Explore the greenhouse part 2 – Warm Asia

Here is the view today in our Warm Asia section. It is currently dominated by Dendrobiums (in the slightly misty photo you may see Dendrobium aphyllum (pink) and Dendrobium thyrsiflorum (yellow)

You can find more information on each from the links.

This section represents all the lowland warm forests we have visited – Sikkim’s hot valleys (where we found Dendrobium aphyllum), The lowland forests of Assam and Laos (where we found Dendrobium aphyllum) and of course, Sarawak in our two trips in 2019 (the October expedition team shown below). All amazing places. We would like to send our best wishes to our wonderful friends across the tropical world in this challenging time.







Leptotes bicolor- 365 days of orchids – day 1192

In this time of travel restriction let me transport you to Brazil.

Leptotes bicolor is one of the species we found during our expeditions to Brazil in 2000 and 2006. We observed it growing on a shady moss covered granite rock face in dryish forest at 900m altitude. We cultivate it in our Warm Americas section (minimum 150C) and mounted on bark where it is watered every day. We have found a semi shaded spot that replicates the species’ native cliff face habitat.

The leptotes is the white dots in the photo below on the shaded rock. Note also spanish moss growing on the tree and arboreal ants nests in the tree too.

The plant of Leptotes bicolor in our top photographs have been in the school greenhouse since 1994 when it arrived as a seedling mounted on the small piece of cork bark it still clings to. It has steadily grown into a stunning ball of small terete leaves and masses of white and pink flowers. It won a  Certificate of Cultural Commendation from the RHS Orchid Committee in 2018 and keeps getting better and better. It is a real treat to look at this little jewel of a plant and remember the warmth and wonder of the Organ Mountains – I will see if I can find another Brazilian species for tomorrows post.


Explore the greenhouse part 1 – Cool Asia

With COVID19 restrictions in place I am delighted to share the school greenhouses with all of you that can’t visit in person. We will start in Cool Asia – the section that replicates the cool monsoon forests we have explored in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh (map below might help)

We run the section with a minimum temperature of 10C and the vents open at 17C, so were wide open in today’s sunshine. For this habitat we are at the end of the dry season with lots of flowers around, especially on Coelogyne cristata – Here is the limoniana variety in Cool Asia, and Coelogyne cristatas flowering in the forests of Sikkim.


Cymbidiums are flowering too, and the Dendrobium nobiles will be in flower soon.

Dendrobium nobile in Sikkim

Tomorrow we will visit Warm Asia



Some bonus hybrids and orchid history

As regulars will be aware, we specialise in orchid species and have over 900 species in the school orchid houses. I do however have a small number of hybrids and I grow these two to remind me of my orchid childhood.

I began growing orchids at the age of 13 and in 1975 aged 14, I started to work for the famous Dorset orchid Nursery, Keith Andrew Orchids, on Saturdays and school holidays. Keith was an inspiring orchid grower and a fantastic breeder of new hybrids.

This is Cymbidium Bulbarrow ‘Our Midge’ a hybrid between the wonderful small flowered species Cymbidium devonianum (below)  and a large pink hybrid Western Rose.

Keith registered the hybrid when the first seedlings flowered in 1976 and I clearly remember the excitement in the nursery as all the plants were fantastic – and very new at the time. From 1978 Bulbarrows started winning major awards and the different clones made for some absolutely wonderful displays at shows including my first Chelsea Flower Show in the late 70s and early 80s.

This is Vulylstekeara Cambria ‘Plush’ FCC, another plant that made Keith’s nursery in Plush famous. The hybrid was registered in 1931 by Charlesworth Nurseries but it was in the 1960s that Keith won the top RHS award (an First Class Certificate) for the plant. By the time that I was at the nursery we had meristems of the awarded plant for sale and the long lasting flowers were almost always in view. It was one of my first purchases with my wages. The plant went on to be grown by the millions in Holland, and formed the basis of the modern oncidium type house plant industry. Sadly, Keith did not benefit financially from dutch sales of the plant he made famous.


Odontoglossum cristatum- 365 days of orchids – day 1191


Our favourite odontoglossum is full of flower again. We have had this species at Writhlington since 1996 and it is always a special time when plants come into flower. Our largest plant has ten spikes but for the first time it will not be going to a show. I don’t think it will mind as it has already won Grand Champion of Europe at the Paris Show in 2018, a Cultural Certificate from the RHS and countless rosettes. The clone ‘Writhlington is a particularly large flowered and long spiked individual with deep red flowers. We have other clones too that are smaller growing and have brown flowers.

 Grand Champion in Paris

The clone ‘Writhlington is a particularly large flowered and long spiked individual with deep red flowers. We have other clones too that are smaller growing and have brown flowers.

Odontoglossum cristatum is native to Ecuador and Colombia where it is found in cloud forest from 1500-2600 m altitude and so it is very well suited to growing in our Cool Americas section. I have always known this plant as Odontoglossum cristatum but odontoglossum species have been included in Oncidium on the basis of molecular studies although there is scientific support for reinstating Odontoglossum.

Our plants go back to a seedling purchased in 1996 and since then we have grown the species in pots, mounted and in baskets. We find that the species particularly enjoys a basket where it produces masses of roots and can grow into a specimen. The plants start to flower in December and will still be in flower in June giving us pleasure for seven months of the year.