Believe it or not, I was given this Cattleya (along with quite a few other orchids, including a very large blue Vanda) by a friend a couple of years ago. It bears a Chantelle Orchids label, and when I first had it, was potted in very compressed Sphagnum moss. I believe Chantelle imports her orchids from her brother’s nursery in Taiwan, and the moss is the only medium that can be brought through customs. Anyway, the root system was nice and healthy, and after a good deal of fiddling, soaking and swearing/persuasion, I managed to get all the moss off the roots. Moss as a potting medium just doesn’t work for me. I find it either too wet or I can’t wet it enough. At any rate, the plant got potted into medium bark chips and, after its initial sulk, has grown away very well indeed. Pseudobulbs are now outgrowing their predecessors, and the flower count is increasing.
At only 6 inches tall, the plant is a true miniature and produces a good number of flowers for its size. It currently has two lead growths, and once it has produced a few more pseudobulbs I shall sever the leading four pseudobulbs from both leads to encourage the production of shoots from the back of the plant. Pretty as it is, this plant is not without its faults. The most annoying for me is that the flowers don’t last very long at all. I’m lucky if I get week out of them before they start to deteriorate. Since the flowers open sequentially, this means that by the time the last few flowers open, the first have already dropped. I’m sure this can’t be right, and I wonder if it is because I grow my cattleyas at the warm end of their temperature range. This plant also seems to be a magnet for scale insect, probably the worst out of all my cattleyas. I believe I have it under control now though, but it has been a real struggle involving cans of Provado, and lots of drenching with pure soap solution. I am quite careful about removing the old leaf sheaths from around the pseudobulb, including the really tiny ones that clasp the rhizome, as this is where the critters like to hide. The third fault with this one is its lack of scent. It admittedly doesn’t look as if it came from scented species, but I always think it is such a shame when scent has been lost in the search for colour or form of blooms.
All in all, I think this plant has good potential, that is if I can at least manage to overcome the poor flower longevity by placing the plant somewhere cooler just before the blooms open. One very agreeable tendency it has is to produce roots at a convenient stage of growth. Some cattleyas produce a growth and even bloom before new roots are produced, which can be very frustrating if one is waiting to repot or divide. This plant produces roots while the new shoots are still growing, resulting in the least amount of disturbance when repotting. The sharper eyed among you may have read elsewhere that I like to pot cattleyas in coarse bark chips. This is true only for my standard-sized cattleyas, but as this plant is so tiny, I grow it in medium bark in a small pot. The bark chips are proportionally the right size for the plant, and allow it to dry down quickly.
Finally, a note on naming. I do find these constant name changes rather tedious, especially where complex hybrids are concerned, and I have seen this plant labelled as Cattleya, Brassolaeliocattleya, and Potinara. I have no idea which one is correct, and no desire to dredge through the RHS website only to find out which they think is correct. The label from Chantelle says Brassolaeliocattleya, but I’m afraid I have taken to simply calling them all Cattleya, as the current name for the plant has no bearing whatsoever on the way I grow it.