Dendrobium nobile – 365 days of orchids – day 1597

It is Dendrobium nobile time in our Cool Asia section.

We have several clones of this Himalayan species that represent the wonderful diversity we have seen in the species in the wild during our visits to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Dendrobium nobile is one of our favourite species. Its large and striking flowers are as arresting in the greenhouse as they are in the forests of Sikkim (see plant in situ below) where it is the state flower.

The plant here flowering near Gangtok, in Sikkim, shows the natural growth habit. The plant grows long upright pseudobulbs during the warm wet summer months. In their second year these bulbs become less upright and produce heavy flowering in April. In their third year the bulbs are pendulous and produce a few extra flowers and by this time they have lost all their leaves.

The wild plants in Sikkim show a wide range of colour forms and one tree in particular demonstrated the variability of the species with dark forms, light forms, rounded flowers and more pointed flowers. (see below) The tree also shows the habitat clearly with plants growing in dappled shade from tall trees and a little moss on the trunk showing that the dry season is far from bone dry here. In fact we found that it rains every few days in the dry season at this altitude 1200m. In cultivation we grow the species in Cool Asia with a minimum of 10C in winter and vents open above 17C. We keep the plants wet in summer and damp in winter, never allowing bulbs to shrivel.

Dendrobium nobile in Sikkim – this is one of my favourite epiphyte trees of all time and was on the side of the road. Do visit Sikkim if you get the chance.

It is a delight to have diverse clones in flower in the greenhouse too.


Lycaste aromatica – 365 days of orchids – day 1596

We are pleased to report that BBC filming for Green Planet is going well with today’s species taking a staring role with its profucion of flowers from leafless pseudobulbs.

It is a shame that the cameras can’t catch fragrance as Lycaste aromatica has a very pungent spicy aroma – a highlight every May in our greenhouse.

Lycaste aromatica is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte in semi-deciduous forest. It uses its powerful scent to attract euglossine bees (perfume gathering bees) and in common with many plants adopting this strategy has fairly short lived flowers (a couple of weeks).

The native habitat experiences a marked dry season and so the species drops all its leaves in December and remains leafless until April or May. We reduce watering to almost none while there are no leaves but in the summer once growth is underway we water heavily to support the rapidly growing lush leaves. We find that having a couple of shelves in the greenhouse especially for orchids with reduced  water is a very useful thing.

When handling Lycstae aromatica it is worth remembering that each pseudobulb is topped with two razor sharp spines left by the falling leaves.

The species enjoys our Warm Americas section with a winter minimum of 15C


Cymbidium lowianum – 365 days of orchids – day 1595

We have Cymbidium species flowering throughout the year and Cymbidium lowianum is one of our late spring/early summer species. I remember as a teenager (in the 1970s) preparing Cymbidium lowinaum plants at Keith Andrew Orchids for Chelsea (in late May). We kept them in a cool room from early April so that they would be at their best for the show.

Here we have the the concolor vairiety of the species without the usual red pigment – see our standard clone below:

Cymbidium lowianum is native to Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China where it grows as an epiphyte in cool montane forest. Cymbidium lowianum grows into a very large plant and has lovely large pseudobulbs, long thick leaves and very long arching flower spikes that naturally grow out to the side of the plant. We are keen to show off the natural grace of these flower spikes and so do not stake them – though that does have issues for space.

Lowianum has been used extensively in Cymbidium breeding and the red V on the lip is a dominant feature that can be seen in many hybrids. The concolor clones have been used in the breeding of green cymbidiums.

We grow Cymbidium lowianum with our other Cymbidiums in our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C)



Sobralia xantholauca – 365 days of orchids – day 1594

Yesterday’s Sobralia macrantha is a giant orchid with stems approaching 1.5-2m but it is dwarfed by its close cousine, Sobralia leucoxantha, with its 3m long stems ending in these giant creamy flowers. This is one of our orchids that has always been just too big to take out of the greenhouse, but its flowering is always a wonderful event.

The species is native to Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia, where it grows as a terrestrial or epiphyte, produces its thin canes about 3m long, and in late spring these large (15cm across) flowers that last about two days. This is a lot of leaves and stems for a couple of days flowers but we are really fond of the species as it has a dramatic splendour all of its own. Each stem will produce a two or three flowers successively over five or six weeks, so actually the flowering period is well over a month.

We grow it in a 90 cm diameter tree container in our Warm Americas section with a minimum of 15C and good light. We spray the plant daily and it is crying out for dividing into about six large plants – a job for next month.

For those eager to buy a giant orchid or two, we are beginning to plan an open evening in July (lockdown willing). This will be a chance for the public to visit the greenhouse for the first time in well over a year, and of course a chance for the orchid project students to introduce you to their plants. We will be selling plants, flasks, and many of those plants that are too big to post. More information by the end of next week 🙂


Anacamptis morio near Brewham

There is little to compare with a field of Anacamptis morio (Green Winged Orchid) in early May, and this field near Brewham, Somerset is outstanding.

With today’s weather forecast looking wet and windy it was a treat to be taken to see this fantastic field of Cowslips and Green Winged Orchids by a local nature enthusiast. Anacamptis morio is arguably the most variable of our native British orchids and with a field with as many plants as this there are lots of different colour combinations to spot.

If you have a field of Anacamptis morio near you (check out mature reserves online) then this week is the perfect time to visit. The field near Brewham is managed brilliantly by its owner based on low density grazing.