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Archive for December, 2009

Nine new blooms appear on the “Photos” page…eight from the greenhouse and one from a friend, Mark Prout.

The greenhouse Pleurothallis ornata (formerly shiedei) is one of the oldest Pleurothallid Alliance plants still in my collection. Often in spring the plant is covered with the thin-as-hair inflorescences and the tiny, spotted flowers. 

A long branching inflorescence of Phal. stuartiana blooms is shown. These are the first blooms on the young plant.

Paphina Majestic is a workhorse. It has rarely been out of bloom since I bought it about two years ago. Last summer it had as many as eight pendent inflorescences. The trick, I think, is maintaining a moist medium.

My Ludisia discolor sits on a pedestal in the coolest part of the greenhouse — next to the door. In the photo’s background, note the louvered window that is covered on the outside with a sheet of ice. The green towel, seen in the lower left corner of the photo, protects the plant from blasts of frigid air when the door opens.

The Mexipedium xerophyticum oaxaca CBR/AOS bloom is a wonderful, diminutive slipper orchid. In a few months, I’ll repot this plant and will post a video with more information about its culture.

This Cyc. JEM Black Dragon is a troubled plant. Its first inflorescence rotted, and most of its leaves turned yellow and dropped off. I thought the entire plant was a goner. But a few weeks ago, I noticed the nub of another inflorescence. Although the leaf loss subsided, the nub only produced one blossom…shown in the photo.

Catasetum ochraceum is my Star Trek orchid. It’s weird and other-worldly. The thick walls of the cup-shaped blooms never open more than the photo reveals. If you back light the bloom and peer inside the greenish cup, you’ll see a lovely brown and yellow striped interior.

Cattleya Forbador is a reliable bloomer with interesting coloring: yellow petals/sepals, often splattered in purple, with a striped and tubular purple lip.

Mark Prout sent a photo of one his December blooms, the gorgeous Lyc. Eightysixth Kiss, also included on the “Photos” page.

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Five new blooms from this week are posted to the Photos page. One of the blooms is a Cycnoches (Cyc. pentadactylon ‘Galaxy 4N’), one of my favorite orchid genera.

A challenging genus, Cycnoches orchids need a definite rest period, during which the leafless bulb should be watered sparingly. Some Cycnoches growers, who pot their plants in a bark and moss mix, either withhold water entirely during the rest period or remove the plant from the pot and leave the naked bulb alone until new growth appears.

I do neither. I pot my Cycnoches in rocks (small aquatic rocks in small clay pots) and water weekly during the rest period – with no fertilizing and in the driest corner of the greenhouse.

I do this because the first Cycnoches I purchased five years ago at the Missouri Botanical Garden was potted in rocks.  (I still have the plant, a wonderful Cyc. Jean E. Monnier, which was grown by Marilyn LeDoux and had been pulled for judging at the show.)  

Growing Cycnoches in rocks offers a couple of advantages. First, the quick-drying medium reduces the potential for overwatering the plant during its rest period. Second, the heavy medium helps stabilize the top-heavy plant during its blooming period.

Watering a rock-bound Cycnoches? During the rest period, I flush the pot weekly, never fertilize and keep the plant in a light and dry (far from any mister) corner of the greenhouse. When I see about two inches of new growth, I start a weekly, weakly fertilizing regime. Once the new growth reaches four to five inches, I water and fertilize frequently — two, three or more times a week.

Of the nine Cycnoches I’ve purchased during the last five years, I’ve lost two. That’s not bad odds, but even so, my method of growing Cycnoches won’t work in all environments. Certainly, it’s a method to consider if you are trying to raise Cycnoches in high-humidity locations. As with any orchid purchase, however, the first and most important objective is to start with a strong, healthy plant.

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Two orchids are posted to the Photos page: Rlc. Iroquois Trail ‘Midfarm’ FCC/AOS and Phal. tetraspis. The velvety Rhyncholaeliocattleya flower, with its 6.5 inch wingspan, is a deeper red than the photo reveals.  The phalaenopsis photo shows the plant’s first bloom of the season – always a white background with quirky red markings.  

About pruning…Years ago someone told me never to remove the inflorescence on my Psychopsis Mendenhall. It’s good advice…even when you accidentally snap off a perfectly good flower. That happened to me about four months ago when I picked up the tall plant and its flower tangled in overhanging wires. I was tempted to remove the inflorescence – figuring that such a pruning would force a new inflorescence. I’m glad I didn’t because 10 days ago I noticed a new shoot sprouting along the truncated inflorescence about two inches below the severed flower. I don’t know if a new bud will develop…but I’ll keep you posted.

More about pruning…Many growers peel away the sheaths covering healthy, swelling cattleya buds. I did that, too, until I noticed that a strong sheath, which opens naturally at the tip to allow the flower’s unfurling, can provide needed support for a slender stem holding up a giant flower like Rlc. Iroquois Trail.

 And more…Think twice about cutting off a phal’s inflorescence, especially on species phals. My Phal. tetraspis, for example, remains dormant through the summer and then blooms on its old inflorescences during the winter. My tetraspis has five inflorescences (new ones are produced each autumn). You’ll know when to prune because the inflorescence will die and turn yellow/brown.

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Orchid buds are popping in Zone 5. Take a look on the “Photos” page at the great blooms from Glenn Lessenden, Mark Prout, Katie Van Blaricum, Judy Harris and Monica McNamara, members of the Greater Kansas City Orchid Society. [Photos have been taken down. Please check future posts for the blooms from other Zone 5 orchid growers.]

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