365 days of orchids – day 483 – Masdevallia coccinea


This extraordinary masdevallia species produces masses of large brightly coloured flowers in a range of colours including white, yellow, red and pink. It comes from Colombia and Peru where it grows in cool wet forest up to 3000m altitude. At the moment we have our dwarf pink form in full flower – dwarf for Masdevallia coccinea means that the flower spikes are up to 20cm long but the flowers are still large – and the alba variety which is a more normal size with 40cm flower stems. The long flower spikes hold the flowers well clear of the leaves for its humming bird pollinator.

We still have our large pink clone to flower (hopefully for the Three Counties Show where it won Best Trade Species last year)

We grow all of our Masdevallia coccineas in baskets and find that they enjoy the moist conditions and excellent drainage alowing the thick roots to flourish.


365 days of orchids – day 482 – Guarianthe skinneri ‘alba’ (Cattleya skinneri ‘alba’)

I am surprised to see that this is the first time we have features the wonderful national flower of Costa Rica. In Costa Rica the species is known as guaria morada and when DNA evidence suggested that it should be moved from the genus Cattleya a new genus was created that reflected the Costa Rican name. (This was thanks to US botanist Bob Dressler who I have had the pleasure or working with in Costa Rica).

Anyway, the species is is fantastic which ever name especially in this lovely almost white clone (the usual colour is predominantly pink). I have seen the species growing in Costa Rica at around 800m on the tops of thick branches in very exposed positions in strong sunshine.

We replicate these conditions by growing plants in baskets hung high in Warm Americas where they get lots of light and dry out between waterings although plants enjoy lots of water when in growth in the summer months.




Orchids on the Dorset coast

Stop whatever you are doing and get down to the Purbeck coast in Dorset where the early flowering orchids are at their best this weekend. The photograph above shows Ophrys sphagodes (Early Spider Orchid)  and the coast from Durlston Head to Dancing Ledge is the UK’s largest population of the species.

The Early Spider Orchid is a close relative of the later flowering Bee Orchid and also mimics a female bee (not a spider) to attract emerging males to attempt mating with the flower and so pollinate it. Note the ‘furry’ edges to the lip and the mirror patches – quite convincing.

Look out for patches where the ground is thick with orchids this year 🙂

The second species in flower is the beautiful Green Winged Orchids (Anacamptis morio).

The name refers to the green stripes on the sepals and the flowers are the amongst the most variable of our native orchids combining an extraordinary range of pinks and purples. Here are just a few:

Finally we have Early Purples (Orchis mascula) which we usually find growing as a woodland species but on the Purbeck coast grows on open grassland and in old quarry workings.

It is much bigger than the other two orchid species in flower around it, and is the only one with spotted leaves so it’s very difficult to get plants confused. Orchis mascula is less variable than Anacamptis morio but there are still plenty of colour forms on show.

We visit Purbeck to look for these species at the end of April every year and along with the orchids enjoy brilliant birds, particularly the Guillemots flying in and out from their cliff ledges, and a host of other wild flowers.


365 days of orchids – day 481 – Cymbidium aliofolium

After yesterday’s Vanda ampulacea we have another Sikkim lowland species today in Cymbidium aliofolium. We have seen several very large plants in the forests of Sikkim and Assam from 100m to 800m altitude. Many plants in the wild are enormous and can circle a large tree with their long lived, tough, thick leaves and extensive root systems.

The species is common in its habitat and is not threatened by the horticultural trade as the plants are very large for the size of the flowers and the pendulous habit makes it ideal for a forest but poorly suited to a pot. We grow our plants in large baskets which show the thick leathery leaves and long spikes of attractive flowers off to their best. Plants produce their long pendulous flower spikes over a couple of months. Plants enjoy conditions hanging in the roof of Warm Asia – warm and bright like their forest home.