Star student this week is Ed who has spent two days pressure washing the entire floor of the greenhouses. Credit also to all the year 7,8 and 9 team for their help in the big clean up. Our greenhouse is now hygienic, free from slippery floors and all ready for the winter. Come and enjoy the newly cleaned floors on December 10th (4-7pm) at Orchid Christmas.
Our Year 7 team, Erin, Ruby Daria, Mylee, Kaitlyn, Thomas and Koby, are getting the greenhouse ready for Orchid Christmas (10th December 4pm-7pm all welcome) and are delighted that our monster Brassia verrucosa plant is now in bloom. This year we have 14 spikes of these dramatic flowers and the plant rather dwarfs the team.
The common name for Brassia verrucosa is the ‘spider orchid’ in reference to the large spidery flowers, and research suggests that the flowers are spider mimics and are pollinated by a spider hunting wasp that attacks the flowers. Isn’t evolution spectacular? Not all the Year 7 team are disappointed that we don’t have the giant spider eating wasps in our school greenhouses to go with our plant.
The plant is native to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as Venezuela and grows as an epiphyte in seasonally wet forest from 900 to 2400m. For us the species does best in Warm Americas where it is hung up for good light but is kept really wet during the summer growing season to build up the massive pseudobulbs that deliver the long arching sprays of flowers.
We are very fond of celebrating diversity within a species and today we have the alba form of Cattleya perrinii to go alongside the more common pink for featured last month
Cattleya perrinii is a medium sized plant with flowers 12cm across that are very large for the plant. This lovely orchid is native to the Mata Atlantica coastal forests of eastern Brazil. It is found at around 800m, in habitat we have visited, where it grows as a lithophyte or epiphyte in seasonally dry forest that experiences wet warm summers and cooler dryer winters.
We find our alba plant is smaller flowered and smaller growing than the pink form but both are a real joy to grow and flower.
As dark nights draw in we often end up watering the greenhouse after dark – thankfully there are plenty of orchid species that shine out one the lights go on. One startling species this week is Barkeria skinneri.
The species is native to Mexico where it grows in open deciduous oak forrest. Each year it grows long cane like stems up to 1m long, and produce spikes covered in glorious pink flowers and this year we have more than ever.
We find that barkerias have to grow mounted as roots quickly rot when we pot them. The abundant roots seem to thrive when out in fresh air where they dry quickly after watering. We spray plants heavily during the summer when in active growth but reduce watering in the winter when the plants become semi-deciduous.
I stumbled on this wonderful miniature orchid while watering yesterday.
Some of our orchids are not much bigger than the moss that grows around them and Pleurothallis linearifolia is a true miniature species native to Brazil and Northern Argentina where it grows in cloud forest. Leaves are only 1cm long but flowers are relatively large and bourn in profusion every autumn.
We find plants do well mounted or in pots and baskets but we need to ensure that plants are not smothered by moss as the species really enjoys cool, wet, shaded conditions which really suits moss!
Despite its tiny size the species grows relatively quickly and will cover its cork mount. The flowers are also sweetly scented.