Masdevallia nidifica

Whilst watering my greenhouse today I noticed my Masdevallia nidifica was flowering.  I don’t think this orchid ever featured on Simon’s Orchid of the Day so I thought I would add this cute little Masdevallia.

Masdevallia nidifica can be found growing wild in Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru in cloud forests between 450 – 2500 meters.

The name nidifica comes from the Latin word nidificus which means to make a nest.  This describes the way the orchid grows in dense tufts.

I grow this miniature Masdevallia in my cool greenhouse.  It likes plenty of light, but not direct sunlight, and regular watering to keep the  roots damp.  I have mine growing in a little pot which I have hung up to allow good drainage and airflow around the leaves.


Marvelous Masdevallias & Resplendent Restrepias

This week has been all about repotting and splitting plants to sell in our Etsy shop and on our sales tables at shows. Hunting through the benches in our Cool Americas section came up with  a bountiful supply of Masdevallia orchids, all of which have now been repotted. I didn’t realise we had quite so many.

Restrepias appeared in abundance although I am sure there are still quite a few hiding still to be found.

When the students return I will be asking them to help sort the plethora of Pleurothallis and Stelis orchids.


Fighting Legionnaires Bacteria

Periodically we have to flush through our watering system to prevent the bacteria causing Legionnaires disease.  Legionnaires disease is waterborne and harmful to humans. It causes a pneumonia like lung infection.  It is caused by inhaling bacteria infected water droplets.  I thought it was a good time to flush the system today as it is the last day of my school holiday.

Below is a photo of our 16,000 litre rainwater tank which holds rainwater collected from the greenhouse roof.

The rain water is pumped into a holding tank within the greenhouse, where it is let to warm up to greenhouse temperature. This is because we do not want to shock the orchids, with cold water, when watering. Unfortunately this water is an ideal breeding ground for the Legionnaire bacteria. We cannot add chemicals to kill the bacteria as it would be injurious to the orchids.  Luckily our dark tank is inhospitable to algae growth on the inside.

I have not been refilling the holding tank with fresh rainwater, for the last few days after watering.  I left a little water in the tank so that the pump did not run dry. This residual water can now be removed by turning the tap at the bottom of the left hand side of the holding tank.

The water can now run freely away and not damage the pump.

Next it is time to turn off the tap which allows the water to come from the outside rainwater tank, into the holding tank.  This is the larger of the two taps.  The vertical position shows it is off.  The smaller tap, when vertical, allows mains water to flow into the system.

The empty holding tank is now being flushed through with chlorinated mains water.  It should do this for at least half an hour.

After half an hour has gone by the mains water can be turned off. Do this by turning the smaller tap to the horizontal position.  Turning the larger tap to the horizontal position allows the rainwater to flow into the  holding tank, when the irrigation pump is turned on.

It is now time to turn off the tap at the bottom left of the holding tank.  This stops it emptying when fresh rainwater is pumped in.

Turning on the irrigation pump allows the rain water, held in the outside tank, to be pumped inside to the holding tank.  This will take at least an hour.

When the holding tank is full turn off the irrigation pump.


Preparing for Autumn

One of my greenhouses, although situated under trees, has been shaded all summer with green net.  It is now time to remove this to give my plants a boost of light before the darker winter days.  My other greenhouse gets plenty of south facing light and I will leave the shading a little longer.

The picnic season is almost over but I have a really good use for those  frozen ice packs used to keep picnics cool.

In my shady greenhouse I grow orchids from cloud forests such as Masdevallias, Pleurothallis and Restrepias.  In winter I do not want the temperature going below 12 degrees celsius.  The greenhouse is bubble wrapped all year round.  In winter it acts as insulation to keep the heat in and in summer, aided by shading,  it helps to keep the heat out.  It will not be many weeks until I need to use my greenhouse heater to keep my plants cosy at night.  How do I know it is working?

My greenhouse heater has an external thermostat to regulate heat the appliance puts out.  Today it was 20 degrees in my greenhouse, the  heater was not going to switch on to prove it was working.

By placing the censor between the ice packs the heat soon began to fall and on came the heating at 12 degrees.  I now know it is working and will turn on with the cooler nights.

I did the same test in my other greenhouse where I grow orchids that can tolerate a lower temperature, 6 degrees celsius.  I grow Coelogynes, Cymbidiums and Dendrobiums in this one.  The heater worked perfectly.

At school heating for the greenhouses comes from a gas boiler.  Unfortunately it often breaks down and then we use our back up thermostatically controlled fan heaters.  This is just enough heat to keep the cold at bay until the boiler is fixed.






Sunday at the Bee and Pollination Festival

Our second day at the Bee and Pollination Festival and here are some more of our display orchids.  Below is Stenoglottis fimbriata, from South Africa.  It is pollinated by butterflies.  Stenoglottis grows on riverbanks where, in the wet season, it has lovely green, spotty leaves and beautiful pink flowers.  In the dry season the leaves die back and the orchid retreats below ground where it waits for the rain to come and then grows new leaves again. We water our Stenoglottis orchids well, when they are in leaf, as they like to be wet but as soon as the leaves begin to turn brown we stop watering and let them go dormant.  In the spring, usually February for us, the leaves begin to grow and we resume watering.


Here is our hummingbird pollinated Masdevallia paiveana from Peru.  We grow it in our Cool Americas section of the greenhouse.  Masdevallia paiveana is a friendly orchid which tends to like visiting other plant’s pots where it will grow away quite happily keeping its neighbour company.

Cymbidium suavissimum is pollinated by small bees.  The orchid comes from the Himalayas and we grow it with most of our other Cymbidiums in the Temperate section of the greenhouse.  I think it is unusual and not nearly as showy as our other Cymbidiums.

Next is Oncidium blanchetii with a very long flower spike, over a meter long.  The orchid grows  such a long flower spike to hold the flowers above the grasses and scrub with which it grows.  It comes from Brazil and is the second orchid on our display that is pollinated by bees.  In our greenhouse this Oncidium lives in our Cool Americas section.

The white petals of Epidendrum ciliare, from Central America, shine out in the dark so that it’s moth pollinator can see it but the orchid does not give the moth any nectar in return for pollination.  In the wild Epidendrum ciliare grows in Central America.

Our third and final bee pollinated orchid is Coelogyne speciosa.  The large flower needs a large bee to pollinate it.  This Coelogyne comes from Malaysia.  It enjoys growing in the Warm Asia section of the greenhouse and likes plenty of water.

All our orchids are now safely back in the greenhouse. Their next outing will be The Devon Autumn Show at Burnham Nurseries on Sunday October 15th. Hope to see you there.