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Archive for November, 2009

Blooms a-plenty in the greenhouse this weekend.

Diminutive in size, the Acampe papillosa has a powerfully sweet scent. A recent purchase, this miniature vandaceous orchid was blooming when I bought it.

Sophrocattleya “Crystella Smith” is a vigorous little plant and a reliable bloomer – blooming several times a year.

I bought Brassia Rex for $5 on the scratch-n-dent table shortly after I joined the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City. It’s a giant plant, with one or two bloom cycles a year. At least one of those bloom cycles produces from 3 to 6 spikes.

Cyc. ‘Wine Delight’ Cyc.’‘JEM’ FCC/AOS is one of the largest cycnoches in my collection. This year and last it has produced two inflorescences, thickly covered in dark red flowers, which fill the greenhouse with their sweet scent.

Pleurothalis platystamas is a small plant with an annual explosion of inflorescenses and tiny lemon-colored flowers. It was a gift from an OSGKC friend, who is an expert pleurothallid grower.

Laelia rubescens is a delicate little catt. The early flower is the palest of lavenders, fading into white as the blossom ages.

Laeliocattleya Everett Dirksen is one of the big catts – a reliable and fragrant bloomer.

Mediacalcar decoratum is a trailing plant with tiny, trumpet-shaped blooms. It’s not an easy bloomer for me. While it generally flowers once a year, it doesn’t bloom profusely. Its succulent leaves spread like a vine, and it prefers a cooler, shadier environment than most of my orchids.

Nothing quite stops traffic like the scent of Oncidium Sharry Baby. Some people describe it as a chocolate smell; others believe it smells like a cake fresh from the oven. When grown as a specimen plant, this easily flowered plant can be quite large.

My Cattleya Chocolate Drop NOK is a division from the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I first saw this wonderful plant at the entryway to the MBG spring show. Its huge spray of blood-red petals and sepals glistened in the multi-flashes of visitors’ cameras.

Cyc. cholorochilon ‘Jumbo’ x Cycd. Jumbo Mickey is a big plant with bright yellow blooms. Even with its two inflorescenses, this cycnoches isn’t as floriferous – or as fragrant – as Cyc. Wine Delight.

Phrag. Ecua-Bess (Ecuadorence ‘Birchwood’ HCC/AOS x Besseae ‘Whippoorwill’) is a great plant. I struggle with the slipper orchids, but this one is a reliable bloomer, providing reccurring blossoms from the same inflorescense for several weeks – sometimes for several months.

Bc Maikai ‘Louise’ was a gift from an orchid friend. It was a division from her specimen plant, which I received about four months ago! Note the spots are as prominent on the back of the plant as on the front.

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This last weekend I violated one of the best tips I’ve ever received from a seasoned and successful orchid grower: inspect each of your plants at least once a week.

An invasion of tiny white scale sent this little Masdevallia erinche across the River Styx last year. I discovered the problem weeks after its demise when I studied this photograph. Note the white dots on the leaves of the plant sitting to the right of the masdevallia. Hard lesson!

Most weekends – which is the only time I can spend long hours in the greenhouse – I follow that tip. I examine the entire plant, thoroughly inspecting each leaf/pseudobulb (top and bottom), flower stem, flower and exposed roots.

It’s a great, plant-saving habit. And most weekends I follow that advice — but not this weekend. Other commitments called.

In all likelihood, when I return to the greenhouse next weekend, I’ll find some orchid vermin. Here’s what I’ll do to battle the problem.

If the culprit is solo, or at the most a trio, I’ll simply remove it (them) by hand.  If, however, the problem is more widespread, I’ll spray the infected area or the entire plant with one of my homebrew insecticides:

 Insecticide for scale:

  • 1 part isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 part water (my sprayer accommodates about 12 ounces each of alcohol and H2O)
  • Capful of Neem oil, which amounts to about 1 – 2 teaspoons
  • Two or three drops of liquid dishwater soap

To keep the oil mixed with the other ingredients, shake the bottle before every spraying. [If a colony of scales invades the orchid, especially a hard-to-reach part of the plant, I attack the affected spot with a cue-tip soaked in straight Neem oil.]

 Insecticide for other vermin, like mealy bugs, red spider, aphids, flies, and ants:

  • 1 part isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 part 409 household cleaner
  • 6 parts water
  • Two or three drops of liquid dishwater soap

Spray where needed. Note: This mix can damage tender growth.

 Also spray as needed – don’t use these two insecticides or any treatments preventively. That’s a waste of time and money.

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Laelia purpurata

Of the 32 Top Favorite orchids in my 118-plant collection, these four orchids earned five out of five points. (See the Nov. 3 post for the ranking criteria).

  • C. maxima*
  • Cyc. ‘Wine Delight’ ‘JEM’ FCC/AOS
  • Laelia purpurata
  • Lc. Drumbeat ‘Heritage’ HCC/AOS *

When listing these top 32 over the last four posts, I’ve put asterisks next to 14 of them. [They are also highlighted in bold.]

If I were ever forced to pare down my collection to a handful of orchids, these are the orchids that would survive the cut. For reasons that are sometimes as emotional as they are objective – a five-point evaluation system, for example, is very objective – these are the plants that have won my heart. Note that asterisks appear on four orchids that received only three points – but oh my, how they exploit those three points!

[BTW, a great Web site for looking at images of all the species listed among the Top 32 is OrchidSpecies.com.]

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Of my 32 Top Favorite orchids, these 11 earn four out five points (See the Nov. 3 post for the ranking criteria). (Again note the ones with an asterisk *. In a few days, I’ll do a special post about these.): 

  • Brassia Rex (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)
  • Cirropetalum Elizabeth Ann ‘Jean’* (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)
  • Cycnoches Jean E. Monnier* (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)
  • Maxillaria tenuifolia* (reliable and profuse bloomer, fabulous scent, and durable plant)
  • Makara Salaya Red (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)
  • Mexipedium xerophyticum ‘Oaxaca’ CBR/AOS* (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant) [This knockout blossom is diminutive.]
  • Onc. Sharry Baby* (reliable and profuse bloomer, fabulous scent, and durable plant)
  • Paphinia Majestic (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)
  • Psychopsis Mendenhall* (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)

    3 blooms on Psychopsis Mendenhall

  • Slc. George Hausermann ‘Carl’* (reliable bloomer, knockout bloom, mildly scented and durable plant)
  • Vanda sensei blue* (reliable and profuse bloomer, knockout bloom, and durable plant)

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Still using the five-point system mentioned in the last post to rank the 32 Top Favorites in my Collection, these 13 orchids received three points (Note the ones with an asterisk *. In a few days, I’ll do a special post about these.): 

  • Aerides houlletiana (durable plant, scented and profuse bloomer)
  • Barkeria “Cherry moon” (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Brassavola nodosa (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant – some nodosa owners have scented plants – mine isn’t one)
  • Dendrobium discolor (knockout and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Encyclia tampensis ‘alba’ * (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Enc. bractescens (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Epi. porpax (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)

    phal Freds Precocious

    Phal. Fred's Precocious

  • Howeara Lava Burst ‘Puanani’ AM/AOS (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Ludisia discolor (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Phal Be Tris (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Phal Fred’s Precocious * (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Phrag. Ecua-Bess * (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)
  • Sc. “Crystella Smith” * (reliable and profuse bloomer, durable plant)

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The Collection list is complete (see The Collection tab above). The number of my orchids is down considerably from a year ago. In an effort to trim the collection to a more manageable size , I’ve sold plants and discarded the sickly and incorrigible ones.

Of the 118 orchids that remain, a dozen or so are little more than seedlings. Many others haven’t been around long enough for me to know very much about them.

Thirty two of those 118, however, qualify as my Top Favorites. Selection is based on five criteria: reliable bloomer, knockout bloom, profuse bloomer,  fabulous scent and durable plant.

Epi parkinsonianum #2

Epi. parkinsonianum

I decided to rank these 32 favorites using a fairly objective point system. For example, a plant that is  durable and a reliable bloomer, with a knockout bloom – BUT has no scent and isn’t a particularly profuse bloomer – would earn three points.

With that system in mind, here are the last four orchids on the 32 list. Each earned two points (none of the 32 only received one point):

  • Bulb. lasiochilum (reliable and durable – and a very interesting but not a knockout bloom)
  • Epidendrum parkinsonianum (durable and knockout)
  • Phal. bellina (reliable and fabulous scent)
  • Phal. tetraspis (reliable and durable)

Next post will talk about the orchids among the Top 32 that received three points — the largest group in the rankings.

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