March in the school greenhouse is always Coelogyne cristata time with several clones of this wonderful species flowering together. All photographed this week we have Coelogyne cristata ‘limoniana’ with very pale yellow on the lip, the more usual variety with golden yellow on the lip and “alba’ with pure white flowers.
As well as a range of flower colour forms, clones are also variable in leaf colour, distance between bulbs, size of flowers and texture of flowers – all good reasons to grow lots of Coelogyne cristatas.
We have seen this species in the wild in Sikkim and Darjeeling, India. It grows on trees and rocks at an altitude of around 2000m above sea level. It always grows with thick moss indicating a love for damp conditions. We keep our plants wet in the summer and damp in the winter. Its altitude gives cool winters with a minimum around 6-10 0C and so we grow the species both in our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) and our Warm Temperate section (minimum 6C)
To be honest, I am fed up with seeing wrong advice for growers (even in the RHS Garden magazine this month) that plants need a dry winter rest – this information has been repeated from old books clearly written by people who have not observed plants in habitat. Wild plants do not have shrivelled pseudobulbs at the end of the ‘dry season’ because they only grow in spots where the dry season is damp, such as this mossy tree in Tinkitam. So don’t let bulbs shrivel in cultivation over the winter. Saying this, the flowers can easily be damaged by water and so we avoid spraying them with the hose and reduce watering when the flowers are out.
The species has an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS and makes a wonderful windowsill orchid (again despite what is written in the RHS Garden magazine), as these windowsill plants show.
For more tips on growing Cool Asian orchids visit our orchid culture page.