Bulbophyllum and their relatives form an entire group of orchids that, on the whole, I find almost impossible to grow. I have never succeeded, and the plants have defied my numerous attempts to grow them. However, as is often the case, Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen appears to be the exception that proves the rule. From what I can gather, the hybrid was made in 2006 and is the progeny of B. Jersey (B. lobbii x B. echinolabium) and B. echinolabium. I have attempted to grow B. Jersey and B. lobbii before and failed, so maybe I’d be better attempting to grow B. echinolabium instead. Bulbophyllum Valley Isle Queen is a vigorous plant. It is quite large with stocky, nicely clumping, fat pseudobulbs topped by a single, broad, leathery leaf. It is very well suited to growing in a pot as it doesn’t have long lengths of rhizome between its pseudobulbs. Having said that, the pseudobulbs do get rather large, so it can outgrow a container quickly. My plant already needs potting on from the 15cm pot I put it in when I got it (because it needed potting on then, too!). Much like all bulbophyllums, it is very shallowly rooted and therefore, broad shallow pots are best for cultivating it. It might be that I will have to improvise and cut a pot down to size when I come to pot it on. My plant grows in medium bark chips and gets watered, fed and supplied with seaweed extract on the same cycle as all my other orchids. The pseudobulbs wrinkle a bit if I leave the plant too long between one watering and the next, but this is probably preferable to keeping it too wet, and the plant doesn’t seem to suffer for it.
The flower spikes seem to appear at random and not necessarily from the most recent pseudobulb, so it would be reasonable to assume that large plants may produce more flowers, even if they don’t appear to have more lead growths. I should also point out that this plant (although it may apply to all bulbophyllums – I wouldn’t know) seems very liable to bud blast, and occasionally, even spike blast. I haven’t discovered what causes this, but I suspect that moving the plant around while in spike doesn’t help, especially from one room to another. A nice feature that it has inherited from B. echinolabium is that it is a sequential bloomer- always a good feature, particularly as individual flowers are quite short-lived (only a few days under my conditions). Flowers are quite large (several inches from top to bottom) and have the characteristic rocking lip of Bulbophyllum. They are basically brown in colour, but are pleasantly marked with red reticulation, making them quite beautiful in a sinister kind of way.
I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the hybrid is essentially three quarters Bulbophyllum echinolabium, so you might be wondering whether it has inherited the ‘delightful odour’ for which B. echinolabium is so famous and loved. Thankfully not! I have got close up and had a good sniff at it during all stages of flowering and can’t detect so much as a waft of scent. I must admit, I do like flowers to be scented, even if the scent is not pleasant, but on this occasion it may be a blessing.