365 days of orchids – day 688 – Isabellia virginalis

This is one of Issy’s favourite orchids – after all it seems to be named after her! Actually a lot of us count Isabellia virginalis as one of our favourite orchids. This close up shows the beautiful little flowers (thanks Ben for the photo) and then there is the interesting basket like weave of fibres around the small pseudobulbs.

This fantastic miniature species comes from the Mata Atlantica, Brazil where it grows in cool forests with a wet summer and dryer winter (A habitat we have had the pleasure of exploring). It comes from the same habitat as many of the plants in our Cool Americas section and we grow it mounted and high up so that it has a little more light and less moisture than some of the other cloud forest species in this section.

I still haven’t found any thorough research on the evolutionary advantage of the basket weave protection but perhaps it could be protection against extreme weather or pests? Unfortunately we don’t have enough plants to carry out a controlled experiment with slugs!

Joe’s took this photograph of the same plant 12 months ago and the photos show that the species is growing well with quite extensive new roots and leaves. I wonder how many flowers we will get next year?


365 days of orchids – day 687 – Elleanthus amethysinus

This is a terrestrial found from Venezuela to Peru that grows on open rocky slopes in cool montane forrest from 1500-2000m altitude. It produces long, thin, upright stems (ours are about 1m – 1.5m long) and these produce terminal flowers in little clumps (see photo below with Ruby). The weight of the flowers pull the stems sideways and the flowers end up hanging from the stems which gives easy access for the humming bird pollinators.

The flowers are heavy nectar producers, again to attract humming birds, and last a couple of weeks.

We grow the species in pots of open compost and keep them well watered throughout the year. Flowering is sporadic, so there is often a stem with flowers, but happens mostly in the autumn for us. We grow the species in our Cool Americas Section.

Elleanthus is related to Sobralia (below) which has a similar growth habit but few large short lived flowers.

These two genera add an interesting diversity to our collection and we would not be without them.


Pollinating after the show

Now that our big show is over our plants can return to one of their primary tasks which is producing seed for the propagation lab. Here Ed is pollinating Oncidium ornithorynchum by taking pollen from the dark pink clone and putting it onto the light pink clone. When ever possible we produce seed by using two different clones of a species especially with the Oncidium family where most species refuse to produce viable seed from a self pollination. The seed pods will be carefully wayches for the next few moths and they will be sown both green pod (just before they ripen) and dry seed (after the seed pods ripen and split).

As usual the propagation lab was busy before school with students making media and replaying seedlings in the laminar flow cabinets.



365 days of orchids – day 686 – Octomeria grandiflora

We have had a big increase in visitors to our website since the British Orchid Show and so if you are a new visitor it may be useful to explain 365 days of orchids. On January 1st 2017 we set ourselves the challenge of posting a different orchid species that was flowering in the greenhouses on each of the 365 days of the year. Well we succeeded and in the process produced a detailed record of 365 of the species we grow. In 2018 we decided to continue allowing us to add more species as they flower and add additional information for any species covered in 2017. As you can see we are now on Day 686 and we hope that you enjoy your daily orchid as much as we do in the greenhouses.

Today we have Octomeria grandiflora, a species we not be without. It is native to Brazil and we have seen it flowering in forests around Macae de Cima in Rio State growing amongst moss on the trunks of trees in humid primary forest (School trips have been to Brazil twice with the Rio Atlantic Forest Trust) . It appreciates shade and regular watering although we find it does well both mounted or in pots in our Cool Americas Section.

The flowers are about 2cm across which seems rather small for ‘grandiflora’ but for an Octomeria species 2cm is huge! We find the species is almost always in flower but gives its main blooming in the autumn.


Shows to look forward to

As autumn settles on the greenhouse it is time to look ahead to spring next year and the shows we will be attending. Amongst the team we will need to decide who is going to be responsible for creating our displays, plants we can add to our sales table and of course looking at our plants to plan what may be in flower for each. We have included shows on our Events calendar but here is a summary up to April 2019.

Wednesday December 12th – Orchid Christmas – Writhlington School from 6pm-9pm – orchids, mince pies and mulled wine in the tropical splendour of the school greenhouses.

Saturday 2nd March 2019 10.30 am to 4.00 pm – Cheltenham & District Orchid Society Annual Show – Churchdown Community Centre Parton Road, Churchdown Gloucester GL3 2JH – We will be displaying and selling.

Saturday 30 March 2019 and Sunday 31 March 2019 – 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. each day – Bournmouth Orchid Society 60th Anniversary Show, Highcliffe Castle, Rothesay Drive, Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset  BH23 4LE – We will be displaying with a have a go lab and selling plants.

Monday 8th April (Late event), Tuesday 9th April (10am-5pm) and Wed 10th April (10am-5pm) – RHS London Orchid Show – The Lindley Hall, Elverton St, London SW1P 2PB – Our 18th London RHS Show with our biggest display yet and an amazing range of orchids for sale.