Merry Christmas – we have present for you all in today’s orchid. Laelia anceps. This species is widely reported as being a significant part of the Mexican festival, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which takes place at the end of October, but for us, this is a Christmas orchid. Perhaps it is the the climate in the UK or the cool temperatures of our Cool Americas section but all of our many clones flower in December and January with their peak at Christnd 80cm long with three to six flowers on a spike. The species is native to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras where it grows in pine oak forest and coffee plantations from 500-1500m altitude. The wide distribution of the species and its relatively harsh habitat help to explain the ease with which the plant grows in cultivation and its tolerance of both high temperatures in the summer and cool temperatures in the winter.
The wide distribution also gives rise to a wide variety of forms. We have several different shaped and coloured flowers some of which are shown below.
At this time of year the roof of Cool Americas is fullof these wonderful and variable flowers and some of the plants are becoming fantastic specimens. The photo below shows Ed under our Laelia anceps ‘veitchiana’ which this year has 27 flower spikes and a total of 81 flowers – quite an orchid.
Eleven months ago we cross pollinated two of our Cymbidium hookerianum plants and since September we have been checking the seed capsules (pods) every day to look for signs of them splitting and releasing the seed. Well this morning there was a fine snow of tiny creamy seeds falling in the corner of our Temperate section and close inspection showed that the smaller pod had a small split.
Fortunately we had only lost a few thousand seed and the pod was still packed with more than a million lovely healthy seeds. These are now drying on a piece of clean paper for sowing next week as soon as school is open. We will store seed in our seed bank too. First we will dry seed above a saturated calcium chloride solution, this reduces the moisture content (but not too much), and then keeping it in our fridge for a lifetime’s supply of Cymbidium hookerianum.
The seed we sow should be ready as seedlings for sale by Christmas 2019 and we think everyone needs to grow this iconic species from the Sikkim Himalaya – see day 24 for full details.
All eyes now on the larger seed capsule – we don’t want too much snow falling in the greenhouse this Christmas.
Here is something special for Christmas eve. This restrepia species stands out with extra large 5cm flowers and the most startling deep red/pink synsepal (the fused lateral sepals that form the main part of restrepia flowers) that to me makes it look properly Christmassy.
Like most of our restrepias this species flowers on and off throughout the year but its main burst of flowering comes in the winter. The individual flowers last about a week and so the flowers that were out for Orchid Christmas on December 13th are over but a new flush has taken over.
Restrepia radulifera is native to Venezuelan cloud forests at around 2500m altitude and so cool damp and shady are the culture requirements. We grow the species mounted, in baskets and in pots. Restrepia species are very variable in colouring especially as this is produced by spots and stripes and so a fantastic diverse little collection can be housed in a tiny space and we know several of our regular customers who succeed very well with restrepias indoors or in terrariums.
What an appropriate name for a Christmas flowering species! Odontoglossum gloriosum is endemic to Colombia and is restricted to cloud forests from 2000 to 2800m. The plant therefore enjoys cool, damp and shady conditions which we provide in Cool Americas. This species produces larger bulbs than our other odontoglossums and 70cm long flower spikes with many branches and over 40 large and attractive flowers, heavily spotted in red on a cream ground.
Our biggest problem with this species is keeping slugs and snails away from the slow growing flower spikes which clearly taste wonderful if you are a slug. As a result we prefer basket culture.
Just eight more to days to go to complete 365 days of orchids – we have had a lot of fun putting this together and are planning to carry on. What would you like next year?