Archive for January, 2010

Slc. Jewel Box 'Dark Waters'

Slc. Jewel Box ‘Dark Waters’ is blooming this week. Despite its miniature size, the heavy blossoms tend to droop unless secured. One of the best, and least damaging, methods I’ve found to lift blooms and hold up psuedobulbs is Velcro tape, which can be purchased as a thin strip on a role.

 I believe the tape, which is strong and reusable, is mainly used by gardeners to tie up tomato vines, and is sold at most complete gardening centers. Home Depot carries the tape. Images of Slc. Jewel Box, with a close up of the secured blooms and of my roll of Velcro tape, appear on the “Photos” page.

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Remounting the Bulb. jersey was on the agenda this weekend.

I bought the plant four years ago as a one-year-old seedling, and when it languished in a plastic pot, almost dying during one winter, I decided to mount it, since I’d had luck by mounting my other bulbophyllum. Although my mounted Bulb. jersey has now grown into a strong adult plant, it has never bloomed.

Remounting the plant consisted of applying a thick layer of sphagnum moss over the bare roots. Images of the process are on the Photos page.

This week’s photos also show Phal. schillariana in bloom. [I have two Phal. schillariana. One is potted, which is blooming, and one is mounted. I bought the latter Phal. two years ago as a young plant in order to see if I could get it to bloom on a mount. It’s still too young to flower, but I’ve included a photo of it to show the netting that I often use to secure moss on a mount. The netting came from a bag of onions. I keep that type of netting on hand to use on mounts and for lining baskets.]

Phal. stuartiana closeup

 The photograph shown here is a closeup of my Phal. stuartiana and its tiny butterfly-shaped callus just below the column. It’s just this type of easily-overlooked flourish that adds such joy to orchid growing.

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Winter took its toll last week.

Kansas City’s temperatures hit the single digits, with wind chills in the minus range. Snow fall approached blizzard conditions. When the greenhouse’s night temp dipped to 49 degrees, I opted to turn on the auxiliary heater, a Kenwood Electric Oil Filled Heater, with programmable clock timer and thermostat (Model # TRN0812TK), purchased at Home Depot about two years ago. (As it turns out, the Eskabe might have managed without the extra help. I thought that I’d turned the non-electric furnace to its highest setting (5), but discovered on Friday that the temperature gauge also has a “High” setting.)

Actually, a worse problem is snow drifts and ice around the door. In order to unfreeze the door latch, I thump it with a hammer. (I’ve tried hot water, which only exacerbates the problem in the long run.) Ice and snow also build up along the threshold and have to be chiseled and swept away. Small ice chunks and snow drifts around the door frame consistently prevent the door from closing properly. Consequently, I keep a 1×2 inch board wedged between the ground and the door handle.

These are all problems on the outside, created in large part by the temperature difference between the warm greenhouse and the frigid world of Zone 5. But problems can also occur on the inside: On two wintry occasions, I’ve tried to walk out of the greenhouse, after working in it for several hours, only to discover that the door had re-frozen and sealed me inside.

In one way, the steep dip in night temperatures is an advantage. Some of my orchids thrive in this type of temp differential. Lc Drumbeat ‘Heritage’ HCC/AOS, one of the bloomers from this week (see Photos), has six giant blossoms and more coming on. Howara Lava Burst ‘Puanari’ is also in full bloom.

Even so, I fear that the 40 degree drop may have taken its toll on at least one of my Phalaenopses. Several buds on the little Phal. lobbii have turned yellow.

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Below are three excellent tips from two of Zone 5’s best orchid growers. Susie and Al, recent recipients of the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City’s 2009 Orchidists of the Year, live near Lawrence, Kansas, about 50 miles west of Kansas City. [Click on the Photos page to see recent blooming orchids from Susie and Al’s collection.]

TIP #1: Re-pot newly acquired plants immediately or as soon as possible.  When you get that new plant, you don’t know how old the media is, or what condition the roots are in.  Give it a fresh start, but give it a similar type of media when you re-pot.

TIP #2: Water quality is extremely important.  Provide water with less than 100 ppm of dissolved salts (minerals), and regularly monitor the quality of the water.  You can do a simple test of your water by boiling down some water in a clean pot to see how much residue is left when boiled dry.  If you use a Reverse Osmosis filter system, change the filters often enough to keep the water quality high.  Too much mineral residue in the water can result in blackened root tips and leaf tips, and for sensitve plants can be their demise.

TIP #3: Assess your collection.  Discard or move on plants that are not growing well or that no longer interest you.  Your time is limited, so focus on the plants that you like and that do well for you.  It’s better to have 100 well-cared for plants than 250 plants that don’t get the care they need.

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