Hi, Chloe here, I have just come home from Cornwall and wanted to share what I’ve been up to.
For the last 3 months I have been volunteering at the Eden Project and The Lost Gardens of Heligan.
At the Eden Project, I was working on a management plan for their orchids and planting a few in the amazon section of the rainforest biome. And at Heligan I was working in their jungle, ornimantal garden, productive garden and flower garden teams. I had a great time at both and learnt so much- especially being able to identify orchids that are older than 2 years old. A skill I didnt have before having spent too much time in the Lab. It was wonderfull living in Cornwall for a while as well, I am missing the milder weather allready.
Plans for the next few months include working at the lab in Malasia at MRSM school for January and February, to then join the team for the World orchid congress in Taiwan in March.
Today our thoughts have turned to Madagascar – an Island full of endemic species and some remarkable orchids. One of the species is this robust Aerangis species from Central and Eastern Madagascar with thick waxy flowers and a long spur. We grow the species hanging in the roof of Warm Asia although it’s natural habitat in woodland from 1100-1400m suggests it could grow cooler.
We spray the basket daily but this gives plenty of time for it to dry out between waterings.
Our plant is on its way to the Aardman Studios in Bristol this week where, as you probably know, our plants are featuring in filming for a new wildlife series. Up to know we have been focussing on South American Species for the show but now we are including Madagascan species for another episode.
Students at a previous visit to the filming in Bristol
We are excited that one of our plants of Madagascar’s most famous orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale, is in bud and will be ready for filming just before Christmas.
It seems that this week is pink species week and this remarkable orchid is one we have seen growing in hot dry rainforests in lowland Guatemala and in cool mountain forest in Brazil. The range of the species has actually been recorded from Mexico to Argentina and from 300-3900m altitude. Few orchids exist across such a range of habitats.
We first observed the species in Brazil where it was growing as a lithophyte on a South facing (Shady) rock face above primary forest at 1200m altitude. Plants were surrounded by moss and were growing cool damp and shaded. In Guatemala plants were growing as epiphytes low in trees (so again in shade) but the habitat was hot and seasonally dry. In Costa Rica we found the species thriving in mature regrowth forests at 1400m
When it comes to growing plants in cultivation it would seem difficult to identify the correct conditions but I expect plants would thrive in both our Cool Americas and Warm Americas sections. We know that our plant is seed from the Brazillian population as we purchased it in flask from Equatorial Plants and so we have opted for the cool damp shady habitat we observed there.
Plants flower once a year from the ends of this years growths and the long lasting flowers give a pretty display despite being small. The species is humming bird pollinated which explains the terminal pendulous nature of the plants.
A beautiful frosty morning at school today with mottled pink in the sky to the west, and inside one of our favourite mottled pink orchids.
Some orchid species have more appropriate names than others and this one is spot on as ‘decumana’ means large flowered. The 7cm flowers on this species rather dwarf the 5cm plant which here is mounted although we also grow the species in small pots and baskets. We have two diffderent clones in flower today and so are hopeful of making viable seed to sow in around 4 months time.
This plant was divided about two years ago and has become firmly established to its new mount with extensive roots clinging to the bark. Our philosophy when it comes to mounting plants is to always use bare cork with no added moss and to fix plants firmly with a twist of thin green wire through two drilled holes. Our observations in the wild indicate that orchid roots like to be firmly attached to the bark of the host tree and we find that in cultivation the same applies. the moss on this cork has all arrived naturally since mounting last January and shows the cool damp conditions we provide for our Masdevallias.
Masdevallia decumana is native to cloud forests in Ecuador and Peru from 1000-2500m. We find it enjoys Cool Americas (Min 12C) where it is kept well watered all year.
Our plants of Polystachya galeata are really flourishing at the moment and we have several plants with with the subtle but attractive pink, green and cream flowers.
Like most polystachyas this species is African and is found in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zaire and Angola. The broad distribution results in a wide range of colour forms. The species is native to hot lowland evergreen forests from 400-1000m altitude and so we grow plants in our Warm Asia section (we don’t have a Warm Africa section) in shade with a minimum of 17C.
This orchid has the typical features of a polystachya flower; it is non-resupinate (up-side-down), has large lateral sepals that form a hood, and has flowers that open in succession on a flower spike produced from the base of the single leaf that grows on a cylindrical pseudobulb.
The flowers are really worth a close look from underneath as this reveals the beautiful colour combinations hidden from above.