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Archive for the ‘Care’ Category

Epi. porpax

Blogging and weekly orchid inspections took a backseat to a little summer R&R during the last couple of weeks. The only visible damage to the collection that I can find so far is a cattleya once hung in the apple tree was blown to ground, pot broken and bark scattered. The orchid itself, C. Chocolate Drop ‘NOK’, is a vigorous plant with several still-intact sheaths. (more…)

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The orchids, especially the Catts, are budding up and blooming. Since leaving the greenhouse this spring, they’ve shed the doldrums of confinement and become lush and vigorous – well, at least most of them have. Even the ones that aren’t actually in bloom have developed numerous sheaths, harbingers of beauty for the fall and winter.

Several of the current bloomers are pictured on the Photos page:

 

C. maxima

Cattleya maxima is a particular favorite. I bought it several years ago on the final day of the OSGKC show when the vendors were breaking down their booths. A desiccated, bare-root C. maxima had been tossed in a heap with some other plants by the Ecuagenera salesman. The plant had a withered flower so I was hopeful that, despite my lack of experience with bare-root purchases, this plant was a viable bloomer – which it has been, every year since I bought it. I grow it in a shallow, clay pot with a medium bark, charcoal and inorganic pellets mix

The Catasetum ochraceum is also a reliable and fragrant bloomer. This year it produced a record number (for me) of inflorescences . In addition this is the first year that I’ve had a female flower on this multi-sex plant. (That’s the flower pictured on the Photos page.] (more…)

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More than 15 years ago, I bought a little time-saving device for fertilizing my flower and water garden. At some point, I stopped using it. I don’t know why. Probably laziness.

At any rate, last winter I noticed that, as the number of orchids in my collection grew, the time I spent trying to feed, clothe and discipline them was also growing – and growing and growing. Most weekends, I would spend an entire day toiling over each plant – fertilizing, watering, examining, staking, repotting (occasionally), pruning and repositioning for optimal light/temp/moisture/breeze conditions.

Hard to have a life when 50% — or more — of your time off is spent as a slave to orchids.

Now don’t get me wrong. I adore futzing with my orchids. But I also adore doing other things – or I might, if I had time.

What I needed was some serious time management assessment…And then I remembered that little siphon. (more…)

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Epi. parkinsonianum

Epi. parkinsonianum — aka Epi. Once-in-a-Blue-Moon — has condescended to bloom again. The last time it sent out its creamy and white blossom, with a texture almost as dense as a hoya flower, was a little more than two years ago.

Not sure what the trick is. Last winter was relentlessly cold. Although the Escabe furnace fought the brave fight keeping the greenhouse’s temperature up, the thermostat sometimes dipped down into the upper 40s at night. Was that the trick? I always position the long, thick-leafed Epi. up high for maximum exposure to light, and I mist it every morning, as I do all the mounted plants. Was that the trick?

Who knows.

Since early May the plant has lived outside in the summer house, again hanging high up for optimum brightness. This year, summer heat came early to our midwest strip of Zone 5. Even back in late June, the temperatures sometimes remained in the 90s for several days. By July, the 90s became common — occasionally hitting 100. Lately, the heat index often goes above 100.

Was that the trick?

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I’m trying something different this summer with the seven Vandas in my collection. Rather than hanging them either in the Shade House or on poles outside the greenhouse, I’m putting them together above the garden pond. The photo at the left shows them hanging from a rod stretched between two trees.

In this position, the Seven Vestal Vandas enjoy early morning light and late afternoon light, with intermittent light throughout the day. I may discover that this location isn’t bright enough for light-hungry Vandas, but I’ve tended to overdo sun exposure during the last two years (burning the leaves of two plants) – so it’s Vanda-experiment time!

The big galvanized bucket on the right shows the Vandas floating in water with orchid fertilizer. I know I’m breaking all the rules when it comes to letting the seven sisters share the same food trough, but…well, it’s just plain simpler this way than dipping each Vanda in a freshly prepared bucket of water.

I don’t throw out the water in the bucket. After letting the plants soak for a while, I use the water to fertilize the flower pots in the pond garden and in the front yard.

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Maxillaria tenufolia

Not as many bloomers in the greenhouse this week as in previous weeks. But the ones that are showing their colors are quite lovely…and one has a famous and fabulous scent: Maxillaria tenuifolia. The red flowers on this orchid, with its grass-thin leaves, make the greenhouse smell like a cocktail lounge serving only piña coladas. The sweet coconut scent is very tropical.

Three years ago during winter, I set the plant too close to the furnace and burned half the leaves on one side. It had taken me years to raise such a large plant and for the first time I had more than 30 buds ready to open. The intense heat also destroyed those 30 potential blooms. The maxillaria spent the next two years recovering. It’s still not up to its former glory, but this spring produced about half a dozen flowers.

The second photo from this week is Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana. (See photo page. Note the difference between it and the Phal. bastianii from March 19.) Phal.  lueddemanniana is another plant that has been a long time in producing its first blossom. The plant grows in a mesh pouch filled with loose sphagnum moss — its third home. For years it languished, first in a plastic pot and then on a cork mount. The aerated, always moist pouch seems to work.

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Blooms aplenty in the greenhouse this week. The Phal. tetraspis has never had this many blossoms at once. It’s one of the species from which, even after the blooms drop, I’ll not cut off the inflorescences because they will provide more blooms next time.

Early spring always brings a  burst in flower production — it’s also a time that brings a burst in ant production.

Last weekend (March 20-21), I attended an orchid conference in Omaha. Just before I left on the trip, I quickly hosed down the greenhouse plants, hoping that foregoing my “examine each plant once a week” policy wouldn’t have any dire consequences.

Well, it did.

This weekend when I picked up my Laelia anceps’ pot , I discovered a large colony of ants and  a small mountain of their white eggs. In moments, the entire bench was swarming with ants — as was my arm that held the pot.

I spent the next 45 minutes dumping out the Laelia’s potting mix, cleaning the plant (its pseudobulbs and its roots),  and spraying the bench (and neighboring benches and pots) with my 409 insecticide mix. [See November 18, 2009 post: “Tips – Fighting the Vermin.”]

It’s possible that an ant colony could have formed in just a week. Two weeks of neglect, however, provided ample time for the problem to become a greenhouse owner’s nightmare.

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Blc. (Fair Catherine – Love Sound) var. ‘Hakucho’

Two new blooms: Blc. (Fair Catherine – Love Sound) var. ‘Hakucho’ and Phal. bastianii [see Photo page]

A few years ago I attended the Southwest Regional Orchid Growers Association Meeting and Show. William Rogerson, one of the speakers, gave an outstanding presentation on Cattleyas.

 A key element of his talk was repotting. Only repot when new roots (an inch or so long), Rogerson said, are beginning to grow. To anticipate the timing of root growth, you’ll need to know if your plant has a pattern of “Roots-Before-Bloom” or “Roots-After-Bloom.” For the former, you’ll repot as new growths emerge, and for the latter, you’ll repot immediately after blooming. Water thoroughly before repotting for two reasons: roots cling to pots and new roots don’t regenerate from pseudobulbs whose roots are damaged.

 Knowing the parental species of your hybrid Catt can help you learn about its root pattern. Rogerson offered a helpful list of favorite species and their patterns:

1. Roots-After-Bloom-bifoliates: schilleriana (very sensitive to repotting); aclandiae, leopoldii and velutina.

2. Roots-Before-Bloom-bifoliates: Amethystoglossa, aurantianca, and skinneri

3. Roots-Before-Bloom-unifoliates: percivaliana, quadricolor, trianaei and schroderae

4. Roots-After-Bloom-unifoliates: leuddemanniana, warscewiczii, dowiana and aurea

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Last weekend I attended the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City’s exhibit at the KC Lawn and Garden Show. The OSGKC invited several regional societies and national orchid vendors to join our local group for this big event.

Attending a show like this is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best growers in the country. Here are three tips I learned about raising Phragmipediums. The first tip is from Russ Vernon of New Vision Orchids in Indiana and the last two are from Sandy Wells of Hilltop Orchids, also in Indiana.

1. To enhance the brightness of the red blossoms on a besseae phrag, keep the spiking plant cool – around 50 degrees.

2. For more vigorous and blooming phrags, add Epsom Salts once a month when watering: two tablespoons of Epsom Salts per one gallon of water.

3. Also, work a dolomite lime dressing into phrags’ growing medium every four months.

I received a comment on the last post about the damaged phal leaves. A member of the St. Augustine Orchid Society mentions using a regime that calls for Phyton. [Read about Tom Nassar’s suggestions in the SAOS newsletter.]

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Several nice blooms this week. See the Photos page for Laelia anceps, Slc. Livingston Sunset Fire ‘Flame’, Lc. Gold Digger ‘Orglades’ and  Pleur. platystames.

Lc. Drumbeat has been blooming for about two weeks. The larger of the two plants has seven fully opened blossoms and three more inflorescences swelling in their sheaths. The second pot of Drumbeat, a division of the specimen plant, has five blooms.

That’s the oh-joy-oh-rapture news. The bad news, which isn’t really news at all, but a couple of everlasting aggravations in the form of Epi. Parkinsonianum and Bulb. echinolabium, otherwise known collectively as feed-us-water-us-but-we-will-never-bloom plants. A couple of free-loaders.

I’m not talking unhealthy plants. These are two exquisitely robust orchids, full of strong, pest-free leaves. I bought the Epi. parkinsonianum in 2004 and the Bulb. echinolabium in 2005. The Epidendrum toyed with me in 2007, putting out two lovely blossoms and then lapsing into leaf-creating but bloomless mania.

Phal. leaf with problems

On a more serious note…something is attacking a few of my phals. The photo here of an affected leaf shows the type of damage being done. Anyone know what’s happening?

Closing on some upbeat news…Several weeks ago I mentioned that I’d caught one of the long inflorescences of Pychopsis Mendenhall on a wire in the greenhouse, snapping off the bud head. I decided to leave the truncated inflorescence to see what would happen. This post’s second photo shows the newly sprouting branch, with a second bud head – now that’s an aggravation turned to rapture.

New flower stem for broken Psychosis inflorescence

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