Archive for the ‘Culture’ 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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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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 This summer, we’ve been renovating the greenhouse.

  • Extra shelving was added in early June.
  • Last winter the large, framed hardware cloth used to hang many of the mounted orchids had partly broken loose from the wall. We reattached it.
  • The legs on one of the benches had begun to sag. They were rebuilt and reinforced.

Moldy old walls

And then we tackled the walls…


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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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Several in-spike orchids remain in the greenhouse, delaying their backyard summer vacation in anticipation of impending blooms. Three have now hatched. See the photo page for images.

With 75% of the collection currently outdoors, there’s room to launch a few greenhouse clean-up and renovation projects.

New greenhouse shelving over the sink

My first project was washing down the Lexan panels, which were streaked with algea. With the green coat of algea scrubbed away, more sunlight filters into the greenhouse. So far the 70% shadecloth has only been lowered over the Lexan ceiling. It won’t be long, however, before spring temperatures will reach constant highs, and the dark cloth will need to be rolled down over the freshly washed wall panels.  

My second greenhouse project is the installation of shelving over the sink.

That was my goal last weekend during the orchid sale [See the May 17th post] — to earn enough money to buy do-it-yourself wire shelving at the local hardware store.

But last weekend turned out to be a lucky time — lucky for me and my other orchid-selling friends. Across the street, a neighbor was also participating in the Neighborhood Garage Sale weekend. When my friends and I visited his sale, we noticed that he was selling wire shelving. He had a huge selection, including wall mounts, shelf brackets and various lengths of shelving. Each piece cost 50 cents. It was a bonanza for all the orchid growers!

I was able to purchase everything I needed to complete project #2 for $6!

A big percentage of the rest of our orchid sale dollars also went to good use. At the close of the last day, we headed off to Mezzaluna’s, a neighborhood restaurant, where we ate a delicious dinner and raised a few wine toasts to the fun of raising orchids.


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Catt the Garden Girl stands under the cattleyas hanging in the apple tree.

During the last two weeks, the orchids were moved outside – their long-awaited vacation.

The cattleyas were the first to leave. Most of them are now hanging from the apple tree. Several were divided into much smaller plants. (Divisions went to the Orchids and Garden Plants Sale, held May 21 and 22.)

Yesterday I cleaned the orchid shadehouse, an 8 ft x 8ft x 8ft, screened-in box that I built in 2003. It’s the vacation cottage for the slippers, small cattleyas, bulbophylum and misc. (See the photo page for an image of the house.) I built this strange little house as a way to keep the squirrels from digging in the pots and tearing up the plants. The two top panels of the house are detachable. I remove them each fall to protect the framed screens from the thick layers of winter snow. (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

My seven vandaceous plants are hanging from a pine tree over the pond in the big flower garden. This is new. In the past, I’ve had them with the catts in the apple tree. I’m hoping that the new location will increase the humidity and provide enough sunlight for these tropicals.

Not all of the plants are outside. Several catts and two slippers are in spike. I’ll wait until they bloom before turning them out. Plants such as cycnoches, phalaenopsis and pleurothallis will remain within the protection of greenhouse.

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The Bulb. echinolabium has bloomed, a giant marionette of an orchid. I’ve waited almost five years for it to bloom. Starting as a seedling in a three-inch pot, it is now a large plant with five inflorescences. (Don’t know that all will successfully produce blooms. Just this one flower seems enough of a miracle.)

See the photo page for a look at the Bulb echinolabium and this week’s other new greenhouse blooms. [Bulb. echinolabium, L. purpurata and Enc. tampensis alba.]

The big project this weekend was completing (or nearly completing) the Wardian Case. I bought the case several years ago as vendors were breaking down exhibits at the KC Lawn and Garden Show. A Chicago vendor dramatically discounted its price because she didn’t want the hassle of packing it in her van for the trip north.

For three years the case served as home for a handful of small pleurothallis and a green frog. A stowaway from New Orleans, the frog happened to be on a reed-stem epidendrum that I bought from a Louisiana vendor one year at an orchid show in the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

After being empty for the last few years, the Wardian case is once again a functioning terrarium on legs. I’ve attached plants to three “growing towers” that I’ve constructed using tubes of hardware cloth stuffed with sphagnum moss. A pvc pipe, drilled with three or four tiny holes, runs through the center of each tower. [See the photo above, right.) I keep the moss moist by pouring water into the pipe. Each week I’ll siphon off the drained water from the plastic tray at the bottom of the case.  

A sheet of plastic grid (see below, right) lies over the tray and is covered with the EcoWeb(tm) described in last week’s post. As a final layer, I’ve spread a layer of sheet moss over the web. (I’m still trying to find a better final layer.) Two computer fans keep the air circulating.

These are the plants attached to the towers: Paph. armeniacum, Mameba Nishiki, Pleu. cypripediodes, Bulb. curtisii ‘Pablei, [L. (Sl. Beaufort x L.briegeri) x S. cernua] and Pleur. ornata.

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The plastic is now off the greenhouse windows and doors. I’ve oiled the windows’ twin tracks so that the louvered windows are back in working order.

All the plants in the greenhouse look as if they are ready for fresh air and long days of sunshine. The lemon tree is now moved to the patio and the cattleyas will soon follow for the annual backyard summer visit.

Several plants continue to bloom. New blooms have appeared on Phal. Fred’s Eden. [See Photos page.] The plant was developed by Fred Bergman, an excellent grower and breeder of orchids, who is a member of the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City. Bergman’s articles about raising orchids have appeared in several magazines and journals, including AOS’s Orchids Magazine.


The photo on the left is EcoWebtm, a growing substrate product sold by First Rays LLC. The product, which is made from recycled plastic beverage bottles, is intended as a substitute for the world’s rapidly shrinking supply of osmunda and tree fern. I purchased a 20-inch x 24-inch sheet of the EcoWebtm mesh two weeks ago through the First Rays Web site. I’m using it as the flooring in a small Wardian case that I’m building. (More on the case in later posts.)

The leftover mesh will be used to mount some orchids.  I’m interested to see how this recycled material works as a mounting media. I’ll keep you posted.

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A great little species bloomed last week: Bulbophyllum frostii. (See the three blooms on the Photo page.) Blossoms look like tiny elves’ slippers. The only downside is that, like many bulbophyllum, frostii’s blooms are a little stinky – not bad, though, because the flowers are so small. In fact, to get even a slight whiff of the carrion odor, you have to put your nose almost in the shoe.

The photo at the left shows my greenhouse pump spray bottles. They each have a specific use – watering, fertilizing, bug spraying, etc. Sometimes the pumps on these bottles get clogged, especially the one that holds the neem oil solution I use for combatting scale. [See November 18, 2009 post for the ingredients in this effective insecticide solution.]

For a long time, I’ve tried unsuccessfully to unclog the pumps using various techniques like running hot water over the pump and/or inserting needles into the spray hole. Rarely did I have success. Last weekend, I found the solution. Most people have already figured this out, but for those few who haven’t…pump very warm tap water through the bottle. Clears the clog in seconds!

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