The wonderful thing about growing a range of orchid species is that every week old favourites come into flower and you get the chance to wonder at their beauty afresh.
One of our favourite dendrobiums is this small growing but spectacular species from Laos, Vietnam and Southern China. Dendrobium loddigesii is semi deciduous and grows pseudobulbs no longer than 10cm The growths grow quickly each summer and then drop some of their soft leaves in the winter. Flowers appear from last year’s bulbs in late spring. We find that this species needs a distinct summer and winter to flower well as it can tend to just keep growing if kept warm all year and forget to flower.
We grow the species bright, wet and warm in the summer – Warm Asia seems to suit it best. Then cooler and dryer in the winter when the roof of Cool Americas seems to be its favourite spot. This may seem like a bit of a faff but it is definitely worth it for the sweet little flowers appear in May.
We have tried the plant mounted and potted, and it definitely works best for us mounted where it can develop into a mass of little growths. We have just received a new pallet of virgin cork bark and the next month is going to be dominated by mounting lots of orchids. A great way to grow beautiful orchids and support the cork forests of Portugal.
We have some lovely members of the Oncidium family flowering this month and one that always flowers in March is the delightful miniature, Rhychostele rossii.
This species is found in the cloud forests of Mexico and Central America, as far south as Nicaragua, from 2000-3000m altitude. As a result the species enjoys cool conditions and year round water. With find flowering is reliably in March and April.
We grow our plants in small baskets as we find that although plants enjoy lots of water they like good drainage too, and being miniature are at risk from being outcompeted by moss when grown in a pot.
We have both of the clones we have of the species flowering. The first has larger pinker flowers with browny-purple spots while the second produces more slightly smaller flowers and is white with orange-brown spots and stripes. Both clones are lovely and produce the characteristically large flowers (up to 8cm across) on tiny plants with a 2cm bulb topped with a single 5cm leaf.
The roof of Warm Asia is full of the flamboyant pink of one of our favourite dendrobiums. This deciduous dendrobium is an orchid we have seen regularly in our visits to Sikkim. It is a warm growing species and grows on the same trees as Vanda ampulacea from 200m to about 900m altitude. It also grows as a lithophyte on large boulders and cliffs.
The species is very pendulous with long thin canes that grow with lush light green leaves during the very wet summer from April to September. Plants then drop all of the leaves and remain leafless until flowering. We grow the species in Warm Asia for the summer and then move it to the roof of Cool America for the winter when we avoid spraying it with water once the leaves have been dropped.
Over time the plant can form a large clump as shown by this magnificent specimen near the road to Gangtok in Sikkim. You may just be able to see the bright pink of Vanda ampulacea on the opposite side of the tree from the dendrobium.
Coelogyne cristata is the queen of March orchids in the greenhouse and every day we are seeing more flowers open in our Cool Asia and Temperate sections.
Coelogyne cristata is a fantastic species from the Himalayas with large white flowers. The lip colour varies from dark orange, through yellow, light yellow and of course pure white. (see below)
The plants are also variable in leaf colour, distance between bulbs, size of flowers and texture of flowers – all good reasons to grow lots of Coelogyne cristatas.
Coelogyne cristata flowering near Tinkitam, Sikkim
We have seen this species in the wild in Sikkim and Darjeeling, India. It grows on trees and rocks at an altitude of around 2000m above sea level. It always grows with thick moss indicating a love for damp conditions. We keep our plants wet in the summer and quite damp in the winter. Its altitude gives cool winters with a minimum around 6-10 0C and so we grow the species both in our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) and our Warm Temperate section (minimum 6C)
The flowers can easily be damaged by water and so we avoid spraying them with the hose and greatly reduce watering when the flowers are out.
For more tips on growing Cool Asian orchids visit our orchid culture page.
Dendrobium wardianum is a lovely species that usually flowers in April but has joined the early March flowering extravaganza we are experiencing at the moment.
Dendrobium wardianum is a pendulous plant with long psuedobulbs up to 100cm long. It comes from the Eastern Himalayas from Assam through to Vietnam where it is found from 1000 to 2000m and so experiences a monsoon climate with a warm wet summer and a cooler dryer winter. It is deciduous and needs a cooler dryer winter rest to lose its leaves from the previous year’s growth and then flower from the bare pseudobulb.
The flowers have that delightful dipped in pink ink tip to the petals and sepals as well as a lot of yellow in the lip which distinguishes it from the similar looking Dendrobium nobile. Dendrobium nobile also flowers of pseudobulbs produced two years ago not the most recent ones like this species. Dendrobium nobile and Dendrobium wardianum form the basis of a large group of hybrids.
We grow the plant in our Warm Asia section where it always produces the new growth before flowering so we don’t give a completely dry rest