Persistence pays off.
by Ray Hocking, our member from the Cornish Orchid groups.
Working backward seemed logical to me !…..
Having been told to take early retirement for health reasons I needed a challenge that was not physically demanding. It took a while, but a visit to my local Orchid Society Open Show intrigued me. After talking to Kit and Ron Lindsay of West Cornwall Orchid Society I decided in 2017 to grow Orchids but…..my aim would be to grow from seed!
So, I did some research and lots of questions popped up ..
First of all was, could I grow Orchids successfully? The next step would be
where would I get seed, medium?
Could I raise small plants after deflasking from Agar to planting in bark ?
So, it would take a while and I needed to work backwards. I chose to buy a few established plants to grow. Then to buy smaller ones, then seedlings and then some flasks, and finally try seed sowing.
A couple of ‘Supermarket’ Phalaenopsis to start with and, after the first visit to Burnhams, a Paph maudiae was added. In 2018 I was buying smaller plants and tried a seedling of Phrag grande and Phrag St.Swithian and the odd Phal Keiki.
I lost my way a bit in 2019 by having several different species and not knowing where I was going……we’ve all done that it seems!
Then in 2020 I started looking to buy some flasks. Have you tried looking for flasks in the UK?
I found it impossible to find any so I looked elsewhere and found some in Rollke Orchideen in Germany but I had to be quick, as of 1st January 2021 Brexit took full effect and I would need Phytosanitary certificates, etc . and that added a considerable expense. So late November 2020 I ordered some flasks of scented Phalaenopsis crosses.
I e-mailed in German and got a reply in English …Their English is better than my German!
Each flask contained 4 plants ready to deflask at €5.27 per flask …I ordered 6 flasks, a total of 24 plants.
There’s a danger in deflasking from Agar to Bark it seems, members of both Cornwall Clubs had been unsuccessful here, with no one successfully raising from flask. I needed to provide a similar environment with heat and humidity I thought. A visit to a local Pet Shop to buy wild bird food provided the answer…..a Vivarium!
A 15cm depth of water with a 50w combined heater/ thermostat ,a 5w water pump and 2 lights of 15 w each. The plants were de-flasked on arrival in December into fine bark and placed in the Vivarium at a temperature of 20c and high humidity and left there until established with new growth …Out of 24 plants I lost 2 , not bad for a first attempt
The first plant flowered 9 months after de flasking…I’ve no idea if that’s good or bad! The others are spiking now, another 9 months on.
So, now I was raising plants from flask without too many losses I started to look at pollinating plants.
Of course, the easiest to start with is Phalaenopsis so I pollinated one.
I then waited 4 months, and made up a homemade medium using Agar .. the seeds turned green, and then contamination set in.
Now I needed help, I knew no one who had grown from seed. Members of both Cornish Societies had been unsuccessful there. I had been working alone thus far …..and now I was stuck!
So I turned to the Internet and found a Facebook Group, Orchid seed sowing ..and left a message for anyone in the UK who could help.
The next morning received a reply from Lynda Coles of the Orchid Study Group….she’s been OUTSTANDING !
I tried again, and again using my homemade ‘glovebox’ but still got contamination using plastic containers.
Then I tried glass. That solved the contamination problem ….nearly there now!
I’m waiting on blooms so I can pollinate and hoping some of my Phals ..japonica, bellina, and violacea will ‘self’.
I’m concentrating on the small scented Phalaenopsis at this stage.
I’ve set pods on this Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana, so keeping my fingers crossed. What fascinated me was how the seedpod formed. The bloom did not die off but thickened, turned green, and can now photosynthesise to feed the pod.
My Project is arousing some interest amongst members but everyone waiting until I’ve got successful flasks before coming ‘on board. I’ve one or two members of both Cornish Societies now putting ‘pods on plants ‘. It’s beginning to get some more interest and activity going now that the Corona Virus had drained away.
It’s early days but I’m getting to send the odd pod to Lynda and working on a Talk in September on ‘Pollination for preservation ‘ ( thanks Lynda for permission to use parts of your excellent Orchid Review feature ) . Entering some Orchids in our local Horticultural Show has gained us a mention on our ‘Seed Project ‘ in the August Newsletter of the Cornwall Garden Society and, I hope, visitors to our September meeting.
With the cost of some Orchids now, and the scarcity of others, I do think it’s time to consider more attempts at seed sowing or ‘putting pods on plants’ to make available to others. The Orchid Study Group ideas put forward regarding seed pollination, registration, etc .are very good and we are making small steps in that direction here in the far South West. As in every Hobby, rising costs will see a decline in members …