365 days of orchids – day 723 – Barkeria whartoniana

As usual in December our Warm Americas section is dominated by barkeria species including Barkeria skinneri, Barkeria lindleyana and this species which is smaller flowered but very floriferous.

Barkeria whartoniana is native to Oaxaca state, Mexico, where it grows in dry deciduous forest either as an epiphyte of on rocks . As a result it produces masses of thick roots that resent being surrounded by damp compost and prefer being exposed to the air. We grow plants mounted and hanging high in our Warm Americas Section (min 15C) where plants are exposed to good light and lots of air. Plants produce thin stems about 30cm long with lush but short-lived leaves and then a branching flower spike that adds a further 80cm to the growth. Plants are semi deciduous and leaves are only remaining on this year’s growth.

With us, Barkeria whartoniana starts to flower in December and will still be flowering in March. New growth follow flowering and we water plants every day when in growth but less often during the winter.



Orchids in a Bauble

This Christmas Issy is offering something new – an Orchid in a Bauble. The idea is part of her STEM BTEC (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and she has been selling glass baubles containing the amazing miniature orchid Lepanthopsis prolifera growing on sphagnum moss.

Lepanthosis prolifera is a tiny flowered species, endemic to North Eastern Colombia, that arrived in the school greenhouses as a ‘weed’ on Pleurothallis sclerophylla and has since expanded into a ball and produced many offspring.

The flowers are produced in sprays on a 1cm spike and usually line up back to back so that flowers look two ways. The plant is in flower for much of the year but I am sorry to say we often forget it because the flowers are so small.

From our experience this miniature is easy to grow and should do well in the bauble. It should be watered about once a week (a pipette is ideal) with rainwater and a little feed in the summer. We grow our plants shaded at school and the bauble is best positioned in a bright but not sunny spot once it comes off the Christmas tree.


365 days of orchids – day 722 – Cattleya dolosa

This cattleya species from Brazil was considered a natural hybrid from its discovery and first description in 1874. It was found growing with Cattleya walkeriana and was thought to be Cattleya walkeriana x Cattleya loddigessii or similar. Recent molecular studies have indicated that it is not a natural hybrid and is actually a species in its own right – hooray. Our plants are the alba form of dolosa.

It differs from Cattleya walkeriana by having flowers from the top of bulbs not from the base and is a much shorter growing plant than Cattleya loddigessii. The plant grows in dryish coastal conditions in Brazil and appreciates very good drainage in a basket (we find it hates growing in a pot) with little water during the winter but plenty in the summer.

The species enjoys life in the roof of our Warm americas section.

Cattleya waleriana and loddigessii below for reference.



365 days of orchids – day 721 – Gongora grossa

To go alongside yesterday’s Gongora maculata we have the beautifully scented Gongora Grossa.

Gongora grossa is another of the larger flowered species and the scent is powerfully spicy and filling Warm Asia where it grows (despite coming from the Americas). It also has particularly long horns protruding down from the lip.

Gongora grossa comes from wet evergreen lowland forest and Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador and the species seems to relish life in our Warm Asia section with a winter minimum of 17C. We grow the plants in baskets and water them frequently to keep the compost moist but do not worry if the humidity falls in the heat of the day.


365 days of orchids – day 720 – Gongora maculata

December is a good time of year for Gongora flowers and our beautiful red Gongora maculata is in flower again.

Gongora maculata is one of the larger growing species and produces large flowers on long pendulous spikes. The flowers on this clone are very heavily spotted in dark red but there are less spotted clones around.

We grow the plant like all our Gongoras in a basket so that it can be hung up when the flower spikes appear although we find plants prefer to sit on a bench when not in flower as they are then much easier to keep well watered. We find that plants prefer wet roots and dryer air to keep leaves in good condition and to make up the large bulbs which produce multiple long flower spikes.