Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Bloom Event - Vanda Princess Mikasa Purple and Giant Blue

Although I do grow many less Vanda than I used to do (they take up far too much room), I still hardly seem to go for any time without at least one of them in flower, and now I have two in bloom.

The first of these is what used to be Ascocenda Princess Mikasa purple, until someone messed around with the names (again), so now its just Vanda which is, admittedly, easier to spell and pronounce. My regular readers will attest to the flower power of this particular hybrid, as it was one of the earlier posts on this blog, the link being back to November 2015. This particular plant also bloomed back in March, and now its at it again. This being the third blog post about this plant, I'm not sure I have anything new to say about it. It sits at the back of the bench, growing and generally minding its own business, and occasionally flowers. It doesn't get watered any more or less than any of the other orchids in the growroom and seems fine with it. You may notice that when I first wrote a post about this plant (link above), I had it listed as having no ID. I have done enough reading and comparing to other plants that I'm confident enough of the ID to change its label.

The Mikasa hybrids are all easy going (for Vandas) and come in a variety of colours. I myself grow four different colours of this hybrid. I should start a national collection.

The flowers are, once again, quite crowded on the spike, but that seems to be the habit of the plant, so I guess I'll just have to put up with it. They are a decent size without being dinner plates, and seem to last well.

I love the lip colour on this hybrid, such a dark velvety purple, like a landing platform (which it basically is).

Every time I post about this I talk about how it is in a pot but I'm not sure how it'll do, but I think its been in its pot for long enough now that I can say this method of culture is a success and just stop worrying about it.

The plant is obviously healthy and happy. You can see how good a bloomer it is by the amount of spent flower spikes on it. Notice that they are mostly from one side of the plant. I've no idea why this should be, but it has always been that way. If anything, the leaf span has increased a little over the few years I've had it, and I would like to think that it is capable of producing more than one spike at a time.

Second up for this post we have the giant blue Vanda (that is not its actual name, purely descriptive. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a proper name. Its probably blue magic or similar but I guess I'll never know). As I've probably said before somewhere, this plant was given to me some time ago. It was quite a size then, but has grown considerably since, and will be getting out of hand before too long.

If you have a decent sized screen or the ability to zoom, you will see on the above photo, about halfway up the plant next to the tie, a couple of leaves shorter than the rest. That is how high the plant was when I got it. No sooner had I installed it than it looked to me as if it got crown rot which would have been bad news indeed, but it continued to grow and now we have a plant that is well over a metre tall. It is growing in that brown pot and has been for some considerable time, now. It lives next to Princess Mikasa discussed above under a 150 watt flourescent tube that is raised higher than the other lights to make room for it. What I'll do as the plant continues to grow I don't know. I can't really take the top off and grow that on because it hasn't produced any roots further up the stem, yet. Time will tell.

At any rate, it is a nice blue (under certain light conditions (no, I don't mean 'in the dark')) and has very nice markings.

The flowers are a good size, as ever, and there are 11 on the spike. This feels a bit mean on a plant this size but is a good amount for a large flowered hybrid Vanda. Plus, this plant has already bloomed this year, and that was only in July, so I should try not to be too greedy.

The next Vanda to bloom will be Princess Mikasa blue, but I expect our paths will cross before then.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Bloom Event - Paphiopedilum Sue Worth

Regular readers of this blog will realise that I have been a bit of a hypocrite where Paphiopedilum are concerned, always saying that I'm no lover of slipper orchids yet continuing to grow a fair number of them anyway. This has now changed, however, and most of my Paphiopedilum (and Phragmipedium) have now been safely re-homed like poor unloved stray cats. I am left with only three Paphiopedilum, one of which is the diminutive and well-behaved Paphiopedilum Sue Worth. 

Although I have been the custodian of this primary hybrid for some considerable time and have even bloomed it before, this is its Kev's Orchids blog debut. It is a hybrid between Paphiopedilum sukhakulii and Paphiopedilum charlesworthii and seems to have inherited some nice characteristics from both its parents. I have heard this hybrid described as 'good breeding stock but not one you'd grow on its own merit' but I think this is a rather unfair assessment. The plants are small and neat, flowers are large and on fairly short stems that are self-supporting, flowers are long lasting with attractive colour and markings and shape. They are temperature tolerant (which can't be said for at least one of its parents) and fairly forgiving of under and over watering. My only real criticism of it as a hybrid is that it is rather slow growing. This needn't be a problem in and of itself of course, provided the plant is also well -behaved and stays looking attractive while it is busy not flowering. Whilst bemoaning that it is a slow grower, it must be pointed out that it is by no means the slowest of Paphiopedilum; its just slower than most modern hybrids.

The main bone of contention from what I can see reading further afield (i.e. Google) is that this is just a weird combination of species and many hardcore Paphiopedilum growers (yes, they do exist) can be a bit vinegar-faced about such hybrids, and question why such crosses are made, as illustrated by the quote in the last paragraph. Whatever the initial reason for the cross, it seems a good way of getting the lovely spotting from P. sukhakulii in to modern complex hybrids and perhaps getting the lovely markings on the dorsal sepal into P. maudiae types.  All of this is quite interesting to me because I find P. maudiae types quite ugly with mis-shapen flowers, at least to my eye, whereas P. Sue Worth produces a very neat flower.

I suppose, if I was to be super critical about it, I'd probably say that I'd like the dorsal sepal to be a bit bigger, and the lip to be a bit smaller. Then again, it is these imperfections that give the flower its personality and without them it would be too generic and I might as well go to a garden centre and buy something with no name. I also like the fact that it doesn't seem to mind the warm temperatures in my growroom which quite a few Paphiopedilum, especially the plain, strap leafed types (one of which is a parent of P. Sue Worth) seem to dislike. Mostly it stops them flowering well, rather than causing damage, but a non-blooming plant is of little use to me, even if it does grow well. Breeding temperature tolerance into modern hybrids is also a good thing, so that might be another idea behind the breeding of this hybrid.

As you can see, that flower is a good size for a plant that small. It is growing in a 9 cm pot and this is the second time it has bloomed in that pot. A new growth has already started, and I'm hopeful of a second new growth, too. Now we know that the plant will stay small and produce good sized flowers, we will have to wait and see how well it clumps up and whether a decent sized multi growth plant is possible with this hybrid.

One thing I always forget to mention with Paphiopedilum is how fascinating it is to watch the flowers open. More than any other orchid I grow, the flowers remind me of an egg cracking open and I always love to see the petals in the process of unfurling. I think the blooms are more beautiful at that time than they are at any other.

As well as showing the flower in the process of unfurling, the above photo also nicely shows how attractive the foliage is, a characteristic it has inherited from P. sukhakulii (P. charlesworthii has quite plain strap like foliage). Out of bloom, it could possibly be mistaken for a P. maudiae type, but the foliage is somewhat narrower, stiffer, and rather less glossy. I'd go so far as to say that this hybrid is rather more forgiving than P. maudiae can be, though it does help to get a healthy plant to start with.

Overall, I rather like this plant. Whether it will be a long-term keeper, I can't say but I certainly don't object to it taking up a small amount of space on my bench so I'm not in a hurry to get rid of it just yet.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Bloom Event - Cymbidium ensifolium "Shi Chang Hong"

And so the Cymbidium saga continues. This one has only produced one spike of flowers, but I'm not complaining. It is a smaller plant than "Ching Sha Yu Chun" in its overall dimensions, though it seems to have settled into its new home just as well.  Cymbidium ensifolium "Shi Chang Hong" has dainty pinkish flowers with darker striping on the petals.

I don't usually go in for the more pastel colours of flowers but this one is so elegant that I can't help but love it. Once again, the flower spike has taken on the colour of the flowers which seems to make the flowers stand out even more, especially contrasting the leaves. This one also has that lovely citrus scent, though it doesn't seem so strong to me. I guess that could just be because there are less flowers.

Only three flowers on the spike, this time. Even with only three flowers, the plant still doesn't look out of proportion as it really is tiny for a Cymbidium. I think I have said it before somewhere, but I'll say it again. I can't for the life of me understand why there aren't more of these available in this country, especially now our houses are warmer. These Cymbidium enjoy similar temperatures to Phalaenopsis so should make excellent houseplants. They will even tolerate considerably more light than Phalaenopsis so ought to be a great windowsill orchid. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

There really isn't a lot more to say about this one that doesn't apply to the last one, but that's not to say I don't find it equally gorgeous in its way. There is a new bud forming at the base of one of the other pseudobulbs but its way too early to tell whether it will turn out to be a flower bud or a new growth. I think I'd prefer a new growth now I've seen what the flowers are like. After all, the more new growth it produces, the more flowers I'll get in future.

I expect it will be a while before there is another Cymbidium related post, as although the two Cymbidium sinense hybrids are both in spike, they seem slower developing than either of Cymbidium ensifolium. There will, of course, be other Bloom Event posts in the meantime.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Bloom Event - Prosthechea lancifolia (trulla)

Prosthechea lancifolia (or trulla - I'll explain later) is a good little performer for me. I have been waiting for this one to bloom so I could blog about it, and now it is. There is a good deal of confusion over the naming of this particular group of orchids. According to recent research, Prosthechea cochleata and Prosthechea lancifolia are conspecific with P. lancifolia being assigned Prosthechea cochleata var. cochleata, at least according to the Kew Monocot Checklist. Some authorities list P. lancifolia as P. trulla. As I always understood the situation, P. lancifolia was not fragrant while P. trulla is fragrant. If P. lancifolia is now conspecific with P. cochleata this would make perfect sense as P. cochleata is not fragrant either. I am going to assume that my plant is, in fact, P. trulla, despite it saying P. lancifolia on the label since it is very fragrant indeed.

I think you'll agree that its a pretty little thing. The plant is small, only a few inches high, with the flower spikes growing to about as tall as the leaves. Now my plant is a few years old, it seems to flower in flushes. You can see fresh buds just in amongst the open flowers on the above photo. The first flush is just starting to go over now, and a second is developing from the tip of the flower spike. This is a habit that some cultivars of P. cochleata have and some plants of that species can remain in bloom for a very long time indeed. P. lancifolia doesn't flower for quite so long but at least there will be more blooms after this first lot are done with.

The plant is nice and tidy and flower spikes need no support. It flowers reliably from the apex of each pseudobulb, though I have no idea whether it has a specific bloom trigger or whether it just does. Either way, flowers last around three weeks in good condition and are very fragrant. I think I prefer the scent of this to Prosthechea fragrans though neither is a particular favourite of mine.

Pseudobulbs are nicely clustered on a short rhizome and are egg shaped when viewed from the front but are compressed and quite flat from the side. This species seems easy going and tolerant of various water related mishaps; more so than many other species in its family (thinking specifically of Cattleya, here). It is quite fine rooted and seems to do well in medium bark chips. I allow it to dry between waterings but not so much that the pseudobulbs start to shrivel. It seems amenable to either warm or cool growing conditions and will probably make a very good windowsill orchid.

National Botanic Garden of Wales Orchid Festival and New Plants.

It has taken me almost a month to get round to writing this post. For some reason, when I take a holiday it takes me weeks afterwards to get back to, what I call normal - I'm not sure I'm there yet to be honest, or if I ever really was there. I'll leave that for you to decide. Anyway. As a last minute thing I decided to take an end of summer get away in Wales (don't worry, I shan't be showing you endless holiday snaps!). A friend of mine has a flat in Tenby, practically on the seaside, so I decided to spend a week there. This was during the early days of September so for the first half of the holiday the kids were still off school and the place was rather busy. However, by either excellent timing or secret planning on my behalf, the weekend I was away happened to be the same weekend that the National Botanical Garden of Wales plays host to the Orchid Study Group's Orchid Festival. Some of you may remember that I write a monthly article for them, and I had been asked a few months earlier if I wanted a stand there to sell off some plants but I couldn't take up the offer at the time, and I really had no desire to spend two whole days of my holiday in a tent once I'd decided I would be in the area that week.

As it turned out, I ended up visiting the National Botanical Garden of Wales on possibly the wettest day in the history of the entire universe with torrential rain and high winds. As a result the gardens were very quiet and I was able to have a good luck round and I have to say I was impressed. Plants were sensibly grouped together, and were very well labelled. A particular highlight to me was the large clump of Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade) planted right next to the path. Not only had I never met this plant in person before, but it was with a certain macabre humour I noticed it was covered in berries delicately displayed at toddler height.

The orchids were displayed in a tent near the tea room (naturally) and there were several society displays there. Although it was quiet for an Orchid show, there were far more people in there than there were outside, presumably due to the weather. I have to say that I wasn't entirely sure it was much safer inside given how much the tent was creaking and groaning in the ever increasing wind but it was at least a pleasant shelter from the rain. No sooner had I stepped through the door than I was greeted by Dr Kevin Davies (the organiser), Trey Sanders of Orchid Botanics and Arthur Bell of Burnham Nurseries. It always amazes me that I go to these places and people seem to know who I am. Either its because I'm (significantly) younger than the vast majority of visitors to these events so I stand out or because I'm interested in more than just the blousy Phalaenopsis. Either way, it is nice to be welcomed. Also there were Francis of Phalaenopsis and More with a good selection of plants for sale (I came away with only one) as well as Orchid Alchemy and Ray Creek. There were one or two sellers there I didn't recognise, too.

I really owe Francis of Phalaenopsis and More an apology because I had had a long conversation with him and bought a plant off him but I had left the gardens before I realised who he was. Terribly rude of me.

There wasn't much scope for taking lots of photos there, but here are a couple of shots from inside the tent. See if you spot anyone you know!

Burnham Nurseries had by far the largest stand there with a nice selection of orchids as always. Can you spot Arthur having a good old chinwag at the back ?

A few of the other stands in this one, all with good displays of orchids on them and very chatty and informative people on hand.

Now on to the most important part.... "What did you buy?" I hear you ask. I actually only came away with three plants which shows a remarkable amount of self restraint on my part. I spent quite some time at the Phalaenopsis and More stand both browsing the very nice selection of plants and chatting with Francis about our collections and how we grow our orchids. It turns out that he is also an indoor grower so it was good to compare notes. He had several plants of a nice cultivar of Asconopsis (now properly Vandaenopsis) Irene Dobkin called "York" (HCC/AOS). You may remember that I am already growing Vandaenopsis Irene Dobkin because I got a plant from Schwerter back in March. I have to say that the plant has done practically nothing since I got it. The plants at the show had good root systems with active root tips so I couldn't help but bring one home. I spent ages deciding which one I wanted, and most of them were in flower. I didn't pick one in bloom though, or even in spike. I chose instead the one with two plants in the pot and a keiki at the bottom.

If you check back to the original post I made when I got this plant, you will see that the two plants look completely different. The new plant has much stiffer, thicker leaves and is overall much lighter green. It is probably more what I'd expect from a cross between Vanda and Phalaenopsis. If this has more vigour than my original plant I will be very pleased. Now. If only life were so simple. The plants in flower on the bench all showed a pink flower. I expect this cross to produce flowers of an orange or salmon colour, and a quick google search bears this out. This being a named cultivar of the cross, I would expect them all to be the same. This has got be to wondering whether the plant is mis-named. Of course, it is also possible that this is a remake of the original cross and we would expect it to be different. I will eventually get round to contacting Phalaenopsis and More to find out where the plants came from and whether the name is correct or not. At any rate, these intergeneric crosses interest me so I couldn't help but pick one up. I shall eventually separate the two plants out (it will need doing fairly soon anyway because the growing media looks to need changing) and grow them on separately. Hopefully the keiki at the base will prove to be a good sign too, as a clumpy plant will produce more flowers than a single stem.

The second plant that I have 're-homed' is Angraecum sesquipedale var. angustifolia from Orchid Alchemy. Usually they don't do many adult plants as they grow from seed. I mostly got this because I couldn't believe the price for a flowering size plant (it has a flower spike emerging), as I am already growing Angraecum sesquipedale; although my original plant has yet to produce a flower spike. Having done some research when I got home, there are differences between the two, mostly the size of the plant. A. sesquipedale var. angustifolia is an overall smaller plant with narrower leaves and having compared the two side by side, that definitely seems to be the case. Of course, different growers have different growing conditions and different growing conditions produce different plants but I think the differences will bear out over time. My original plant has quite broad leaves, and they are getting broader and longer (I have just repotted my plant. Given the species' reputation for resenting disturbance, what do we think the effect will be?).  The new plant has overall smaller dimensions with narrower shorter leaves and has clearly already reached flowering size. I can't deny I'm excited to see the flowers. Infuriatingly, the plant needs its growing medium changing which I'm loath to do given the plant's reputation for being a 'bit of a diva'. Its not so much that the plant is likely to die if I change its potting medium as that it stops flowering. I suppose there is a bit of a vicious circle going on here because if a grower is scared to change the potting medium then it ends up breaking down more than it should and the plant suffers more in the long run. Grasp the nettle, I say. Once it is done blooming, I shall re-pot it and to hell with the consequences. Here it is, anyway.

The third plant I picked up was Coelogyne dayana from Burnham Nurseries. I am already growing a small plant of this species that I got from Schwerter earlier in the year. As you will know, I am rather impatient and firmly believe life is too short to spend waiting for seedlings to flower (that is why we have orchid nurseries to grow the plants for us). Coelogyne pulverula (I'm pretty sure dayana is the old name now and we should all be calling it pulverula) takes a long time to reach flowering size and although my plant is a hefty thing, it is still a year or more from blooming so I'll still have to be fairly patient. The seedling is a minimum of four years away, and it isn't growing very fast as yet, so it could well be longer. The new plant was a reasonable price so I thought I'd better take it home. It was very dry when I picked it up, knowing as I do how much water Coelogyne species seem to like so I gave it a good soak in water  when I got it home. You will also notice on the photo below that the plant needs re-potting. I have already done this and it looks much more comfortable in its new home. There are several new pseudobulbs maturing on it so it should have quite a few growing points.

I know. This photo is below even my usually fairly poor standard, but you get the general idea. I will say that Coelogyne pulverula is a nice tidy plant that doesn't sprawl everywhere and likes to stay in a nice neat clump. It does, however, get monstrously large as it reaches flowering size so I'd better make room!

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.