Orchid of the Month
My name is Kevin Wigley and, as I have been invited to write a monthly article for the Orchid Study Group, I thought it might be good to introduce myself and give you all an idea of who I am and what I’m all about.
I suppose I must have been growing orchids for somewhere between twenty and twenty-five years now, so I guess that makes orchids pretty much a lifelong passion of mine. I won’t divulge my exact age, so let’s say I tick the 35-40 box when form-filling. I live in the Midlands, not far from, but not in Birmingham. During office hours, I work for a small family- run plastic moulding business, specializing in low volume parts for various other industries, ranging from aerospace to construction. I would love to be able to make a living out of my hobby, but in this modern age of cheap, imported plants and throwaway culture, I haven’t found a way of realizing this dream in a way that doesn’t seem to me a sell-out.
I don’t have a greenhouse (at least, not that I use for growing anything other than tomatoes). I grow my orchids in an adapted room in my house, under lights. This generally seems very agreeable to the orchids, and I think that my results are improving year on year. I rather fancy that were I to build a greenhouse in the future (which isn’t impossible), I would discover that it comes with a wealth of problems of its own, much the same as growing under lights does.
I am, by my own admission, very much an amateur orchid grower, and I don’t get involved with growing from seed and that side of things, as I’m far too impatient to wait for babies to grow to flowering size. Far better to leave that to people who know what they’re doing. I guess I must own probably three or four hundred orchids, mostly in the intermediate to warm-growing category, since there’s no point growing orchids that aren’t going to thrive for me, just because I think they’re pretty. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t killed my fair share of orchids through choosing plants inappropriate to my growing conditions. These days, I try (not always successfully) to exercise a little more restraint. I have a particular penchant for Coelogyne, and Dendrochilum, though my favourite tends to be whatever happens to be in bloom when I’m asked.
Hopefully, as we get to know each other a little better over the coming months, I’ll give more information on how I grow specific plants and on the growing conditions in my grow-room. It would also be nice to show that anyone of any age and ability can successfully grow orchids, and that there really is no secret mystique to this hobby at all
Click link to view previous Orchid of the Month articles.
Orchid of the Month – February 2016 – Paphiopedilum x leeanum.
Orchid of the Month – March 2016 – Brassolaeliocattleya Young min Orange
Orchid of the Month – April 2016 – The Epidendrum floribundum conundrum.
Orchid of the Month – May 2016 – Eulophia guineensis.
Orchid of the Month – June 2016 – Phalaenopsis mannii
Orchid of the Month – July 2016 – Phalaenopsis tetraspis
Orchid of the Month – August 2016 – Miltonia spectabilis
Orchid of the Month – September 2016 – Prosthechea cochleata hybrid
Orchid of the Month – October 2016 – Coelogyne Rebecca Howe
Orchid of the Month – November 2016 – Cymbidium ensifolium cultivars.
Orchid of the Month – December 2016 – Coelia bella
Orchid of the Month – January 2017- Encyclia cordigera
Orchid of the Month – February 2017 – Coelogyne usitana
Orchid of the Month – March 2017 – Phalaenopsis Sweet Memory ‘Liodoro’
Orchid of the Month- April 2017 – Coelogyne X Neroli Cannon
Orchid of the Month – May 2017 – Asconopsis Irene Dobkin ‘Elmhurst’
Orchid of the Month – June 2017 -Warczewiczella discolor (formerly Cochleanthes discolor)
Orchid of the Month – July 2017- Coelogyne Bird In Flight
Orchid of the Month – August 2017 – Coelogyne speciosa
Orchid of the Month -September 2017 – Encyclia tampensis var. alba
Orchid of the Month – October 2017 – Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen
Orchid of the Month – November 2017 – Coelogyne pandurata
Orchid of the Month – December 2017 – Galeandra baueri
Orchid of the Month – January 2018 – Miltonia Queen Ann
Orchid of the Month – February 2018 -Coelogyne lawrenceana
Orchid of the Month – March 2018 – 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!).