Orchid of the Month

Kevin Wigley

Kevin Wigley

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’

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’