Barkeria spectabilis – Orchid of the year 2010

So after all the excitement of the vote Barkeria spectabilis came out a clear winner. The plant shown here is loving life in the new greenhouses where it lives in ‘Warm America’, the section devoted to species from south and central america and live at lower altitudes.

Barkeria spectabilis is found in the wild in Mexico, Guatemala and El  Salvador in dryish oak forest from 1200m to about 2000m. We grow it with a minimum temperature of 18 degree C mounted on a cork slab. The natural habitat indicates it could be grown cool (down to about 12 degrees) but our plants seem to apreciate the heat. It fowers in the late spring and has a lot of flower for the diminutive plant size. The good news is that this plant now has a ripe seed pod hanging from the flower photographed and so expect lots of these plants for sale two years from now.

Commiserations to the orchids that didn’t quite make it, especially Dendrobium densiflorum that came so close. This lovely species from Sikkim will always be one of our favourites but the Barkeria possibly did a better job at posing for its photo. The photograph was taken on an Olympus Digital SLR with spot metering and a short depth of field to bring out the delicate pale colouring of the flower and to blur and darken the background.

Barkeria spectabilis Writhlington Orchid of the Year 2010


Orchid of the year: Tie Breaker

Wow! What a tense christmas it’s been! Lots of plants have had their time in the top spot of our ‘Orchid of the year’ poll, but only one can be crowned the victor!

To settle this debate, we’ve put the two winning orchids into one last, tie breaker poll. Does the Dendrobium densiflorum win your vote? Or will you go with the Barkeria spectabilis? You have 24 hours.

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Watch the green light

You may have noticed that thethird webcam ‘orchid of the week’ is not pointing at an orchid at all but giving a great view of the computer control in Warm America. This shows one of the real benefits of webcams in winter weather as all night this camera shows the comforting glow of a big green light. The light means that everything is fine with temperatures in the greenhouse…phew! …this saves a lot of putting on boots and driving late at night to check the greenhouse. I hope that all our wsbeorchids watchers are managing ok with the winter weather and your plants are coping.

Our Masdevallias are flowering their socks off this month so here is Masdevallia setacea from Ecuador to bring some cold weather cheer. Happy Chrismas.

Masdevallia setacea
This species comes from the mountains of Ecuador and we grow it in 'Cool Americas' with a minimum of 12 degrees C


Thank you for being such a brilliant team

I can’t let the end of 2010 pass without thanking all the members of Greenhouse Club for being so brilliant and working so hard this year. Without your committment the orchid project would be nothing.

Congratulations Luke Barnes for your fantastic 2010 with the Society of Biology Prize and thankyou for the hundreds of hours you have put in to run the website and the lab as well as organising all of our major events.

Thank you Luke Shackleton for making the move to the new greenhouses such a success, especially your supervision of the younger students at lunchtime and clear thinking whenever we encounter problems. You lead by example and have an admirable calm patience.

Thankyou to our year 10s, Zoe and Mitchell, you both show great maturity in you work with the project as well as real skills.

Our year 8 and 9 team are now the power house of the project with your growing knowledge and irrepressible enthusiasm as demonstated in the greenhouses, runing workshops and at shows. You have a gowing group of fans across the UK. Then of course there are the new year 7s. Congratulations for an amazing first two terms in the project, I can already see the signs of great orchid students and we can all be confident that in the years ahead the project will grow from strength to strength.

Finally a thank you to the adult team the supports the project so. Annie who has been working for the project now for nearly twenty years and is not only a great horticulturalist but is so good at quietly organising the students to deliver a really proffessional service. Lauren who again this year has given time and inspiration to the project as well as making a real difference to individual members of greenhouse club. The parents who support the project, actively and behind the scenes, especially Lynne and Dave, Hayley and Paul, Janet and Jon, and Sarah.  Marie for supporting the project so and ensuring that it has secure foundations for many years to come.

2010 has been a special year but look out 2011, here we come.

Simon Pugh-Jones (Teacher in charge of the Orchid Project)