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
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.