Vanda pumila – 365 days of orchids – day 1308

We have several smaller Vanda species and this one has very long lasting fragrant waxy flowers. We have seen Vanda pumila in Sikkim, growing on roadside trees at around 300-500m altitude alongside Vanda ampulacea. It grows in exposed positions in good light and survives the dry season (winter) with its thick leaves and abundant fleshy roots. The climate is hot wet summers with dryer, cooler winters and we replicate this by moving the species  around the greenhouse with the seasons. (see our culture page on growing warm asian orchids for more details)

For most of the year it hangs mounted in our Warm Asia Section (Min 17C) – where it is flowering now – but in January and February we will move it to hang high in the roof of our Cool Americas Section (Min 12C)

The flowers have just opened and are a green/yellow with red markings, but the flowers will soon fade to a cream colour as shown by last year’s flower (below) on the same plant.


Dorset coast in summer

The Purbeck coast is spectacular at any time of the year. The orchids are the main attraction in spring (April-June), sea birds are extraordinary in the winter and spring, Adders are spectacular in February, but in July butterflies are king. It is a wonderful thing to keep visiting a habitat to enjoy its flora and then get to know the fauna associated with the habitat too.

Orchids are still here of course, as shown by these fat Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) seed pods (below), each of which will hold hundreds of thousands of seed.

Other floral delights included Bog pimpernel in a running stream;

And the coastal specialties, Sea aster (Tripolium pannonicum) and Golden Samphire (Limbarda crithmoides) which make a summer cliff walk very special. (below)

The famous butterfly of this stretch of coast is the Lulworth skipper (below) – a cute little flappy butterfly that is found nowhere else in the UK.

It is not alone and the cliffs have clouds of Gatekeepers, Meadow browns, Marbled whites, Ringlets, Common blues ….. Why not go and look for yourself – and maybe get involved in the Big Butterfly Count too.

As a keen photographer of flowers, I can’t help noticing that butterflies move much more than plants, which makes good closeups much harder to get (hooray for plants) but fortunately this female Common Blue was in the mood to pose.





Prosthechea kautskyi – 365 days of orchids – day 1307

We have many flamboyant orchid species but this one is rather low but charming, it unusually has more colour on the reverse of the flowers than on the front.

Prosthechea kautskyi is native to Brazil where it grows in the coastal forests of the Mata Atlantica. We have seen similar species in Brazil clothing the thick lower branches of trees and this species has a spreading habit with its little sprays of non-resupinate (upside down) flowers clear of the leaves for passing pollinators which would be butterflies.

We have tried the species in several sections of the greenhouse as we have found very little information about it and find that it prefers to grow cool and shaded with the free draining conditions provided by a basket. We are hoping that it will develop into a floriferous, spreading specimen.


Odontoglossum rhynchanthum – 365 days of orchids – day 1306

Our section with the greatest number of species is the Cool Americas section. This reflects the extraordinary bio-diversity of the mountains of South and Central America.

The country withg the greatest number of orchid species is Colombia and this beautiful species is endemic to Colombian cloud forest above 2000m. Authorities describe the species as producing 30cm spikes with up to seven flowers but our clone produces graceful arching spikes to 70cm with up to twelve flowers. Leading bulbs produce a number of spikes and give a fantastic display of the large and colourful flowers.

We have divided our older plants and now have several young plants in baskets like the one shown. We find that baskets are ideal for odontoglossum species as long as they can be kept damp with watering most days.

We grow our plants cool (minimum 12C) and damp all year.


Schoenorchis fragrans – 365 days of orchids – day 1305

One of our mini-miniatures is back in flower.

This tiny member of the Vanda family is just 2cm across and is one of our smallest orchid species.

Schoenorchis fragrans comes from the Eastern Himalayas where it grows in warm lowland forest which we know well from visits to Sikkim and Assam. The forest here is semi-deciduous and relatively dry with no moss on the trees and so we grow the species mounted and hung high in the roof of Warm Asia where it can really dry out between waterings.

The flowers are long lasting and, not surprisingly, fragrant