Dracula bella – 365 days of orchids – day 1968

We are on our way to the malvern show in the school mini bus (more photos later) but had time to water the greenhouse and find the dramatic flowers of Dracula bella to greet us.

We have a number of Dracula species in the school collection but this is the plant with the largest and most dramatic flowers. The species is native to dense cloud forests in Colombia and Ecuador at altitudes from 1700-2000m. We have seen other draculas growing in Costa Rica where we found plants restricted to wet mossy positions in low light. In common with most draculas, Dracula bella has strongly pendulous flower spikes and so basket culture is important, both to display plants, and to stop flowers becoming trapped in pots.

When mature the species makes fantastic specimens (below) but needs to be grown cool and wet to avoid heat stress in the summer.




Oncidium sphaculatum – 365 days of orchids – day 1967

We have three yellow flowered Oncidiums on our display this weekend and the largest growing is Oncidium spaculatum.

Oncidium sphaculatum is a majestic and impressive species with dense branched spikes 2m long each carrying over 100 yellow and brown flowers. This plant has five spikes and so with more than 500 flowers is a sight to behold.

We first found the species in the wild in lowland Guatemala in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala – the largest tract of rainforests north of the Amazon. Oncidium spaculatum was common on large trees and palms around Laguna Yaxha. A particlarly fond memory is finding an old fruiting palm that contained several Oncidium spaculatum plants and their long flower spikes as well as a Toucan feeding on the palm fruits.

Oncidium spaculatum is found in dryish lowland forest from Mexico through Central America to Venezuela where it experiences a hot wet season and a long dryer season. We find it appreciates lots of water and feed in the summer when in growth and a much dryer winter with enough water to stop the bulbs shrivelling. We grow plants in warm, Americas (min 15C) although plants would appreciate higher temperatures. When we were staying amongst plants in Guatemala the night time temperatures were around 25C.


Angraecum magdalenae – 365 days of orchids – day 1966

We are delighted with the diversity of orchids on our Malvern International Orchid Show display this week. The orchids of Madagascar are represented by this magnificant cool growing species.

Angraecum magdalenae from the mountains of central Madagascar is one of our most rewarding orchid species, and this large plant that we have had since 1998, so it is a slow grower but gets better and better. The large (8cm) waxy, pristine white flowers are wonderfully fragrant and this year the plant has 14 flowers out together.

The plant’s natural habitat is in leaf litter amongst quartzite boulders but we find the species enjoys a mossy basket where its roots remain damp and cool. Most of our Angraecum species are warm growing but Angraecum magdalenae does best for us in Cool Asia (minimum 10C).

We are delighted to have thousands of seedlings of this species doing very well in our propagation lab and will have plants for sale in flask within the next few months. The flowers hold their nectar in long curved spurs suggesting pollination is by one of Madagascar’s large hawk moths.


Setting up at The Malvern International Orchid Show

This evening saw blue skies over the Malvern Hills as we started set up for the 2022 Malvern International Orchid Show. A massive thank you to ex-students Jacob and Chloe who will be creating the display and organising the sales table tomorrow, and running the stand on Friday.

We have a minibus booked for Saturday and a brand new show team organised. We hope to see lots of our orchid friends, old and new, over the next few days.

I have driven back to Somerset for school tomorrow and left the happy camping scene in the photograph, Chloe relaxing by her van, and Jacob working hard on his tent.


Pleurothallis fulgens – 365 days of orchids – day 1965

Packing plants ready for the Malvern International Orchid Show we were delighted to find this miniature in full flower and looking wonderful for the show.

Pleurothallis fulgens is an unusual miniature orchid with bright orange red, waxy flowers on short repeat flowering stems. Plants are really small with 3cm leaves and they make lovely specimen plants over time.
Pleurothallis fulgens is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows as a twig epiphyte from 950-2400m and so enjoys cool damp conditions and we grow it with a minimum if 12C in our Cool Americas section.

Please can anyone for whom we promised to try and find specific sale plants, remind me so that I can make sure that they are packed – thanks.