Sunday, 14 August 2016

Bloom Event - Ascovandoritis Thai Cherry

I am very taken with this plant. I'm not sure if the name is still correct as I know a lot of Ascocentrum species have now been included in Vanda. It is surprisingly difficult to find out. At any rate, this is a very beautiful little hybrid with lovely flower shape and colour. They might be a little small, but they are produced in quite a quantity and have excellent spacing on the spike.

I got the plant a couple of years ago, already flowering size, from a  nursery in Germany. They were superb quality and I have sold the other plants, but I had to keep one for myself because I love random hybrids like this. It has been growing steadily ever since, both root and leaf. It has had what I took to be the beginnings of a spike from between some lower leaves for absolutely ages, but the spike blooming now has come from nearer the top (what I would call a more normal place for a spike to appear). I wonder whether the bud lower down might eventually become a new crown of leaves. I can but hope.

Isn't that just the most lovely flower? The colour is much more vibrant than the photo shows, its really eye catching. It seems very like both its ascocentrum/Vanda and Doritis pulcherrima (now properly Phalaenopsis pulcherimma) in both flower shape and colouring. No scent that I can detect, but I wouldn't expect one from a hybrid like this. I have no idea whether the flowers at the bottom of the spike will still be in good condition by the time the flowers at the top open; I hope so. The spike is long and there are a lot of flowers to come.

I said the flowers were small, but I don't think they are out of proportion with the size of the plant overall. It is a slight pity that the leaves don't stay very 'clean' but this isn't uncommon; some orchids do have a proclivity towards this. It's not too bad, but not perfect either.

Still, I'm very pleased indeed with this one, definitely a keeper. For anyone who bought this off me on eBay, now you know what it looks like!

Bloom Event - Prosthechea fragrans

I've had this plant for around four years now, maybe even a bit longer. It flowers regularly every year and is never any trouble. It always amazes me that the garden centres are full of so-called 'easy' orchids (Miltoniopsis I'm looking at you.....and don't start me on hard-caned Dendrobium)  that I can't even keep alive, never mind re-flower. Now, I have my theories on this but I still think the garden centres should be selling plants that have a chance of survival which means they should have staff that actually have some knowledge of the plants they are selling. Instead of this, my experience (and trust me; I have plenty) is that horticultural knowledge and experience is actively discouraged in favour of their spurious training courses that don't teach you anything except how to suck eggs. To put it another way, they want to you to buy a plant that is doomed to die so that when it does, you'll go back and buy another.

Anyway, that's enough ranting for today. Back to the subject in hand. Prosthechea fragrans isn't one that I come across often on my travels. It is a fairly diminutive plant  that stays nice and small and doesn't take up too much room. The leaves are borne in pairs on top of the pseudobulbs and flowers appear when growth has matured (indeed on my plant this is often after new growth has started from the base). There are never many flowers per spike, usually four or five,  although once the plant has grown more there will be multiple growths maturing and so multiple flower spikes.

The flowers are fairly typical for Prosthechea species.....ostensibly upside-down with the uppermost lip looking somewhat like a cockle shell. I guess they are about an inch across, maybe a bit smaller. This species is, as the name implies, quite fragrant. Sadly, I don't like the scent at all, though I imagine there are plenty who would. Still, I have said it before and I will say it again: I would rather a scent I don't like than no scent at all. Flowers last about three weeks in good condition.

As is common with many orchids in the Cattleya alliance, this species produces roots that like to wander across the surface of the growing medium rather than into it. It doesn't matter whether I grow the plant in a pond pot or a regular pot; that's just what they do. You can see that the pseudobulbs are still increasing in size year on year, so I know this plant still hasn't reached its full size yet. Also not the new growth which is already taller than the flowering growth, and the old flower spike that I haven't removed (slaps wrist).

I have an offset of this plant available that has been growing steadily in its own pot for a couple of years. I think the new growth it has now should probably flower. If you are in the UK and you want it, please do contact me for prices.

Friday, 12 August 2016

New Plants - Oriental Cymbidiums

I just typed a whole article out on this and lost the lot so this post will be brief, but I have got hold of some lovely Oriental warm growing Cymbidums from Jeff Hutchings  which were sent to me bare root. The plants are recovering well potted in a mix of chopped moss and bark chips. They arrived in superb condition so I expect them to do well. They all have nice new growths coming so should root out fine in their new potting medium.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Bloom Event - Coelogyne salmonicolor x usitana

As promised, another Coelogyne. I've been looking forward to seeing this bloom since I got it from Schwerter (link to the right) back in March. I was impressed with the plant even when it arrived, being of a large size (now I have C. usitana too, I can see where the size of the plant comes form). It was a little past blooming stage when I got it, and it had two nice fresh leaves emerging from its new growths. Since then it has gone on to mature those new pseudobulbs and has put out three new growths, the first of which has just opened its first flower. This is a similar hybrid to the much fabled (and soon to bloom) C. Lyme Bay which is a hybrid between particularly dark forms of both C. speciosa and C. usitana, giving a hybrid with a very dark lip which is almost black when the flowers open. The hybrid with C. salmonicolor I wasn't expecting to be anything like so dark, but I wasn't sure exactly what I actually was expecting.

There is some confusion over naming here, and I've no doubt that whatever explanation I put here, there will be someone out there who'll say they know better. As I understand it, Coelogyne salmonicolor and Coelogyne speciosa var. salmonicolor are two different species altogether. C. speciosa var. salmonicolor is now simply known as C. speciosa ('Burnham' if you live in the UK), and I have this plant in my collection. According to my research, Coelogyne salmonicolor refers to another species altogether, although this is open to dispute and I've no doubt it will be.

As you can see, this hybrid is a nightmare to get a decent photo of. Both of the parents have pendulous flowers. In their natural habitat, this is to prevent the frequent heavy rains from falling into the centre of the flower and causing self-pollination. Of course, to orchid growers, this can be something of a problem as the flowers demand that the observer gets close to them to see them. I quite like the way the flowers are held both on this hybrid and on both of its parents. Once again, it is a sequential bloomer with one flower at a time being open per spike. Hopefully there will be another two spikes not too far behind this one so fingers crossed, there will be three flowers open at a time for a while.  The flower is very large indeed, and those of you who follow my musings on my facebook page will be aware of the wait for the bud to reach its full size.

The above photo shows quite nicely the size of the flower compared to the size of the plant. This one has great potential by the looks of it. The pseudobulbs are nicely clumping, as do its parents, although the leaf span is large to say the least, reminiscent of C. usitana. I am still in two minds whether I should take the plant out of its pot when it is done blooming or not. The pot it is in was originally a hanging pot so it only has one drainage hole at the bottom. The plant clearly isn't bothered at all, but I think I'd prefer a pot with more holes in it to allow for better drainage. I have a good couple of months to decide.

A slightly questionable shot I know, but it does illustrate very nicely the markings on the lip. It basically has a white base and looks like someone has brushed chocolate over the surface of it. I know I seem to have a bit of a thing for brown flowers just recently, but that is just gorgeous.

Bloom Event - Coelogyne Neroli Cannon

I seem to have a raft of fairly similar Coelogyne hybrids in bloom at the moment (with more on the way). This is presumably because it seems to be blooming time for Coelogyne speciosa which is a parent in many of these hybrids. The latest to pass by on this conveyor belt is Coelogyne Neroli Cannon. You may remember be getting this plant back in November. I was hopeful then that I would get the plant into bloom in the next few months. Clearly, it isn't the growth that was emerging back then that is blooming for me now, but the one immediately after it is. I went through a lot of doubt over whether it would bloom or not this time round; maybe I shouldn't doubt myself so much as the plant is clearly doing very well indeed.

As I pointed out in my original post (linked above), this is a hybrid between C. speciosa (the green form, apparently) and C. fragrans. Coelogyne speciosa turns up all over the place in various colour forms (I have several myself), but C. fragrans doesn't seem to have made it onto the British market yet (and with the state of things regarding 'brexit' it possibly never will). From what I can see of it via the the Oracle (Google), it has a more upright flower spike than C. speciosa (obviously a trait we want in the hybrid) with a striking white and brown lip ending in a distinct point, as opposed to C. speciosa which has a decidedly blunt lip, but similarly with brown markings over a pale lip.

I had done some research on the hybrid which might have been a mistake as it tends to give false expectations of what the hybrid will be. C. Neroli Cannon isn't a common hybrid in itself, and there are very few references to it in the UK (this might cast some doubt over my plant). The best records I could fine were those of an Australian grower who had remade the cross, possibly with better clones of the parents. I should point out that Australia is very strict indeed about what plant mateiral can be imported or exported, so the only way for him to grow this hybrid was to re-make it himself, giving it a clonal name to distinguish it from other plants with that name being grown elsewhere. At any rate, his hybrid came out with a nice pointed white tipped lip, and a decidedly orange column, both traits inherited from C. fragrans. He did also say that his plant had the annoyingly droopy flowering habit of C. speciosa.

Above is my plant. For this cross, the pointy lip and orange column has not been inherited from C. fragrans, although the white on the lip is a lot cleaner than is often found on C. speciosa. The flower has a very nice greenish cast which I find very fetching, and at also carries a faint but very pleasant fragrance which it has not inherited from C. speciosa which smells musky at best. You may also notice that the flower spike is not too droopy and it isn't too much of an effort to be able to see into the flower to take a photo.

As you can see, the plant hasn't grown to gargantuan proportions to produce quite a large flower (and more on the spike - the sequential flowering of C. speciosa has been retained). Hopefully the plant will produce more leads as it gets older and bulk up a bit. In the meantime, a very pretty flower of good proportions and willingly produced under my conditions. Definitely a keeper.

I'll finish with the full frontal view of the flower so you can see the amazing markings on the lip. Notice also that the lateral petals are swept well back, giving the flower a somewhat insect like appearance (another trait inherited from C. speciosa which is definitely the dominant parent, as usual with these hybrids).

I'll be back in the near future with another really lovely Coelogyne hybrid, as well as new plants.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

New Plants - More Coelogyne

I know. I'm obsessed with Coelogyne. A friend of mine has managed to rescue some nice coelogyne species and hybrids and was kind enough to let me have a few plants to add to my collection. He warned me they weren't in the best of conditions when he got them, but that they should recover themselves given time. The first of these is Coelogyne burfordiense. This is a hybrid between C. pandurata and C. asperata so as you can imagine it is a large plant. My plant is basically a collection of potted backbulbs which are now showing signs of growth.

As well as one decent sized shoot heading off to the side, there are two smaller shoots emerging from other bulbs which have definitely appeared since I got the plant. There are signs of rot on a couple of the bulbs which I will keep a very close eye on. I will have to de-pot this to see what is going on under the surface as there are a lot of fungus gnats buzzing around this plant, and that is not usually a good sign.

I was also given two Coelogyne speciosa. I know what you're thinking - I have two plants of this species already, one the regular colour form and the other 'Burnham' (used to be known as var. salmonicolor). The new additions are a dark form and an as yet unknown one. I'll find out when it flowers.

Both of these are showing promising signs of growth now. One has a new shoot emerging, the other a nice crop of new roots, so they should be back to full health before too long. I can't wait to see flowers, especially on the mystery plant!

Bloom Event - Coelogyne ovalis 'Burnham' and Coelogyne triplicatula

One of the things I love about growing Coelogyne species and hybrids is that there are one or two in flower at all times of the year, and many plants will bloom more than one a year, as well as many being sequential bloomers. The two I'm showing today are quite closely related and are part of the coelogyne fimbriata complex. Some authorities want to lump all species such as C. ovalis, C. fuliginosa and C. triplicatuala in with C. fimbriata to make a species complex. For myself, I would prefer to keep the species separate as there are big enough differences between them to merit this. Both of the plants I'm discussing today are significantly bigger than C. fimbriata (my plant at least), both in terms of flower size and the overall size of the plant.

Above is Coelogyne triplicatula. Apparently the name triplicatula refers to the three keels on the lip, although this is pretty unhelpful since many Coelogyne have three keels on the lip. The lip is darker than it appears on the photo and gives a nice contrast to the rest of the flower. I know the colouring is fairly dowdy, as is the case with many Coelogyne, but the shape and patterning of the lip more than make up for this in my opinion. The flower is smaller than many of the Coelogyne I grow, but is still a decent enough size. Flowers are produced sequentially so the flowering period is extended, much like C. speciosa.

I got this from a friend a few months ago in an exchange and it has done pretty well. It is usually grown in cool conditions but seems to grow and flower OK in my warm growroom. As you may be able to see, it put out three growths but sadly two have damped off and only one has produced a flower spike. In time this will become a sprawling species, and I'm hoping it will produce multiple leads and fill out a bit.

Above is Coelogyne ovalis 'burnham'. The flower is a very pleasing shape, size and colour, hence the varietal name. Leaves are broader than triplicatula, but otherwise the plants are broadly similar. This plant came from Burnham Nurseries. Not sure what I was thinking when I got it as it is also, according to them, a cool grower though once again, it does fine under my warm conditions.

This one only produced two new shoots, but both have gone on to produce flower buds. Unfortunately, this plant sits at the front of the bench and I must have leaned on the flower spike at some point while watering as the tip of the spike has blasted. Luckily, there is a second spike on the way from the other growth. This species has a reputation for being very vigorous and I'm hoping it will fill out nicely and produce lots of new growths in future to make a nice bushy plant.

Speaking of the above plant exchange, I decided to tackle one of the other plants I got today, Stanhopea nigroviolacea. It crossed my mind when I got it that I'd eventually have to do something, and it was on my list much earlier than this. However, it produced a massive amount of new roots almost as soon as I got it and then put out a load of new shoots and I didn't want to disturb it when it seemed so happy. Of course, rather than behaving itself and growing at the top of the basket, some of the new growths decided it would be a good idea to grow out of the side.

We grow Stanhopea in open baskets like this because the flower spikes are pendent, by which I mean the flower spikes penetrate the growing medium and exit the bottom of the basket. Naturally if they are grown in plastic pots they can't get through. Obviously I wasn't going to get the plant out of the basket and manage to keep both of them in one piece which is a shame, as I like to re-use materials where I can. In the end I cut the basket apart to release the root ball. I had to leave some fragments of it in places but it won't cause any harm. I have put the plant, carefully angled, in a twelve inch basket filled with a mix of sphagnum moss and medium bark. I have used a coir liner so that the flower spikes can penetrate (hopeful, I know!)

Looks quite at home already, doesn't it? I realize the basket is quite big, but this plant seems to grow very quickly when it has a mind to, so I imagine it won't be long before even this basket is full. It put out five large new growths this year, as well as two small ones from the back of the plant, and the new growths are just starting to produce roots, so it should establish nice and fast. It essentially hasn't been disturbed at all as the existing roots looked healthy so I didn't remove any of the old potting medium. Seemed no sense in arresting its growth now.