Friday, 23 September 2016

Bloom Event - Cymbidium ensifolium "Ching Sha Yu Chun"

Have to say, those Oriental Cymbidium breeders have good taste. You may remember me saying weeks ago in a rather short blog post (i got angry after typing a lengthy post and then losing the lot) that I'd got hold of four Oriental Cymbidium, two Cymbidium ensifolium cultivars and two Cymbidium sinense cultivars originating from Ten Shin Gardens in Taiwan.

Cymbidium like these and a few other species are a big thing in china and Japan and they have growing and displaying of them down to a fine art. I can't hope to achieve such erudition in my craft but at least I have the plants growing which is an achievement in itself. They have not shown any ill effects from being shipped bare root (only from England, don't panic), and have settled well into the mix of sphagnum moss and bark chips I have potted them in. Pots are deep, as is necessary for the robust root systems of Cymbidium, so they will never be as attractive as their Oriental counterparts because the ceramic pots I found online to pot them in were more pricey than the plants. I may be skilled, but I'm not rich!

I have probably ranted before about the difficulties in growing Cymbidium well in this country. There are several problems with the shop-bought plants usually available at Christmas. The first is the constant battle with dead roots on plants coming off the continent and the need to cut flower spikes and nurse the plants back to something resembling health. Secondly, most Cymbidium widely for sale hail from the Himalayas and need temperatures much cooler than we can easily provide in our centrally heated homes. This leads to bud drop in the short term and problems with pests and diseases and lack of blooms in the long term. Cool growing Cymbidium need cool nights in late summer to initiate flower spikes. This can be achieved by standing plants outside during summer and running the gauntlet with more pests and our changeable weather. This has never worked for me and I had largely given up growing Cymbidium altogether. Cymbidium were very popular in the past when we had cooler houses (that is before we invented central heating) but the way we live now just doesn't suit them. Also, they tend to be big, unwieldy plants that take up an awful lot of space and spend a lot of the time out of bloom.

You may gather that I had rather fallen out of love with Cymbidium and pretty much stopped growing them altogether. That was until I realised that not all Cymbidium are cold growers and that several species are well suited to my warm growing conditions. One of them, Cymbidium chloranthum, we have already met during our discussions. I also have Cymbidium aloifolium, and although that has some growing to do before it blooms, it is doing very well indeed. So my most recent acquisitions were the four Oriental Cymbidium I got recently. Imagine my surprise when I noticed flower spikes appearing within a few weeks of potting them up. I attribute that to the change in conditions.

The first to open a flower is C. ensifolium "Ching Sha Yu Chun" and I have to say I think I'm in love.

We have got so used to Cymbidium being large blousy rounded blooms that we forget how beautiful and delicate they can be.  The erect flower spikes are only a few inches high and need no support. The flowers remind me of some Maxillaria species in their structure (no surprise there, as they are related), with the upper two petals swept forward over the column and the lip bent back on itself.  I particularly like how the colour of the flowers and the flower spike is the same (i assume that is down to the skill of the breeders).

For several days now, I have been wondering what the smell was in my hallway. There has been a delicate, sort of lemon zest kind of scent wafting around which I haven't been able to place, especially as it doesn't resemble any cleaning products I use. It was only today that I traced the source back to this Cymbidium. It packs quite a punch for what is basically a miniature. Again, we are not accustomed to modern Cymbidium being scented at all, never mind so strongly. Once again, breeders have selected for large rounded blooms in pastel shades and have lost the scent in the breeding which is a terrible shame. I am already addicted to the scent of this. Luckily I have another plant to bloom yet, by the looks of it with a red flower. I hope that smells as good as this one.

There's not much to add with this second photo but it does show nicely the forward sweeping petals and the colour of the inflorescences. There are only three or four flowers per spike but I understand this is quite normal for cultivars of Cymbidium ensifolium.

The whole plant. As you can see with the label for scale, it isn't large at all. It is actually better proportioned than it looks, its just that the leaves are coming straight out at the camera and the flowers are at the back. What is (arguably) lost in size and immediate visual impact is gained in heaps in elegance.

I think there is great potential in breeding here. These warm growing species could be used as parents to give modern large flowered varieties added temperature tolerance, and possibly decrease their size, too.

Although it is early days yet for me to be giving tips on cultivation of these, I will say that they haven't lost any leaves at all and pseudobulbs are all looking good and plump. Roots are very thick as you'd expect and the plants appear to prefer to be kept on the wetter side. Emerging new growths on all four plants are growing well and haven't showed any sign of a check in growth from being moved. I guess I will find out in the coming months whether the reputation these plants have for being difficult to grow has any foundation in reality or not.

If any of my readers knows of a source of warm growing Cymbidium in the UK, I am very interested indeed.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Bloom Event - Dendrochilum glumaceum (green bract)

I guess I need to start this post with an apology for the lack of new posts over the past couple of weeks. In my defence, I have been rather busy, and I've been on holiday. Also, I have been struck with the 'summer doldrums' by which I mean that there hasn't been much going on, at least orchid-wise, just recently. So sorry and all that, all right?

And now on to business. I am pleased to say that I have persuaded one of my Dendrochilum glumaceum to flower. This doesn't sound like much of an achievement, I know - they flower all the time, don't they? No. They don't. Usually I get a good blooming during the spring and the plants then put out a second flush of new growths during the summer but this is the first time I've got the second flush of growth to bloom. Only one variety of the species seems to have decided to bloom (I have several), but even that is better than nothing. I have two plants and both have put up a flower spike. They are comparatively recently divided so they haven't had much time to bulk up as yet but they are growing nicely. I might even be persuaded to part with one if someone asks me nicely.

The flowers are as lovely and numerous as ever, and the scent is, of course, to die for. Not all the flowers are out yet, so the scent will get stronger over the next week or so.

In the past I had trouble keeping my Dendrochilum 'clean' by which I mean that the foliage would always be covered with black marks, especially on the backs of the leaves and it took me an embarrassingly long time to work out what it was. The culprit was, in fact, the dreaded red spider mite. It then took an infuriatingly long time to put it right which I put down in no small part to both the pests resistance to systemic insecticides and the general watered down nature of modern chemicals. Since the soap spray treatment the plants have stayed clean with no further damage and no marks on the new(er) foliage.

I love Dendrochilums generally, but I will always have a soft spot for D. glumaceum because it was the first one I tried. I didn't do well with it in years gone by, but now I keep them warm and quite wet they do more than tolerably well for me; as you may be able to see, this one needs potting on soon.

As is always the case when one takes a break citing lack of things to post about as an excuse, there is now a lot of stuff to get through in the near future, but it is TTFN for now.

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.