Dendrobium densiflorum – 365 days of orchids – day 1628

We start the week with the really spectacular sight of our largest Dendrobium densiflorum in full flower.

Dendrobium densiflorum has to be one of the most dramatic orchids we grow, and we have been fortunate to see it flowering its natural habitat too. In Sikkim the species grows at around 1000m where it lives as an epiphyte generally in tall semi-evergreen trees with little moss as shown below. The high end of its range overlaps the lower end of Dendrobium nobile’s range and we have seen both species flowering together during April just as they do in our greenhouse,

We grow out plants mounted with heavy watering in the summer. This is one of the plants that section hops in the greenhouse to replicate its natural habitat. In the summer it grows its new pseudobulbs rapidly and we find it a home in Warm Asia where heat and heavy watering help it to grow long bulbs. Its native Sikkim becomes quite cool at 1000m in winter and so we move it for a fairly dry rest in Coll Asia from November until February. We then move it back to warm where the change in climate usually induces rapid flower development, taking about six weeks after the move.

Plants are very long lived and flower from older pseudobulbs so patience is required to grow a specimen – but it is well worth it as shown by our plant this morning or the lovely specimen in the forests of Sikkim


Capanemia superflua – 365 days of orchids – day 1627

This very floriferous orchid is the larger of our Capanemia species, but still a miniature, with 4cm terete leaves and six cm spikes packed with pretty pink and yellow flowers.

Capanemia superflua is native to south east Brazil and northern Argenitina where it grows as a epiphyte amongst moss on twigs and branches, and it seems very happy with us mounted on cork bark. The species is reported from relatively low altitudes around 500m but we find the species thrives when grown cool and moist (min 12C in Cool Americas).

We love the flower of this species but it seems that slugs do too – so a good idea to move plants to a safe spot when in bud.

The smaller capanemia we grow is Capanemia micromera which is really tiny.


Phalaenopsis violacea – 365 days of orchids – day 1626

This dramatic Phalaenopsis species is native to Malaysia. The species has been used heavily in the breeding of long lasting colourful hybrids and you can see why. The species produces flowers successively on a spike over many years and so this could appear anywhere in our 365 days but today it is looking particularly lovely.

As the plant matures it produces more and more active flower spikes and so can produce a fantastic display of flowers from several years worth of spikes.

The species is very closely related to Phalaenopsis bellina (below) which is restricted too Borneo and we have seen in Sarawak.

Phalaenopsis bellina was considered a variety of Phalaenopsis violacea when I started growing orchids, and was only separated in 1995 although it is clearly distinct.

The two species give and interesting example of speciation. Both species clearly have a common ancestor but those on Borneo have evolved differently than those in Peninsular Malaysia – in shape, colour and growth habit and most significantly floral fragrance, indicating that they have evolved to suit different pollinators.

Both species are wonderful.



Cattleya mendelii – 365 days of orchids – day 1625

The long lasting flowers of Cattleya mendelii are amongst the largest of any species we grow at 15cm across.

This magnificent Cattleya species is native to Colombia where it grows at around 1000m as a lithophyte on exposed rocks. We find it to be a straight forward species to grow in our Warm America section where we have several clones. The afternoon sunlight yesterday gave the pure white petals and sepals a crystalline glow which contrasts wonderfully with the deep magenta of the lip.

The species flowers reliably in late May and June for us and in cultivation the species can be recognised by the characteristic flowering season, generally light petals and very dramatic purple pink lip pattern. A good starting point in telling similar cattleyas species apart is remembering their flowering time as we showed with our ‘Cattleyas throughout the year’ (although Cattleya mendelii didn’t make the list)

The plant here is growing in a free crate from a market acting as a wide shallow basket and we find free crates are a great potting solution, suited to the shallow roots of many orchid species – free draining – and of course easy to carry.

There are still lots of buds to open and the long lasting flowers will make a fantastic display for the next dew weeks.


Barkeria spectabilis – 365 days of orchids – day 1624

A regular highlight of the summer is the flowering of our Barkeria spectabilis plants. This is one species that always attracts attention from visitors with its large delicate butterfly pollinated flowers.

This species is found in the wild in Mexico, Guatemala and El  Salvador in dryish oak forest from 1200m to about 2000m. We grow it with a minimum temperature of 15 degrees C mounted on a cork slab in our Warm Americas section.

The natural habitat indicates it could be grown cool (down to about 12 degrees) but our plants seem to appreciate the heat. It flowers in the early summer as the first of our Barkeria speices each year.

We have tried growing the species in pots but we the roots have always suffered from rots and the plants have struggled as a result. On cork bark mounts the roots are wonderful and last for years, so we will always grow plants mounted.