It is the 25th and I would like to take the opportunity to wish all our followers a very happy Christmas and successful growing in 2020.
Visiting the greenhouse on Christmas morning always feels a treat (despite the lack of the usual orchid elves!) and takes me back to all the Christmas days I have spent in the greenhouse. I started at Writhlington in 1989 and the first orchids arrived in 1990 making next year the 30th year of the Orchid Project. It is nice to celebrate some of our older plants that have been part of the project from the start.
This dramatic orchid was one of the first pleurothallis species to arrive in our collection in the early 1990s (as Pleurothallis secunda.) This is a medium sized plant that each Christmas produces a multitude of short pendulous flower stems that carry up to ten quite large (1.5cm) red and white flowers.
The species is found from Venezuela to Peru on the trunks of trees in wet forest. The habitat provides the key to successful culture where plants are straight forward as long as they are kept moist and shaded. To much sunlight results in the leaves turning pale and developing black blotches so mounted plants, especially, are grown low down.
Plants develop into large clumps and make a great specimen as they flower from new and old leaves together. The plant shown is in a 25cm basket and has more than 50 flower spikes and we have several specimens this size. We are delighted that it divides easily and lots of visitors took a plant away at Orchid Christmas this month.
With Christmas nearly upon us I thought I would find something in Christmas colours – The red flowers of Pleurothallis restrepiodes are more akin to the colour of mulled wine than Santa’s outfit but this orchid is definitely a seasonal favourite.
This large growing Pleurothallis produces masses of large flowers every winter and early spring. We find the species very easy to grow and flower as it is happy with temperatures down to 5C (in our temperate section) as well as warmer temperatures in Cool Americas.
We keep plants watered all year and propagate plants from the strong keikis that are produced on top of older leaves. The plant is a very strong rooter and shows all the characteristics of a really tough plant. We even found ice on its stems back in our old greenhouse one night when the boiler failed – but the plant carried on regardless.
Plants make great specimens with lots of spikes but also flower as young plants.
The species is native to cool forests in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
After a busy term it will be nice to have a little rest over Christmas and of course some of our orchids are having a rest at this time of year too. We are asked a lot of questions about resting orchids so here are some answers.
Resting means a period when a plant does little growing and is often a precursor to flowering. The Vanda ampulacea in the photo above is a plant we have seen growing in the warm valleys of Sikkim where it gets warm wet summers and cooler dry winters. We replicate this habitat by growing the species in Warm Asia during the summer (minimum 17C) and then moving plants to Cool Asia (min 10C) for December and January. Plants are hung high in the roof where they will get good light and almost no water (perhaps a quick spray once a fortnight). Root tips stop growing and plants do nothing untill moved back into Warm Asia where the temperature rise initiates flowers and growth starts again.
The same plant flowering in April.
We do the same with Dendrobium densiflorum which grows just a little higher up the mountains in Sikkim.
Resting now and flowering in the late spring.
With some of our resting plants we keep the temperature the same but sign ificantly reduce watering. In some cases the plants are deciduous such as Thunias.
And others such as Odontoglossum pendulum keep their leaves.
We put both species on top of our control boxes – a good place to guarantee no watering.
With all our species the guide as to rest or not to rest comes from the natural habitat of each species. We have been fortunate to visit lots of tropical habitats but of course their is lots of good information available. Enjoy your rest and if you want to know more about how we grow our plants then please check out our Orchid Culture tab.
The holidays have arrived but life goes on in the Orchid house and yesterday morning I was struck by this little miniature flowering on mounts, in pots and in baskets around Cool Americas.
Most Stelis species have spikes of small flowers but these are smaller than most (the plant is in a 3cm pot) and pinky brown. The plant makes up for the size of the flowers by producing them in splendid abundance. This plant will be in flower for at least six weeks now with multiple spikes appearing from the base of all the leaves.
Stelis congesta is endemic to Ecuador where it grows in cloud forests at around 1900m. Over time it lives up to its name and produces a mass of upright leaves and flower spikes. the mounted plant is particularly appealing with spikes from evert leaf base.
The flowers are only about 3-4mm across but the mass of flowers give a very attractive display. We find the species vigorous and easy to propagate by division, and a very rewarding little species to brighten up the winter greenhouse.
As we have said before, Christmas is very pink in the Orchid Project and for volume of flowers there is none to compare with our old specimen of Barkeria skinneri.
This plant arrived as a seedling twenty years ago and has grown into a terrific specimen. The species is native to Mexico where it grows in open deciduous oak forrest. Each, 1m year long cane like stems grow 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.
This plant has become a monster specimen and is rather difficult to keep tidy as it sprawls around a bit but the species has the great habit of flowering on very young plants and this first flowered two years out of flask with just two flowers. We will be dividing this plant next month as it needs to get its roots to fresh cork bark.
Last year there are 237 flowers and this year we have topped it with 368 flowers.The stems often produce a second flush of flowers after the first flush finishes.