe.

I have a real penchant for Coelogyne species and hybrids. This particular one is truly lovely. Its parents are Coelogyne speciosa var. incarnata (the green form of the species) x Coelogyne rumphii (a species that I grow, but haven’t bloomed yet, as it is a little young. The plant looks very much like both its parents, with each hen’s-egg-shaped and sized pseudobulb bearing a single broad leaf which persists for several seasons. The overall size of the plant is rather larger than a straight C. speciosa, so I imagine that this is inherited from C. rumphii. I have yet to encounter for certain an adult C. rumphii, although I am told it is rather a large plant. I have not yet persuaded the plant to make multiple growths, despite having made a back-cut some months ago. Perhaps I am simply impatient. A full plant with multiple growing points would be an impressive sight. The flower spikes seem a little better at staying upright than either those of Coelogyne speciosa or many of its hybrids, and that is very much an advantage in this type of hybrid. The flower is large and well formed, well in proportion to the size of the plant. The colouring is not bright, as you would expect from its parentage, but then that isn’t something we generally look for in Coelogyne. There is a delicate scent which is surprisingly pleasant. Quite often the scent of Coelogyne speciosa, which I find quite unpleasant, is carried through to its hybrids, though, thankfully here it isn’t strong. Instead, Coelogyne Rebecca Howe has inherited the scent of Coelogyne rumphii, which is quite pleasant for the first few days after the flower opens, but does seem to become rather more ‘chemical’ in nature after that. The flowers last for around three weeks in good condition and are produced sequentially, one flower dropping as the next opens, so while flowering is never spectacular, the flowering period is extended. The hybrid is a strong, though not fast, grower and it enjoys warm or hot temperatures, high humidity and constant moisture at the roots. All in all, I can recommend this hybrid although it may not be easily sourced.

Coelogyne-Rebecca-Howe

Coelogyne-Rebecca-Howe

 

Orchid of the Month – November 2016 – Cymbidium ensifolium

I had managed to convince myself over the years that I didn’t like cymbidiums, which is a thinly veiled way of saying that I have never been able to grow them with any degree of success. Most modern Cymbidium hybrids require conditions which we are no longer able to provide for them in our centrally heated homes, meaning that they really don’t make good houseplants and are totally unsuitable for my hot grow-room. This is a pity, because the garden centres are full of them at certain times of the year, and the flowers really can be quite spectacular. An additional issue with them is their size – they are large plants and can grow even larger rather quickly. I experimented with putting plants outside for the summer with varying degrees of success, but mostly I only succeeded in bringing lots of bugs and extra problems into the house over the winter. So for some considerable time I gave up with Cymbidium altogether.

Through the medium of Facebook I heard that Jeff Hutchings of Laneside Hardy Orchids had a few excess plants of Cymbidium ensifolium that he had acquired from one of the major shows this year, so I decided to take the plunge and purchased two bare-root plants from him. I had done some reading around the subject and found that these Cymbidium have a very wide distribution in their native habitat and are well adapted to warm conditions. It turns out that the Japanese and Chinese are serious about Cymbidiums, having cultivated them for a thousand years or so, and there are some really lovely cultivars out there, though they are rather thin on the ground in the UK. I had read that the plants could be fussy and hard to grow but, so far, not a bit of it.

Once the plants arrived, I potted them in deep pots containing a mix of sphagnum moss and bark chips. The warmer growing cymbidiums do not like to dry out at all and I find they grow better when kept quite damp. I am well aware that the use of sphagnum moss will mean that I’ll have to re-pot quite frequently, but the plants do not seem to mind being disturbed (as evidenced by my receiving them bare-root and then immediately starting to grow once potted up). As an added advantage, the plants are nice and compact and do not take up huge amounts of space in my grow-room, and some cultivars are also pleasantly variegated. Imagine my surprise and delight when both of the plants produced fresh root growth and flower spikes.

For some time, I had been wondering what the wonderful, zesty, citrus smell was in and around my grow-room. It took me over a week to work it out, but I eventually traced it back to Cymbidium ensifolium ‘Ching Sha Yu Chun’ which had opened its flowers. The blooms are not large or extravagantly produced (around 3 or 4 per spike), but they are stunningly elegant and in perfect proportion to the size of the plant – and very strongly fragrant to boot. The delicate ivory colour of the blooms extends right down the flower spike and the petals remain swept forward elegantly over the column. The flowers last in good condition for around three or four weeks before falling from the spike without really decaying. The other plant, Cymbidium ensifolium ‘Shi Chang Hong’ has delicate ivory flowers boldly marked in red, with red spots on the lip and is similarly fragrant.

It is my intention to try to find more of these plants to add to my collection, but they do tend to be hard to find and expensive which is a shame because they are proving to be no trouble for me at all, and I would definitely recommend them to people who love Cymbidium but can’t give the standard varieties the conditions and space they require.

Cym. ensifolium 'Ching Sha Yu Chun'

Cym. ensifolium ‘Ching Sha Yu Chun’

Cym-ensifolium 'Shi Chang Hong'

Cym-ensifolium ‘Shi Chang Hong’

Orchid of the Month – December 2016 – Coelia bella

After returning from a very pleasant few days away earlier in the month, I found that the flowers I had been watching develop on Coelia bella had opened at last. I have been growing this plant for a while, and it has finally reached flowering size. This species seems to need to reach quite a size before blooming.  It originates from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, and can be found at a range of elevations, giving the plant good temperature tolerance. I grow it at warm temperatures (such as might be appropriate for Phalaenopsis species and hybrids) with good results. Regardless of temperature, the plant takes a brief rest between maturing its pseudobulbs and starting to produce new ones, at which time it blooms.

I give plenty of water to this plant, treating it much like a Coelogyne species. It does not like to dry out at all, even while it is resting, and seems to enjoy quite wet conditions, at least under warm temperatures. It is possible that it would appreciate being kept a little drier under cooler conditions, but I haven’t tried that.

It was interesting watching the flower spike develop because it starts out rather like a new growth emerging from a mature pseudobulb, but quickly becomes much fatter, though I can’t call its development fast, with buds only becoming visible right before they are about to open, and remaining partially hidden between their protective bracts, even after opening.

The flowers are produced on short racemes with long bracts, the flowers remaining tubular and opening fully only at the tip. There are around 5 flowers per raceme, and they are quite large, but due to their habit of not opening fully, they are much longer than they are wide, and they barely escape from their surrounding bracts.  They have a heavy, almost crystalline, texture and are mostly white with pinkish-purple tips, and a narrow, yellow, pointed lip. This species is reported as being marzipan-scented, but I can only assume that whoever wrote that has never smelled marzipan (mine smells of marzipan / oil of almonds / benzaldehyde – editor). The scent is very pleasant indeed but is (at least to me) more reminiscent of that of species such as Dendrochilum glumaceum, but slightly spicier.  The flowers last just over a week, though they may last longer under cooler conditions.

The flowering racemes sit well below the foliage and cluster among the pseudobulbs. The leaves are long and strap-like, with each pseudobulb bearing around five leaves, emerging erect from the apex of the pseudobulbs and arching over gracefully. The plant itself puts me in mind of one of the narrower-leaved Aspidistra species. Pseudobulbs are rounded, ovoid and pale green. On my plant, they are around 5cm or more in diameter, but may increase further as the plant grows.

Coelia bella is one of those unfortunate plants that has had taxonomic tennis played with it quite a lot in the past, being assigned to genera such as Bothriochilus and Bifrenaria before finally finding a home in Coelia.

Coelia bella

 

 

Orchid of the Month – January 2017- Encyclia cordigera

Encyclia cordigera is probably the most showy species in the genus. Three colour forms exist, with my plant being intermediate between the fully pink and fully green forms. The fully pink form used to be known as Epidendrum atropurpureum, while the semi-alba form I have used to be known as Encyclia randii (or sometimes E. cordigera var. randii). As I understand it, all three colour forms are now known simply as Encyclia cordigera. This species comes from Mexico, though its habitat may stretch as far as Brazil. This wide distribution makes the plant quite adaptable to a variety of conditions, and it seems more than happy to grow and flower in my rather warm and humid grow-room. It is reportedly rather intolerant of being constantly damp, and needs a distinct drying period between watering, though in my experience, most of the roots extend along the top of the growing medium and so rarely stay wet for any length of time. It would be true to say that there is only one flush of roots per pseudobulb, and these do not grow throughout the entire year, meaning that watering should be cut back when the plant is not obviously growing. It is a good idea to keep this species underpotted as much as possible, as this will help to stop it sitting wet. I have experimented with other Encyclia species (E. tampensis, E. alata and E. cordigera var. alba) by growing them in baskets used for planting aquatic plants in pools, as they prefer drier conditions at the roots, but I have found they do better for me in shallow pots. This species also demands bright light, otherwise it won’t bloom well.

The flowers are long lived (around a month) and are scented. I confess I like the scent, but it does rather remind me of play dough, though there is reputedly quite a bit of variation in scent from plant to plant.

According to my research, this species blooms in late winter to spring, though, as I grow it under lights, I can often flower it twice a year. It blooms at the end of the growth cycle (for me), quite a while before new growth commences, and usually rests for a few weeks after flowering.

My plant has two growing points, and at the last blooming, it produced two inflorescences with three flowers each (which was disappointing). This time, only one new growth emerged, and its inflorescence produced six flowers. I hope the second growing point wakes up soon.

Encyclia cordigera

Encyclia cordigera

Orchid of the Month – February 2017 – Coelogyne usitana

This month, I’m featuring a lovely species which isn’t the easiest to get hold of, but seems quite easy to grow. Coelogyne usitana is a comparatively new species to cultivation, only having been described in 2001, after being discovered in the Philippines and named after its discoverer, Vimoor Usita. The newness to cultivation goes some way to explaining its scarcity, and I expect it will become more common in collections in the future. This species really does have a lot going for it. It is part of the Speciosae section of Coelogyne and shares a lot of characteristics with other members of that group. The most obvious of these similarities are the downward pointing flowers on drooping peduncles. In nature, this is an adaptation to a wet climate, and is said to prevent self-pollination. In cultivation, of course, this means that the plant really needs to be grown in a basket and hung up to enjoy the flowers properly. It is a warm grower, and I have read that it is one of the species most intolerant of cool temperatures (potentially becoming defoliated at temperatures of around 10oC), though I haven’t experimented with my plant. I have seen it described online as a small growing species, but this really isn’t my experience at all. The overall size of the plant seems to be quite large (larger than, for example, Coelogyne speciosa), with leaves easily being 12 to 18 inches in length. Other than its size, it is quite similar to Coelogyne speciosa, the taller and slimmer pseudobulbs being clumped together on the rhizome and topped with a single large leaf. Flower spikes are produced from the new growth as it is still unfurling, and curve down so that the flowers open beneath the foliage. The blooms are a greenish-cream colour with a dark coloured lip. In some specimens, it is said to be almost black, but my plant is more dark orange to chocolate brown.

My plant is relatively young as yet (flowering for the second time now under my conditions), and I have yet to see whether it has the ability to produce numerous new growths so as to produce a good clump with several spikes, all flowering at the same time.

It forms hybrids readily, the most famous of which is probably Coelogyne Lyme Bay, made by Burnham Nurseries and registered in 2006 A very dark-lipped form of Coelogyne speciosa was selected as the pod parent, and this cross has produced very favourable results. This hybrid has been re-made both on the continent and in Australia, though whether the outcome is similar, I cannot say. Further hybrids are being created on the continent, a couple of which have found their way into my collection, and these produce very large flowers indeed.  Having mentioned the size of the plant earlier, it is worth noting here that this appears to be a trait it passes on to its hybrids, too, and sufficient space should be given over to them to reach specimen size.

Coelogyne usitana

Coelogyne usitana

Orchid of the Month – March 2017- Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory ‘Liodoro’

This month, I feature a real favourite of mine for a variety of reasons, namely, Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory ‘Liodoro’. This hybrid is rather unflatteringly known as a ‘novelty’ hybrid, simply meaning that it isn’t one of the large-flowered, blousy hybrids one usually finds at a garden centre, although I have found plants of Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory ‘Liodoro’ in garden centres before now (usually lurking on the reduced price bench, looking sad because they were overpriced to start with).

The hybrid was registered in 1982 as a cross between P. x deventeriana (P. amabilis x P. amboinensis) and P. violacea, and there are several clones of Phal. Sweet Memory about, although only ‘Liodoro’ is commonly found in Europe

With both P. amboinensis and P. violacea in its pedigree, it would be reasonable to expect this hybrid to be fragrant, and in this respect it certainly doesn’t disappoint. On younger plants, the flower count can be a little disappointing with only two or three flowers being open at a time. Luckily the perfume is quite strong, and even one or two flowers will fill a room with scent on a warm sunny morning. The flower spikes produce flowers in flushes over a couple of years and should not be cut off while they are still green, as they are quite capable of producing more flowers intermittently over quite a long period. A new flower spike is produced usually annually, so the overall flower count increases quite dramatically with time. The flower spikes themselves are of a similar height to those of P. amboinensis, and flowers are displayed well above the foliage. One disadvantage of P. violacea is that flowers are only usually produced singly (one per spike) and sit directly on top of the foliage, so it is good to see that the hybrid has bought out the best qualities of both parents.

The foliage is lime green and very broad in comparison to that of most modern hybrids, showing a strong tendency to be pendent, which can make potted plants very prone to tipping over. I have already put a weight on top of mine to keep it upright until I get round to potting it on. I wonder whether it would make a prime candidate for mounting on bark.  I am experimenting with leaving the flower spikes un-staked in order to see what kind of display I get. My plant currently has three branched flower spikes, as well as a new one that is forming this season, and so I look forward to seeing it reach its peak.

Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory 'Liodoro'

Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory ‘Liodoro’

Orchid of the Month – April 2017- Coelogyne x Neroli Cannon

For this month, I feature a hybrid between Coelogyne fragrans and Coelogyne speciosa. I got this plant in November 2015. It was quite a young division at the time, but it grew quite quickly and this is its second flowering for me. The overall habit of the plant is very much like Coelogyne speciosa, but maybe with a slightly longer rhizome and a slightly more slender pseudobulb. It seems to have inherited its parents’ vigour, and has already produced a second lead growth. One of the major criticisms I often hear about Coelogyne speciosa is that the flowers point downward (to keep the heavy rains of its native habitat out of the centre of the flower, thus preventing self-pollination), although I don’t mind this at all. The hybrid has inherited the somewhat thicker and more upright flower spikes of Coelogyne fragrans and could probably be staked upright if so desired. I prefer to allow them to arch naturally. It enjoys the warm humid conditions that I provide for it, but I suspect it would do quite well on a window sill. The flowers are quite large at around 6.5cm diameter, and only 1 cm smaller than my largest speciosa flower, and flowering periods often overlap so that there is usually more than one flower open at a time. They would probably be a little wider still but for the fact that the petals sweep backwards and cross over behind the flower. The plant is still quite young and it is possible that the flowers will get a little larger still as the plant gains in size and strength. It is a sequential bloomer, so I don’t know what the final flower count will be, but there is already an improvement over the last flowering (I got two flowers). The scent is not strong, and this may be a blessing, as some clones of Coelogyne speciosa have quite an unpleasant scent and the genes of that species tend to be dominant in its hybrids.

Coelogyne x Neroli Cannon

 

Orchid of the Month – May 2017 – Asconopsis Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’

For this month, I am featuring Asconopsis Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’, a cross between Phalaenopsis ‘Doris’ and Vanda miniata (syn. Ascocentrum miniatum). I purchased this plant just over a year ago via mail order from Schwerter Orchids in Germany for a very reasonable price. I had grown it in the past with some success, but this hybrid does come with something of a reputation for being fussy and difficult to grow – if you research this hybrid online, you’ll find some real horror stories! I have read several reports of the plant not growing leaves or roots and eventually declining and dying. When I first got it, it was a fresh import and had been potted in sphagnum moss, although all the roots were at the top of the pot. My first job was to remove all the moss, because I never succeed with growing orchids in this medium. I then potted the plant in coarse bark chips in an aquatic pot, thinking that it would need to be treated more like its Vanda parent with plenty of air around its roots and perfect drainage. I grow Vanda successfully this way. Although the plant did produce a new root under this regime, it never seemed happy, so eventually I took it out of its pot to look at the roots. I found that they hadn’t died, but hadn’t made any progress either so, I assumed it wasn’t getting enough water to put on growth. I re-potted the plant into a shallow pot (15cm Streptocarpus pot) of medium bark chips, placed it with my Phalaenopsis and crossed my fingers. Several months passed before I noticed that a root was emerging from the surface of the potting medium, and another was poking through the bottom. I also noticed a flower spike at this time. It appears that it needs to be treated like any other Phalaenopsis, but perhaps with slightly brighter light. I see no sign of the plant flagging as yet, and it seems to grow OK provided it gets the right conditions (which I guess is true for any orchid).

Once the plant produces flowers, the wait and stress all becomes worthwhile. They are a colour that is never found in Phalaenopsis alone, a lovely peachy orange. They are not large flowers, as one might expect with Vanda miniata as a parent, but are produced on a branching inflorescence of about 20 flowers. I do recommend this hybrid, particularly if you are able to offer it warmth, humidity and bright light.

Asconopsis Irene Dobkin 'Elmhurst'

Asconopsis Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’

Orchid of the Month – June 2017 -Warczewiczella discolor (formerly Cochleanthes discolor)

I bought this plant from Burnham Nurseries with some trepidation because I have never done well with this genus in the past, and I know I have killed this particular species before now. There seems to be conflicting information on the internet regarding its care, with advice varying wildly between the need to keep it both on the dry and wet side, and between both growing it warm and cool. I only have facilities for one set of growing conditions, so it was Hobson’s choice for me!  In fact, this species has taken to the warm, humid and breezy conditions of my grow-room like a duck to water. I have placed it where it stays quite damp for long periods, and the plant never dries out. Three new growths have already emerged, which is promising. This species was formerly assigned to the genus Cochleanthes, but is now considered a species of Warczewiczella (but who can spell or even pronounce that?), is related to Zygopetalum, and has a reputation, not necessarily one for being especially difficult, but for the foliage to mark easily resulting in unsightly plants. The traditional advice is not to allow water to get onto the foliage, as it results in black marks. This seems a bit odd to me, since the plants come from naturally wet areas and must get rained upon in nature. I think it is more a case of making sure that there is enough air movement around the plants, so that sitting water can evaporate, while maintaining the necessary humidity. No marks have appeared on my plant, and it looks as healthy as the day I got it, with the added benefit of flowers. The blooms are indeed beautiful, with a deep purple lip and contrasting off-white petals. The scent is difficult to describe, but reminds me very much of Vicks vapo-rub, which I find very pleasant, though it might not be to everyone’s taste.

Warczewiczella discolor

Warczewiczella discolor

Encouraged by the success of growing W. discolor (but before it furnished me with flowers), I also purchased two hybrid plants. There are only four species in the genus, so the hybrid can’t be that complex, and I suspect it is actually W. amazonica x W. discolor (W. x Sonnenberg), though I cannot be certain. I got two differently coloured cultivars, the first with a pink lip and the other a purple lip, though all colour forms seem to carry the same name. Sadly, Googling for W. x Sonnenberg doesn’t bring up many meaningful results, though it is likely that the various colour forms are all seedlings from the same cross. The plants are large and healthy, and I have already potted them on. I haven’t attempted to remove any of the old potting medium (sphagnum) because the roots were solid in the pot, and I didn’t see any reason to cause them unnecessary damage by trying to separate them out. The plants seem to like lots of water, so I’m not worried about the centre staying wet. I have put crocks (polystyrene chips) in the new pots so that the roots will drain well, and new roots are already showing. The plants will need potting on again in a year’s time. There are several new growths on both plants. These plants seem to flower on mature growths at around the time that new growth commences, and several flowers may be produced in succession from one fan of leaves (the plants lack pseudobulbs). Each spike bears a single flower. One plant, the pink- lipped form, has produced several flowers. They are large and resemble those of W. amazonica in shape, but with more solid colour on the lip. They are slightly scented and last around two weeks in my warm grow-room. In cooler conditions, they may last quite a bit longer, as they are heavy textured and robust.

Warczewiczella hybrid

Warczewiczella hybrid

Orchid of the Month – August 2017 – Coelogyne Bird in Flight

For this month, I am featuring a primary hybrid that I got as a seedling two years ago.  It has grown strongly, if slowly, and has now produced flowers for the first time.  Coelogyne Bird In Flight has C. usitana as its pod parent and C. lawrenceana as its pollen parent.  The hybrid falls somewhere between the two, with neither being too dominant.  The pseudobulbs resemble those of C. usitana, but the overall shape and size of the plant is smaller (C. usitana is quite a large species, despite my having read in various places that it is small or miniature) due to the influence of C. lawrenceana.  Thankfully, the more creeping habit of C. lawrenceana hasn’t come through, and the hybrid seems to be nice and clump-forming (making it easier to accommodate in a pot).

I was quite surprised to see a flower spike developing, as I wasn’t expecting flowers until the plant was a little larger, maybe in a year’s time.   As is very characteristic of its lawrenceana parent, the spike was painfully slow to develop.  To add to the suspense, the first two flower buds blasted, and I wondered whether I would see flowers after all.  The third bud did open, and it was well worth the wait.  The pendulous habit of C. usitana is very dominant in its hybrids, and this is no exception, although the spike has lost a lot of its length and the rachis is not quite so zig-zag in shape.  I am pleased that the spikes produce a succession of flowers, as C. lawrenceana tends to produce only one or two flowers per spike.  The current spike will have produced four flowers (though two didn’t open) before it runs out of steam, which bodes well for decent flower counts in the future.  The flowers themselves are large, well-coloured, especially on the lip, and carry a light pleasant fragrance, which is always a plus point for me.

As is the case with seedlings, other growers may have plants producing quite different flowers to those on mine, but overall, I am very pleased with it. The plant has reached flowering size, while comfortably fitting into a 12cm pot.

Coelogyne Bird in Flight, close up of flower

Coelogyne Bird in Flight, close up of flower

Coelgyne Bird in Flight

Coelgyne Bird in Flight, showing plant habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchid of the Month – August 2017 – Coelogyne speciosa

An Unusual Form of Coelogyne speciosa – or is it?

I have several plants of this species, some of which I may have discussed before in previous posts. The plant I discuss today was purchased as the hybrid Coelogyne Pocahontas, but once a flower opened, it was clear that wasn’t what I had bought, and I have since had my money returned from the nursery concerned. The plant is nice and healthy, however, and is not the same as any of the other C. speciosa that I grow and, for that reason, I think it is worth keeping and growing on to specimen size. Coelogyne speciosa seems to grow easily for me (though I’m led to believe that this is true for practically everyone) and it flowers regularly. This particular plant produces lots of new shoots, most of which flower. The flower spikes are nice and short and so, the fragrant flowers are well displayed. Two or three flowers are produced per spike, but no more than that. The foliage is quite slender and upright compared to many other plants that I grow of this species, and stays well out of the way of the flowers. Probably the only criticism I have is that the spikes sometimes get stuck inside the new growths, but I think the plant is probably still acclimatising to my conditions (I don’t consider a plant to be properly settled in until I’ve had it for a year or more).

I gave up on trying to find names for the various forms of this species long ago, so now I’m reduced to ‘green’, ‘yellow’ and other even more imaginative adjectives. If there is a proper system out there for naming these variants, I’d be happy to be taught it. In the meantime, enjoy the picture!

Coelogyne speciosa

Coelogyne speciosa

Orchid of the Month -September 2017 – Encyclia tampensis var.alba

Encyclia tampensis is a delightful species of orchid that originates from Florida (Tampa bay, hence the name) and the Bahamas. I obtained the alba form of the species from a German nursery a couple of years ago. The plant is quite small and fits easily into a 10cm clay pot. I prefer to use a clay pot for this species because, much like other Encyclia species, it particularly resents having stagnant roots and seems to do better when allowed to dry out thoroughly between waterings. As a rule of thumb, provided the leading pseudobulb is nice and plump, the plant is receiving sufficient water.  Although I stated my plant is quite small, it is, nevertheless, flowering size and even mature specimens of this species don’t get very large. The pseudobulbs are only an inch or so high, are rounded to slightly conical in shape and are quite shiny beneath the persistent leaf sheaths. As Encyclia species, allegedly, have a reputation for attracting scale insects, I generally remove dried leaf sheaths from around the pseudobulbs, although it has to be said that there are other genera in my growroom that scale much prefer, and I don’t think I’ve ever found a single one on any of my Encyclia. At least this keeps them tidy, and I assume it allows more light onto the plant too. The leaves are long, upright, narrow, V-shaped in cross-section and quite thickly textured, with usually only one per pseudobulb. The plant is well adapted to bright light, receiving only light shade in its native habitat. It appears not to need such high humidity as do many other orchids, and thrives where air movement is strong. It also enjoys warm or hot temperatures, and is thus an ideal candidate for my growroom.

Flowers are produced in a raceme from the top of the newly matured pseudobulb. The typical form of the species is quite variable, but the flowers typically have a greenish background with varying degrees of overlay in the form of chestnut markings. The lip is usually white with a purple ‘splodge’ in the middle. My plant produces mid-green flowers with a pure white lip, and no purple ‘splodge’. To my eye, the colour of the alba form of the species is more striking than the regular form.  The blooms are not large in themselves, but are a nice size compared with that of the whole plant. The inflorescences are sparingly branched, bearing usually no more than 15 – 20 flowers, although several inflorescences may be produced as the plant readily develops multiple lead growths. An added bonus with this species is that it is delightfully scented, particularly in bright light. The scent is very sweet but not cloying or overpowering. Flowers last in good condition for around three weeks, possibly more if kept cool.

Encyclia tampensis var alba

Encyclia tampensis var alba

 

Orchid of the Month – October 2017 – Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen

Bulbophyllum and their relatives form an entire group of orchids that, on the whole, I find almost impossible to grow. I have never succeeded, and the plants have defied my numerous attempts to grow them. However, as is often the case, Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen appears to be the exception that proves the rule. From what I can gather, the hybrid was made in 2006 and is the progeny of B. Jersey (B. lobbii x B. echinolabium) and B. echinolabium.  I have attempted to grow B. Jersey and B. lobbii before and failed, so maybe I’d be better attempting to grow B. echinolabium instead. Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen is a vigorous plant. It is quite large with stocky, nicely clumping, fat pseudobulbs topped by a single, broad, leathery leaf. It is very well suited to growing in a pot as it doesn’t have long lengths of rhizome between its pseudobulbs. Having said that, the pseudobulbs do get rather large, so it can outgrow a container quickly. My plant already needs potting on from the 15cm pot I put it in when I got it (because it needed potting on then, too!). Much like all bulbophyllums, it is very shallowly rooted and therefore, broad shallow pots are best for cultivating it. It might be that I will have to improvise and cut a pot down to size when I come to pot it on.  My plant grows in medium bark chips and gets watered, fed and supplied with seaweed extract on the same cycle as all my other orchids. The pseudobulbs wrinkle a bit if I leave the plant too long between one watering and the next, but this is probably preferable to keeping it too wet, and the plant doesn’t seem to suffer for it.

The flower spikes seem to appear at random and not necessarily from the most recent pseudobulb, so it would be reasonable to assume that large plants may produce more flowers, even if they don’t appear to have more lead growths. I should also point out that this plant (although it may apply to all bulbophyllums – I wouldn’t know) seems very liable to bud blast, and occasionally, even spike blast. I haven’t discovered what causes this, but I suspect that moving the plant around while in spike doesn’t help, especially from one room to another. A nice feature that it has inherited from B. echinolabium is that it is a sequential bloomer- always a good feature, particularly as individual flowers are quite short-lived (only a few days under my conditions). Flowers are quite large (several inches from top to bottom) and have the characteristic rocking lip of Bulbophyllum. They are basically brown in colour, but are pleasantly marked with red reticulation, making them quite beautiful in a sinister kind of way.

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the hybrid is essentially three quarters Bulbophyllum echinolabium, so you might be wondering whether it has inherited the ‘delightful odour’ for which B. echinolabium is so famous and loved.  Thankfully not! I have got close up and had a good sniff at it during all stages of flowering and can’t detect so much as a waft of scent. I must admit, I do like flowers to be scented, even if the scent is not pleasant, but on this occasion it may be a blessing.

Bulbophyllum Valley Island Queen

Bulbophyllum Valley Island Queen

Orchid of the Month – November 2017 – Coelogyne pandurata

Anyone who reads this column regularly will realise that the author has a bit of a soft spot for Coelogyne. I can’t deny it – I love them. This month’s article showcases a species that it has taken me some considerable time to track down, at least at a price I was willing to pay. It came from one of my trusty contacts in Germany, and was a nice-sized plant. Also, it was clearly a division, rather than a seedling, so I (rightly) assumed it might bloom earlier.

Before we get too far in, I should point out that there are a few imposters out there. Many plants being sold as C. pandurata are in fact the hybrid C. Burfordiense (a lovely plant in its own right) which is a hybrid using Coelogyne asperata as the pod parent. Coelogyne Burfordiense can get to very large proportions, and its size and habit will give it away. There are a couple of other species which have similar (though usually smaller) flowers, those being C. parishii and C. brachyptera. The flowers are superficially similar, but the habit of the plants is quite different and both are considerably smaller than C. pandurata. Still – beware of imposters!

Coelogyne pandurata is found in Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and the Philippines, and requires year-round warm or hot conditions to thrive. It enjoys high humidity in its native range, but seems quite happy at the somewhat lower humidities of my growroom (I have to control humidity quite carefully because it can encourage fungal and bacterial problems). It also requires quite a lot of water, and does not appear to have a rest phase as such, but launches into new growth once a pseudobulb has been completed. The plant needs very high light levels to produce blooms regularly (think Cattleya levels). Plants in less bright light will grow beautifully, but fail to bloom.

When you see the picture of the flower below, you will probably wonder why more people do not grow this species. The truth of the matter is that while the flowers are utterly delectable, the plant itself is rather badly behaved. For some of the orchids I describe as ‘badly behaved’, I might mean that they don’t grow well in some way, or that they are prone to getting various pests and diseases. It is rather the opposite with Coelogyne pandurata. It grows fast, and has long lengths of rhizome between its pseudobulbs, meaning it quickly outgrows its containers. The pseudobulbs are rather round in one aspect, flattened in the other, and are topped by a pair of stiff leaves of around 15cm or more in length. While not the size of C. Green Dragon or C. asperata, the plant is still large, and wanders far more than either of the above. I am experimenting with planting offshoots (yes, it is producing offshoots already) at the edge of a large pot and training the new shoots round the outside. The shoots are not easy to direct in any way you might want them to grow, and the rhizome can be rather brittle and will snap if you are too rough with it.  Luckily, if a break does occur, the plant will re-sprout readily and you end up with a new plant to pass on in future. Root growth is vigorous and occurs in two flushes from the main rhizome at almost any time, and also from the base of the newly completed pseudobulb.

The flowers are produced from new growth while it is still very young. Spikes tend towards the upright, but those with more flowers will arch a little. Flowers are reputed to be quite fragrant, but I haven’t noticed this on my plant. The blooms themselves are a gorgeous green with bold black marks on the lip. The colour combination rather reminds me of those old-fashioned chocolate lime sweets, and is very striking indeed.

Coelogyne pandurata

Coelogyne pandurata

Orchid of the Month – December 2017 – Galeandra baueri

Galeandra is a small genus of epiphytic orchids from the American tropics, centred on the Amazon region. They enjoy intermediate or warm conditions (some species grow terrestrially with some elevation). They are not commonly grown, which is a shame as they are quite small and seem easy to grow. They have strict growing and resting phases, and should be treated somewhat like Catasetum (to which the genus is allied), with heavy watering during the growing and flowering phase, but restricted (but not completely withheld) watering during the resting season.

My particular plant (G. baueri) is still on the small side. I bought it potted in coir chunks which I’m afraid I detest, so despite it being in its flowering stage, I potted it into medium bark chips. This is normally against the rules, I know, but the plant carried on regardless with no check in its flowering and no noticeable wrinkling of the pseudobulbs. In subsequent years, I may add some moss to the mix to retain more moisture.  Vegetatively, it somewhat resembles a small Catasetum.  It has narrow, elongate, spindle-shaped pseudobulbs with thin textured, but heavily veined, narrow leaves arranged in a distichous manner.  In common with related genera like Catasetum, the foliage can be a bit of a magnet for spider mites, which in their turn allow fungal diseases to invade the foliage. It is important to be vigilant when it comes to pests and to treat them as soon as they are spotted (I try to avoid using systemic sprays if possible – I find that a spray made up of liquid soap flakes will kill most pests). Luckily, as these plants are deciduous, any damage is only retained for one season. Pseudobulbs are also only retained for one season once their leaves have fallen, at least on my plant.

Flowers are produced from the apex of the newly completed pseudobulb in an arching raceme that blooms intermittently for several weeks. There are never more than two or three flowers at a time, but they are long lasting. As blooms begin to fade, more are produced from nodes on the inflorescence, and one pseudobulb can produce several flushes of flowers. The blooms themselves are thinly textured, but are surprisingly long lasting. The name Galeandra refers to the helmet-shaped anther cap. The blooms are quite large for the size of the plant. My plant seems to produce blooms that are rather paler than most of the pictures I find on Google.

Galeandra baueri

Galeandra baueri

Orchid of the Month – January 2018 – Miltonia Queen Ann

This month, I feature a lovely Miltonia that I obtained via eBay from the Quinta da Boa Vista, Madeira. It came with a few more Miltonia species and hybrids back in January 2016. After having spent more than a fortnight in the post (most of which seemed to have been at a depot in Portugal), the plants arrived in superb condition and none the worse for their ordeal.

The information available on Miltonia Queen Ann is really scant, but its parentage is M. Purple Queen (spectabilis x russelliana) x M. Anne Warne (M.  x bluntii (a natural hybrid between M. clowesii and M. spectabilis) x M. spectabilis). This parentage looks complicated, but there are only really three species involved here (depending on how you view M. spectabilis and its various incarnations), the greatest influence coming from Miltonia spectabilis at 62.5%*.

I have noticed with Miltonia in general that while they very much dislike drying out at the roots, it is still important to make sure that they are well drained. When I first got this plant, I put it in a 10cm shallow pot (a Streptocarpus pot, actually) in medium bark chips, but this kept it far too wet, and although the roots didn’t die on me, the plant has grown much faster and larger since I put it in a 12cm aircone orchid pot with extra crocking at the bottom (I use broken-up polystyrene as one has to be careful with polystyrene peanuts because some are made of corn starch and dissolve as soon as water is added). Since doing this, the plant has come on leaps and bounds and is producing a nice root system despite the fact that I did not change my watering regime.

You can see from the flowers, while they are smaller than the species, the influence of M. spectabilis is nonetheless very strong. I assume that M. spectabilis var. moreliana has been used here since the purple is very deep and covers the whole flower. Note also the deeper purple veining on the lip. There is a slight fragrance, spicy and quite pleasant. There are two flowers per spike. I expect the flower count to increase as the plant gets older, but I don’t expect a large number since M. spectabilis produces only one, or rarely two, flowers per spike. I am pleased to see that while M. spectabilis has had a strong influence on the flowers, this hybrid hasn’t inherited the lengthy rhizome that makes M. spectabilis so difficult to contain in a pot. Furthermore, the plant has plumper pseudobulbs and is generally faster growing and more robust than M. spectabilis.

The plant wasn’t quite flowering size when I got it (despite being listed as such), but it grew two extra (much bigger) pseudobulbs before putting out a spike. As it is, I still think the plant has some growing to do before it fully reaches adult size.

* The author acknowledges Blue Nanta for this data.

Miltonia Queen Ann

 

Orchid of the Month – February – 2018 – Coelogyne lawrenceana

Coelogyne lawrenceana is a beautiful species which has become well known for having large, well displayed, pleasantly scented flowers (some of the largest in the genus). Although well regarded as a species in its own right, it is also present in quite a few of the hybrids, where it contributes towards long-lived, large flowers, as well as (in some cases) more upright flower spikes giving a sequential display. The species hails from Vietnam and grows at a variety of altitudes. At least one hybrid, C. Mem. William Micholitz, appears to be a natural hybrid with C. mooreana, so this gives you some idea of the span of its geographical range.

While it appears to be an easy-to-grow species it is, in some respects, utterly infuriating. The flower spikes are notoriously slow to develop (up to several months for some clones) and the spikes frequently produce only one bloom (although they are, for a Coelogyne at least, quite long-lived). The plants seem determined to climb out of their pots due to the pseudobulbs typically being several centimetres apart on long rhizomes, each pseudobulb growing sequentially higher than the previous. The new growths will only root if they are in direct contact with the potting medium, meaning that it feels like I spend my life dividing and re-potting it, and although it doesn’t appear to mind (or notice), it never reaches specimen size. The relatively wide space between growths also means, of course, that flowering is never as dazzling as it otherwise could be. Add to this it’s frankly alarming habit of having very wrinkled and dehydrated-looking pseudobulbs, despite it being well watered and having a healthy, robust root system (a habit it passes to its progeny), as well as possessing permanently browning leaf tips (another habit it passes on to its progeny), you’d think I was trying to discourage you from growing it.

However, for all its faults, it also grows and flowers easily, and appears to be temperature-tolerant (a friend of mine grows this species several degrees cooler than I do, and does equally well with it, though he also complains of many of the above problems), as well as being able to tolerate uneven watering (the wrinkling of the pseudobulbs doesn’t appear to cause any detriment to the plant).

I have been experimenting with methods of growing some of my more hard-to-accommodate Coelogyne species and hybrids (specifically C. pandurata and C. Green dragon). I have similar problems with length of rhizome and gently climbing habit with both of the above, and my solution is to have them growing in inclined lengths of gutter pipe. It’s early days yet, but it appears to be suiting them. I wonder whether C. lawrenceana may respond to this method, too!

Coelogyne lawrenceana

 

Orchid of the Month – March – 2018 – Pabanisia Eva’s Blue Amazon

Pabanisia Eva’s Blue Amazon is an unusual primary hybrid registered in 1995 that is seldom encountered. The parents are Acacallis cyanea x Pabstia jugosa. This hybrid comes with a fearsome reputation, since its Acacallis parent is considered fickle to grow, but that hasn’t been my experience so far. Acacallis cyanea also has a reputation for only lasting a couple of seasons in cultivation, though it is possible that selective breeding in recent years has eliminated this trait. Also, it appears to be very intolerant of both cool temperatures and drying out, and does not forgive such mistakes easily. The intolerance to cool temperatures is definitely something that it passes down to its hybrids, as I have lost hybrids in the past, so if your plant has A. cyanea in its parentage, you will need to provide warmer temperatures.

I purchased the plant a few months ago from eBay, and it was growing in sphagnum moss. I decided that I wouldn’t disturb it, other than ‘dropping it on’ as it seemed perfectly happy. Since then it has sat in my warm growroom quite happily, and hasn’t even suffered from the marked foliage that one often sees in members of the Zygopetalum alliance, which I put down to providing it with adequate humidity combined with strong air movement. I keep the plant fairly damp, and I do not allow it to dry out between waterings. I am sure it would grow perfectly well in a bark-based mix for some growers, but for me, moss works better as it stays damp for longer. Before long in my care, the plant put out a new growth, and it is this which has produced a flower spike, much to my surprise, as it is quite a bit smaller in stature than many of its more familiar relatives, such as Zygopetalum.

The buds seemed to to take an agonisingly long time to mature and open, but that may be an illusion I can put down to my extreme excitement at seeing a flower spike that I wasn’t expecting. We all have plants in our collection that we couldn’t resist buying, despite being sure that they won’t thrive for us, right? That was certainly the case with this one. At any rate, the flowers are now open, and it was definitely worth the wait. It seems to have inherited the flower shape of P. jugosa and the colouring of A. cyanea, as well as a vigour reputedly not present in either of its parents. The blooms are large for the size of the plant and well-spaced along the spike. There are three flowers on this, its first blooming, but I suspect that four or five is possible for subsequent years, along with more spikes per growth. As is typical for many Zygopetalum alliance plants, the spikes are produced from the new growth while it is still only a few centimeters tall.

Once the new growth is complete, I shall completely repot this plant because sphagnum moss doesn’t last longer than about a year in good condition, especially for plants that need to be kept on the wet side. I suspect that while it is doing well at the moment, it will decline very rapidly once the medium turns sour, so it is definitely best to act before this happens and hope that it doesn’t resent root disturbance.

Pabanisia Eva's Blue Amazon

Pabanisia Eva’s Blue Amazon

 

Orchid of the Month – April 2018 – Brassavola nodosa

Brassavola nodosa has to be one of my all-time favourite orchids. I have had my plant for quite a while, and I have no idea where it originally came from. The species hails from Mexico to as far south as Colombia and northern Venezuela, and grows at low elevations (below about 500m) in mangroves and occasionally, on exposed cliffs. When I first got it, I mounted it on a piece of Buddleja wood and got good results for several years. During that time, I grew all my orchids much cooler than I do now, and B. nodosa does need to be kept much drier if it is grown under cool conditions. In its native habitat, it always grows in warm or hot areas and it does seem to perform better when grown warm. However, once I switched to the warmer conditions I have now, B. nodosa started to decline. It still grew and flowered, but not so robustly as before. I put it down to it being too dry.  I even tried planting the mount in a pot of bark chips, but the plant didn’t send any roots into the pot. Several months ago, I removed the plant from its mount, divided it, and potted the divisions. The change couldn’t have been more marked. The foliage has plumped up, roots are growing and the plant is now in bloom again. It is my hope that as the plants establish in their new pots, more new growths will start to give me fuller plants.

Despite being a member of the Cattleya alliance, Brassavola nodosa really couldn’t look less like a Cattleya if it tried. The foliage is thick, leathery and narrow (semi-terete), though I find the foliage looks less terete when the plant is kept well watered. Pseudobulbs are reduced to a thin stem, a couple of inches long, and it seems that the leaves have taken on the role of water-storage organ.

Brassavola nodosa enjoys bright light, and plants grown in very bright natural light may well take on a purplish tinge, which means that the plant is at its maximum tolerance for light. It appreciates strong air movement, especially when grown at higher temperatures. High humidity is also appreciated, though in my experience, it doesn’t seem essential for pot- grown plants. Plants should be kept well watered while they are actively growing, with only a very short, dry rest to induce blooming (so I read, though my plants bloom regardless of what I do, perhaps because I tend not to keep them too wet).

The flowers are produced from the top of the pseudobulb on a fairly long (compared to the size of the plant) stiffly erect spike. Some cultivars may produce up to six flowers per spike, but I typically get two or three. The sepals and petals are spidery and pale green, while the lip is white and widely flared. Some plants have delicate spotting in the throat of the flower, but my plants do not have this. The spotting, where present, is one of the features that make this species so interesting for breeding purposes because it is not only transferred to the progeny, but appears to be even more pronounced in the hybrids. Flower shape and spotting are usually inherited from B. nodosa, whereas colour typically comes from the other parent.

The most noticeable feature of this species though, is the amazing scent which is present only at night, and which gives the species the common name of ‘Lady of the Night’ (a somewhat dubious honour, really!).

 

Brassavola nodosa

Brassavola nodosa

Orchid of the Month – May 2018 – Dendrobium Golden Aya

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.

Dendrobium Golden Aya

Dendrobium Golden Aya

 

 

Orchid of the Month – June 2018 – Promenzella Sunlight

Promenzella ‘Sunlight’ is a primary hybrid between Promenaea xanthina and Warczewiczella marginata. There is some doubt as to its exact parentage since, according to some sources, ‘Sunlight’ is a hybrid between P. ‘Limelight’ and P. xanthina. I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of the mystery yet, which I find infuriating. However, it is safe to say that if the name Promenzella is correct, then the Warcsewiczella parent has brought absolutely nothing at all to the table, because the hybrid looks exactly like Promenaea xanthina, both in and out of bloom.  I might charitably guess that the plant has extra hybrid vigour, but I doubt that this is the case somehow.

I was given this plant, some time ago, in an order of other orchids as a refund for the extra postage I’d paid.  Only in a 6cm pot and in full bloom, it really is a miniature and should fit comfortably into anyone’s collection. There seems to be some dispute over the temperature that Promenaea should be grown at, but all I really take from this is that they are quite adaptable provided certain conditions are met, and these conditions seem to apply to quite a few members of Zygopetalinae. The first is that they do not like to dry out, and benefit from being grown in a more water-retentive medium than comes naturally to me (sphagnum moss works well, although it needs changing regularly as the plants also dislike stale conditions at the roots). With Promenaea and, seemingly, its hybrids too, it is quite easy to tell when they are short on water because the foliage turns a greyish colour, much as in the common spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum).  Many of them don’t seem to like being disturbed, although this might be more the result of repotting at the wrong time (I like to wait until new shoots have started rooting, and I’ve not had any problems yet). Similar to the more commonly grown Zygopetalum, Promenaea (and Warczewiczella for that matter) are very prone to their leaves becoming marked, so it is best to keep the foliage dry if you possibly can. A lot of this comes down to the temperature and air movement though, as I grow warm with a fan blowing during the day, I find that marked foliage tends not to be a problem. Promenaea likes to grow less bright than many orchids, and leaves will scorch if light is too bright. Aim for light levels suitable for Phalaenopsis or maybe a little brighter.  I should add a tip here, which is, that if you are fortunate enough to grow under lights (as I do), you can get away with growing the plants under much brighter light with no ill effects.

The flowers are the most fantastic buttercup yellow and are produced singly or in twos on short, pendulous inflorescences which hang below the foliage, usually over the edge of the pot. Inflorescences are produced from the new growth, usually two per pseudobulb, as it matures, so flowers are naturally produced at the edges of the plant rather than in the middle, allowing them to be seen without the foliage getting in the way (or, from a biological point of view, improving access to pollinators).  I was concerned that the buds were blasting, as a brown spot started to appear on their reverse. However, it turns out that the throat of the flower is brown and this is what can be seen at the back of buds before they open. The colour is disappointing for the first couple of days, but the yellow intensifies as the flower ages, and they positively glow after about a week.

 

Promenzella 'Sunlight'

 

Orchid of the Month – July 2018- Epidendrum Plastic Doll

Epidendrum Plastic Doll is a striking primary hybrid between E. pseudepidendrum and E. ilense. A single glance is enough to tell you that E. pseudepidendrum is the dominant parent here; in fact, the same is true even more generations down the line. All you can really see of E. ilense in this hybrid is a delicate fringing on the lip. Both parents are quite large-growing species, and I expect the hybrid to reach at least three feet tall. My plant has a way to go yet, though it isn’t far from becoming unwieldy because its height makes it top-heavy. Really, it would be better in a clay pot.

I really had this hybrid down as a ‘sulker’ until quite recently, meaning that although it grew and occasionally flowered when it completed a cane, I didn’t think it was as vigorous as it ought to have been, plus it seemed a magnet for red spider mite, so foliage always looked untidy and was shed earlier. It turns out that all it really needed was re-potting and as soon as I gave it a larger pot and fresh growing medium, it put on a spurt both of top growth and of roots, so I assume it is just a little sensitive of potting media going stale. Also, some pots are more appropriate for growing orchids than others, and it might simply be that the pot I now use allows more air to the roots. As I mentioned earlier, it might be better in a clay pot, but I don’t want to do that because I like using clear pots that allow me to monitor the roots.

Flowers are produced from the top of newly completed canes on a thin, drooping terminal inflorescence that is capable of re-flowering several times. This characteristic not only extends the flowering season, but also means that every time the plant produces a new cane it can produce even more flowers, since even old flower spikes are capable of re-blooming. My plant is now blooming on canes that are three years old, two years old and one year old. This characteristic has seemingly been inherited from both parents. I still wouldn’t call it a heavy bloomer, but the flowers are so striking that it is well worth growing.

You may notice on the photo below a neon-pink colour to the plant and flowers. This is in fact nothing to do with the plant at all. I have invested in an LED lighting unit and the combined light of all the variously coloured LED bulbs gives a purplish-pink glow. Directly beneath it, the foliage looks black (meaning that most of the light is being absorbed and not reflected). So far, the results have been good. Plants are growing well, flowering is good and there is no sign of stretching or blanching of foliage. It is my intention to install more of these units as my existing fluorescent bulbs give out.

Epidendrum Plastic Doll

Epidendrum Plastic Doll

Orchid of the Month – August 2018 – Prosthechea prismatocarpa

This species has been renamed several times, with some sources listing it as belonging to genus Panacria. For the time being, however, I shall continue to refer to it as Prosthechea
Prosthechea prismatocarpa came into my collection at Christmas 2016. Having seen mother plants blooming profusely at Burnham Nurseries earlier that year, I was delighted to hear that they had divided the latter and jumped at the chance of adding one to my collection.

According to several sources, this species is a cool to cold grower from the cloud forests of Costa Rica and Panama, and so, as I grow at warmer temperatures, it was with some trepidation that I decided to invest.  It has grown well in my warm conditions, with excellent root growth. The only difference I can see by growing it warm is that it blooms significantly earlier than do those at Burnham Nurseries (early May, as opposed to July/August). The new pseudobulbs produced in my care have been shorter and fatter than those it had previously, but I put this down to differing light levels. Leaves are long and strap-like, and rather thick for a species of Prosthechea. It is rather a large plant and not as amenable to houseplant culture as P. cochleata or similar taxa.  My plant already occupies a 20cm pot and has only just reached flowering size. Add to this the rather wide spacing of the pseudobulbs, and it is easy to understand why it isn’t more widely grown.

Having said all that, when it blooms, it is simply magnificent. The flowers appear from the top of the newly completed pseudobulb, as is usual with Prosthechea. Individual flowers are only a couple of centimeters across, but there are about thirty flowers per spike, which all open together and are really very eye-catching. They are reported to be fragrant, but I couldn’t detect any scent from my plant. Blooms are very long-lasting, and the last of them persisted until early July.

Prosthechea prismatocarpa

Orchid of the Month – September 2018 – Coelogyne chloroptera

This month’s orchid is a charming species of Coelogyne from section Lentiginosae that isn’t often seen, more’s the pity. I got it from a German nursery a little over a year ago, labelled as C. sparsa. It wasn’t until it bloomed a few weeks later that I realised I’d got a mislabelled plant (my search for C. sparsa carried on for a few more months and although I have now found a plant, I haven’t bloomed it yet, so I can’t be sure it is what it claims to be). After some resource consultation, I concluded that the plant I’d been sent was a rather nice form of Coelogyne chloroptera, as that was the only description that fitted.

This species comes from the Philippines, at elevations of around 1000m, and is epiphytic or lithophytic. It needs a warm, humid environment, despite the elevations it grows at, and has settled in very well to my conditions. New growths are unusually flattened, and the inflorescences are produced while growths are still very small, usually in early spring. The flowers are not large, but are produced in decent numbers (up to 15 blooms), arranged in two ranks on the gracefully arching inflorescence. As a bonus, the flowers are subtly scented and appear to be full of nectar, which sits at the back of the lip. They are pale green, with the petals flung wide, and the dorsal sepal sat low, covering the column, presumably so as to help prevent self-pollination during heavy rains.

In common with most other Coelogyne that I grow, this species seems to appreciate quite a lot of water, despite it being a seasonal grower and inactive for long periods, especially in late summer and autumn. While periods of dryness when not growing don’t appear to cause too many problems, the plant retains old foliage better if kept damper. Even the leaves on the current year’s pseudobulbs are apt to drop if the plant is kept too dry. When repotting it last year, I put polystyrene chips in the bottom of the pot, but I think they might be better omitted the next time I repot.

Coelogyne chloroptera

Coelogyne chloroptera

 

Orchid of the Month – October 2018 – Coelogyne – Lyme Bay

Coelogyne Lyme Bay is one of those hybrids that everyone seems to have heard of, but few seem to grow. This is a great shame, as it is easy to grow and flower, and appears not to grow too big. I have two plants carrying this name. One of these is a division of a mother plant from Burnham Nurseries (who first made the cross from selected forms of C. speciosa and C. usitana in 1996), and should probably carry the clonal name ‘Burnham’, although this doesn’t appear on the tag. The second is a plant that I purchased from a German nursery, which is almost certainly a seedling from a batch that they made and does not carry a clonal name. It is this second German plant that I shall discuss here, as I have managed to get it to bloom. It was quite a large plant when it arrived, and had clearly bloomed before. I generally prefer plants not to be in full bloom when they arrive, as the flowers will almost certainly not last once unpacked, and I am then faced with a long wait before I am presented with blooms again. After a few weeks of doing nothing, the plant produced several new shoots, the first of which has by now flowered. On a recent visit to Devon, I saw Coelogyne Lyme Bay in flower at Burnham Nurseries. The flowers were quite striking, with lime green petals and sepals and dark chocolate brown lip and column, especially on freshly opened blooms. I hope that my division from them will be similar, but at the time of writing, I have yet to flower it.

My plant from Germany is far more ‘clumpy’ in habit (perhaps this is a trait that they select for) than my plant from Burnham Nurseries, though it might be that it too will become more clumped as it gets older. It is also possible that there is more than one seedling in the pot. I shall find out as more flower spikes open toward the other side of the plant. More importantly, however, the flowers are quite different. You expect this from a batch of seedlings, and many slightly different crosses involving the Speciosae group of Coelogyne can tend to look rather similar to each other. Therefore, when a good plant turns up in any batch of seedlings, it is given a clonal name (like Burnham Nurseries’ ‘Burnham’ clone) to differentiate it from the rest. My plant from Germany has a much more brightly coloured lip, and the column is almost the same colour as the petals and sepals. This in itself isn’t a problem and the flowers are perfectly nice, though my plant has inherited the unfortunate habit from C. speciosa of flinging its petals right back until they almost cross at the back of the flower. While this is an endearing feature of the species, it is not as desirable in the hybrid, as the flower lacks the ‘fullness’ that the named clones possess. All in all, I am not convinced that the hybrid is any more desirable than its parents (although I see no reason to pass it on either, as it wasn’t expensive and besides, I think it is very informative to grow more than one clone of any given hybrid, especially if one of them has a clonal name and the other doesn’t). It is very clear why Burnham Nurseries have given their plant a clonal name and why it so often wins awards when displayed.

Coelogyne Lyme Bay

Coelogyne Lyme Bay

 

Orchid of the Month – November 2018 – Coelogyne pulverula

Coelogyne pulverula (still known to many as C. dayana) is one of the warmer growing species in the Tomentosae section of the genus. Allied to other similar species, such as C. rochussenii and C. tomentosa (formerly C. massangeana), it comes from similar areas (Java, Malaysia and Thailand). It grows easily and quickly in warm conditions, but tends to be absent from many collections because it does not flower until it has reached a large size. This doesn’t seem to be connected to the size of the pseudobulbs so much as to the overall size of the clump. The pseudobulbs are around 20cm tall, and you can add another 50cm for the leaves. Mine is quite a hefty plant for one that has only now just reached flowering size in a 20cm pot, which it completely fills, both on the surface with pseudobulbs, and inside with roots.   It is, however, a species well suited to basket culture due to both its size and its pendulous inflorescences, but I will have to look very hard to find a transparent container large enough to accommodate it.  When the plant blooms, the inflorescences arise from new, very young growth, and the flowers will likely be open before the leaves have really begun to emerge. The inflorescences grow to around 1m long and hang vertically downward, bearing 30 or more flowers which open simultaneously.

I recently acquired another specimen of this plant which was bought from the same nursery (though a few years earlier) by a friend, and it is interesting to see how plants of the same species from the same nursery behave under different growers’ conditions. My plant, grown under artificial light with warm temperatures all year round, grows very upright with quite tall, slender pseudobulbs. My second plant, grown under natural light and slightly cooler temperatures all year round by my friend has broader leaves that spread out much further, presumably as a means of collecting extra light during the darker times of year. They are also a much darker green colour. The pseudobulbs are shorter and fatter (the overall volume being more or less the same).

The flowers are around 3cm wide and spaced evenly in two ranks on the inflorescence. They are a pale buff colour, with chestnut-brown markings on the lip. Not inspiring as individuals, they nonetheless give an impressive show on a 1m-long spike. This species produces its flowers all at the same time, resulting in a curtain of flowers on mature, well grown specimens, and this is where this species has the advantage over C. tomentosa which will flower at a younger age and at a smaller size, but here, flowers are produced intermittently throughout the year and therefore, don’t make such a big impact.

Coelogyne pulverula

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