Maxillariella variabilis (still referred to as Maxillaria variabilis by some) is a miniature species found over much of South America. Being so widespread, it is quite amenable to a wide range of temperatures and performs well for me in my warm growroom. As it happens, I have several plants, and they too grow well, especially after being outside for the summer. The foliage is narrow and the pseudobulbs bear one or two leaves. … [Read more...]
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.
Vanda vietnamica This used to be the only species in the monotypic genus Christensonia, but has recently been transferred to Vanda. It comes, not surprisingly, from Vietnam and grows at low elevations. It is a small species by Vanda standards and has much more in common with species such as V. cristata and V. pumila, both of which also used to belong in a different genus. Vanda vietnamica is an upright, monopodial, leathery-leaved … [Read more...]
Zygopetalum James Strauss 'Scentsation' I’ve always had rather a soft spot for Zygopetalum, though I’ve never been good at growing them. This plant was obtained from my local branch of Dobbies for an undisclosed sum! As the name implies, the scent of this hybrid is very strong and most pleasant. I find many zygopetalums to have rather a soapy scent, but the fragrance of this one is nice and spicy, and really does fill the … [Read more...]
Dendrobium amethystoglossum hails from the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. It is a relatively large-growing Dendrobium, though smaller growing forms are to be had. My plant grows in a clay pot, as the stems do not grow directly upwards, but apically tend to arch out, making the plant rather top-heavy. The canes are quite thick, growing to around 45 cm tall, or more, and become leafless after 1 or 2 years. The leaves, though fairly … [Read more...]
Dendrobium hercoglossum Dendrobium hercoglossum is not as widely grown as it deserves to be. I purchased my plant two years ago while in flower, and was very pleased with it. In the past, few Dendrobium species have thrived for me, but this one has. After the blooms had faded (after several weeks), I potted it into my trusted mix of medium bark chips and sphagnum moss, and the plant grew away very quickly. It produces several canes … [Read more...]
As a genus, Coelogyne has relatively few registered hybrids, though nurseries like Orchideengarten Karge, in Dahlenburg, Germany, are working to redress this. Quite a few Coelogyne hybrids have been registered by them in the past few years, all bearing the name ‘Orchideengarten’ followed by a person’s name (it turns out that the Orchideengarten hybrids are all named after members of the Karge family). As an avid grower of Coelogyne, I … [Read more...]
Dendrobium Green Elf is a very attractive Dendrobium section Latouria hybrid between D. convolutum and D. alexandrae. I acquired this plant from a German nursery about a year ago. I have always liked Dendrobium sect. Latouria, but had assumed from what I had read that they were difficult to grow. How wrong I was. They seem to like more water than many Dendrobium cultivars and don’t seem to have a strict rest period. I get the best … [Read more...]
Bratonia Royal Robe is a lovely, intergeneric hybrid that although registered only in 1986, is rapidly becoming a classic in its own right. It used to be quite common around 10 years ago, but seems to have fallen out of favour recently. There are several named clones of this hybrid, though my plant didn’t come with a clonal name. I got it from Madeira via eBay and it was a nice healthy plant even then, even though it took two years to … [Read more...]
I have always liked the look of Spathoglottis, but until recently, I hadn’t seen one for sale at a sensible price. I knew I had appropriate conditions for them, so when I finally found some for sale at a German nursery I couldn’t resist ordering some. In fact, I got two plants, but one is much more advanced than the other, so I shall discuss the yellow one here. Spathoglottis is a genus of around 49 species distributed mainly in SE … [Read more...]
A few years ago, I bought a plant labelled Coelogyne sparsa from the ubiquitous German nursery that I constantly talk about. I hadn’t seen this species for sale before, so I was quite excited to be able to get hold of it (C. sparsa is one of the ‘warm whites’ since my conditions are far too warm to grow C. mooreana and many of its hybrids). As my regular readers will know, this turned out to be C. chloroptera which wasn’t what I had … [Read more...]
Psychopsis papilio is one of those species that has a rather bad reputation for being difficult to grow, perhaps not unfairly. My plant is the more unusual ‘alba’ form, and was given to me by a friend, so I would feel especially guilty if it died through any fault of mine. He had it growing in a mixture of medium bark and perlite, which seemed to suit it under his culture conditions (he grows his plants slightly cooler than I do, so it … [Read more...]
Epidendrum Pink Cascade is a primary hybrid between Epidendrum ilense and E. revolutum. As far as I know, it is only available from Burnham Nurseries in Devon, and it is there that this hybrid was made. I am not sure exactly when this occurred, as information is rather scarce, but I don’t believe I’ve seen an adult plant yet (note the difference between a flowering size plant and a mature adult plant), but the young plants that I have … [Read more...]
Milmiltonia Sunset is rapidly becoming one of those hybrids that one can almost become tired of seeing. It’s everywhere - DIY outlets, supermarkets, garden centres, etc. Yet somehow, one only has to glimpse its beautiful flowers, and its ubiquity is instantly forgiven. My plant was from a DIY store and was very cheap for a multi-lead plant that even came with a decorative pot. The parentage behind this hybrid appears to be … [Read more...]
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 … [Read more...]
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’, … [Read more...]
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 … [Read more...]
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 … [Read more...]
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. … [Read more...]
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 … [Read more...]
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 … [Read more...]