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
Orchid of the Month – May 2018 – 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.