We have a wonderful species for you today. This miniature member of the Cattleya family is a mass of flowers every April and a reminder of the remarkable orchids of the Mata Atlantica, Brazil.
Leptotes bicolor is one of the species we found during our expeditions to Brazil in 2000 and 2006. We observed it growing on a shady moss covered granite rock face in dryish forest at 900m altitude. We cultivate it in our Warm Americas section (minimum 150C) and mounted on bark where it is watered every day. We have found a semi shaded spot that replicates the species’ native cliff face habitat.
The leptotes is the white dots in the photo below on the shaded rock. Note also spanish moss growing on the tree and arboreal ants nests in the tree too.
The plant of Leptotes bicolor in our top photographs have been in the school greenhouse since 1994 when it arrived as a seedling mounted on the small piece of cork bark it still clings to. It has steadily grown into a stunning ball of small terete leaves and masses of white and pink flowers. It won a Certificate of Cultural Commendation from the RHS Orchid Committee in 2018 is now in need of dividing.
We have seedlings doing well in the propagation lab and hope to have seedlings available later this year, then more people can enjoy this wonderful species and be transported to the Organ Mountains of Brazil.
April sun brings real warmth to the greenhouse and the higher temperatures lead to a heady scents from our fragrant orchids, and our Warm Asia section is currently filled with the delicious scent of this giant Vanda species.
The plant is now over 2m tall with large flower spikes of beautiful waxy flowers, and a heady sweet scent.
This grand orchid is native to lowland forest in Java and is clearly determined to become a giant orchid over time. The plant produces stiff alternate leaves 30cm long.
The plant is loving life in Warm Asia and has three new growths coming near the base and is well on its way to becoming a giant bush of Vanda.
Sometimes this plant is listed as a the species Vanda suavis, separate from the other form of Vanda tricolor (also found in Java) which has fewer, rounder flowers, but we will follow theplantlist.org in our labelling.
Todays sad news has reminded me of our meeting with Prince Philip in 2004, at the RHS anniversary show. He was great with students Chris and Callum, reflecting his commitment to young people, and declared the orchid project “Marvellous”. He will be greatly missed.
Regulars at our online shop will have noticed that for the first time since April 2020 it is empty! Don’t worry we will be restocking this week after an Easter Break, and in time for our virtual talk to Devon Orchid Society.
To finish Dendrobium week we have another of our favourite dendrobiums.
Dendrobium loddigessii is a small growing but spectacular species found in Laos, Vietnam and Southern China. The species is semi deciduous and grows pseudobulbs no longer than 10cm The growths grow quickly each summer and then drop some of their soft leaves in the winter. Flowers appear from last year’s bulbs in late spring. We find that this species needs a distinct summer and winter to flower well as it can tend to just keep growing if kept warm all year and forget to flower.
We grow the species bright, wet and warm in the summer – Warm Asia seems to suit it best. Then cooler and dryer in the winter when the roof of Cool Americas seems to be its favourite spot. This may seem like a bit of a faff but it is definitely worth it for the sweet little flowers appear from March to May.
We have tried the plant mounted and potted, and it definitely works best for us mounted where it can develop into a mass of little growths. However we find young plants seem to grow best in little pots before being mounted once they are really thriving.