2 May 2006

In The Greenhouse (06/05)

Weather patterns are shifting. Cold fronts are steadily on the rise, bringing Antarctic air over the southern tip of the continent. Cymbidiums and Dendrobiums are feeling the effects of autumn, with old leaves looking yellow and withered. Phalaenopsis are showing signs of inflorescences bursting through their leaf bases. The buds of Cattleyas are maturing in their sheaths. The orchid show season is coming...

Sophrolaeliocattleya Mahalo Jack. This minicat has shockingly colourful (not to mention large) flowers for such a petite epiphyte. Created in 1991, this grex features Cattleya walkeriana in its background, and it influences the shape of the column and the intense colour. The other contributors are the diminutive bright red Sophronitis coccinea and the absolutely sensual Laelia pumila, responsible for the spicy cinnamon scent emitted by this Slc.

Cymbidium Hot Lips. This grows best in a hanging basket, from where the pendulous inflorescences can be best appreciated. The labellum is indeed a hot red colour, nicely contrasted against the ice green tepals (the correct term for sepals and petals when they are similar in appearance).

Odontoglossum Violetta Von Holm. This is actually a hybrid between two species in the genus Lemboglossum, which has been separated from the genus Odontoglossum since 1984, due to differences in geographic distribution. Nice upright spikes carry lots of cuppy brown barred flowers with heart-shaped pink lips. This is a very easy plant to grow and flower, and I strongly recommend it for any beginner. Just be aware of mealy bugs hiding in the unfurling new leaves.

Laeliocattleya Blue Boy. Long considered one of the best blue Cattleya-hybrids (as can be gathered from its name) this is actually a lavender orchid with some hints of true blue on the lip only. It was registered in 1960. The grex Lc. Mary Elizabeth Bohn (registered in 1966 and which was featured in a previous post) produces flowers much closer to blue and with much improved shape. At least the Blue Boys fade only after about three weeks. Will they still be around when their retro-trendiness has faded, too?

Cymbidium Lancelot 'Grail'. This is a cute orchid. A miniature cymbidium which looks like a tuft of grass for most of the year, simply explodes with teeny-tiny flowers at the end of autumn. This is not a plant for close-up photography really, as the flowers are a quite boring pastel with some typically darker elements on the lip. The best effect is achieved when looking at the plant as a whole from a distance.

Phalaenopsis... who knows, really? Another tagless wonder bought on impulse at a flower shop in Brooklyn Mall. This makes enormous, flat, colourful flowers on a very tall inflorescence. The inflorescence lengthens over a matter of months, drawing the anticipation out over the festive season and well into the new year. The flowers are expected to last as long (if the snails don't get to them first).

Epidendrum 'Yellow'. A reedstem epi I received as a gift from an anonymous hairdresser in Scottburgh. Walking from the beach one afternoon, I saw this woman closing up her salon with a bunch of multicoloured Epidendrums clutched in one hand. After engaging in some conversation about the differences in cultivating orchids on the Highveld as opposed to by the coast, she kindly gave me some keikis, which I duly planted when I got back home. This is the result, in true gardener spirit.

Dendrobium Lee Chong Blue. Another Thai hardcane dendrobe. The amount of hybridizing that goes on in South East Asia is staggering. This one produced three upright spikes with quite dark, starry flowers with delightful stripes and a nice contrasting white anther cap on the column. It'll make any living room look like the lobby of a hotel in Bali.

Zygopetalum intermedium. This was purchased in 2001. The flower in the photograph is its first. Ever. I'm therefore quite proud of it. I knew that Zygopetalum species were tricky to grow well, but never anticipated that I would wait five years for this sucker to flower. The wait was worth it, though. The flowers are huge and colourful, and carried on two semi-arching inflorescences. It also produces an overpowering, musky scent that literally spills out of the greenhouse when you open the door. The plant is a South American native, growing in leaf litter on moist forest floors in high altitude regions of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.


Wendy said...

You know... after kew Gardens I now read your greenhouse updates with more interest! I have a new appreciation for plants. Are you entering anything into the show? Or are you just going to be a visitor and happy shopper?

Unknown said...

My friend Christian will probably make a display for the ONT show and I usually lend him some plants to put into it - they won't be eligible for judging though, but will be seen (and hopefully appreciated) by the masses. I always end up buying things even when I promise myself I'm not going to.

Karen Little said...

so that's why my den kingianum is shedding at a rate of knots! i thought i'd done something wrong.

i swear, when not in flower, that's the ugliest plant i've ever known. scraggly and scrawny, it's really an eyesore. but i love it anyway.

Karen Little said...

i know they'e all over the place, but i still love the phaelanopsis. they have a kind of classic, elegant beauty?

later alligator

Unknown said...

I tend to feel really motherly over the ugly ones and give the regal beauties the distance they deserve.

Oh, and Phalaenopsis, though ubiquitous (and now available at Pick 'n Pay, of all places) will always be exotic and luxurious to me - they have infinite variety. The new hybrids from South East Asia promise things we could never have imagined, colours like black, blue and green, with weird appendages and markings. Don't think the tannies will go for those, though.

arcadia said...

thanks for a lovely post. illuminating.

Unknown said...

Thanks, arcadia. This garden is a place of quiet reflection in the bustle of my life, a place where I share my passions. Occasionally the odd moan or glum post will slip through, but that's not why I planted it.

Feel free to step through the little swing gate with its peeling green paint and infuriatingly endearing creak at any time. My aim is to add some beauty to this world. I believe it's what we long for most, in the end.