Orchids to star in the BBC’s Green Planet

Today we hosted Tim Shepherd in preparation for our orchids being filmed for the forthcoming BBC Attenborough plant spectacular – Green Planet.

Tim is a botanist and time lapse film specialist, renowned for his work on David Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants and other great wildlife films.

Our plants will be time lapsed for the Tropical Forests section of Green Planet and today we worked on identifying key groups of orchids to include in filming. Issy represented orchid growing students, and Chloe represented the Mendip Media group, and once school returns the two student groups will work alongside Tim to develop their own understanding of the world of wildlife filming.

We hope to showcase a few great time lapses here for you in the coming months.


Pleurothallis schweinfurthii – 365 days of orchids – day 1520

The flowers of this lovely species appear to dance on their thin spikes with curly dorsal sepals and petals spread wide.

Pleurothallis schweinfurthii comes from the cloud forests of Peru and Bolivia, and produces spikes of around ten large (3cm long) dramatic spidery flowers. The species is a strong grower and a mature plant  produces a profusion of spikes.

The species makes a medium sized plant and we find it does well in pots or mounted. Plants flower over a long period from spring to autumn, making this a valued member of the collection.





Calanthe vestita – 365 days of orchids – day 1519

Most of the orchid species we grow are epiphytes that grow up trees, but this species is a terrestrial found across South East Asia., form sea level up to 1000m. Calanthe is a widespread genus with more than 200 species mostly found in Asia although we have come across wonderful Calanthe species in Rwanda, India and Borneo on our school expeditions, making the genus one of the most widespread we have come across. Here are come of the species we have found flowering in their diverse habitats.

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In Rwanda we found Calanthe sylvatica in swampy woodland on the edge of Kamiranzovu swamp (A reminder of the importance of  supporting the conservation of the world’s threatened wetlands or should I say swamps.)

The white flowers are those of Calanthe triplicata growing in deep shade in wet lowland forest in Sarawak. This is in Mulu National Park.

The photo below shows two Calanthe species growing close together in a wooded ravine at 2000m altitude near Darjeeling in the Himalayas.

The species are the wonderful green flowered Calanthe chloroleuca (below) ….

…and the very striking Calanthe herbacea

The remarkable range of habitats that we have found Calanthe species growing in shows that it is not possible to generalise on culture for this genus, and highlights the importance of researching the precise natural habitat of any species you grow.

Calanthe vestita grows in warm lowland forests with wet summers and dryer winters, and requires a really dry winter rest in cultivation after the leaves have turned brown and dropped. We put plants up on the electrical control box in the classroom section to make sure it is not watered by mistake from the end of November. During the summer we keep plants wet and warm in Warm Asia.

The species was loved by the Victorians as it flowered with no leaves and so was tolerant of being brought into dry conditions in the victorian parlour.

We grow plants in pots and repot every year as new growth commences though we are careful not to water too heavily until plants new growths are well established. We have found the species easy to raise from seed.


Thanks for your Coelogyne cristata photos

Thanks to those of you have sent photos of your Coelogyne cristatas in flower. It is always lovely to see how well people do with their plants. The first photo is from Agnes and she tells me she has been growing this beauty for four years, from a very small plant, on a cool windowsill. The second photo is an ‘alba’ being grown by Trudy in Norfolk.

Remember that for good flowering next year it is important to produce big bulbs, and we recommend watering and feeding well from March onwards.