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I bought Bulbophyllum echinolabium as a small seedling about five years ago after I saw its fabulous bloom on a large plant exhibited by Windy Hills Orchids at a Southwest Regional Orchid Growers Conference in Arkansas. I was lulled into orchid-junky admiration (a familiar affliction among newbies to the hobby) by the flower’s size, coloring and graceful lines – all of which could be appreciated from a distance.

Distance. Now that’s the operative word here. Because at six feet, the Bulb. echinolabium is as deceptively charming as it is hideously repulsive at six inches.

Yesterday, I took the plant out of the greenhouse and set it in the backyard. By the time I returned three minutes later, its pouched lip – a beet-red proboscis that swings in the breeze – was covered in flies. Continue Reading »

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.

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.

Cheers!

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.

Slc. George Hausermann

When: May 21 – 22, Friday and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Who: Five members of the Orchid Society of Greater Kansas City [OSGKC] are selling orchids and garden plants. See Orchid Sale – May 2010 page for a partial list of the plants for sale.

What: The sale is in conjunction with the Ward Parkway Neighborhood Association’s Annual Garage Sale. Ten percent (10 %) of the orchid sales will go to the OSGKC .

Where: 7337 Terrace St., Kansas City, Mo., Terrace Street is located between Ward Parkway and State Line. The street is two blocks west of Ward Parkway — and two blocks east of State Line.  The house, which is an English Tudor style, is two houses north of the intersection of 74th Street and Terrace Street and on the east side of Terrace.

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.

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.

EcoWeb(tm)

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.

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!

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.

Hats off to the folks who skillfully create and display bouquets of cut orchids. It’s not an easy skill to learn. This weekend, I made each of the women in my family an orchid corsage. While the project was fun, the results were mediocre. [The photo on the left shows one of the four corsages, this one using Rth. Hsinying Catherine.]

Pleurothallis tribuloides

The photo on the right is my blooming Pleur. tribuloides. A few years ago, this orchid was displayed in a local orchid society’s exhibit. I heard one of the exhibit’s visitors point to the plant and comment to a friend, “Why would anyone want to raise an orchid with such insignificant blooms?”

I’ve thought about that remark many times. I’m not sure that I have an answer. Certainly, orchids with big blossoms (I’ve referred to them in earlier posts as In-Your-Face giants) are hugely satisfying to raise.

The little ones are another matter. I’ve held a magnifying glass up to a tiny orchid and have seen a bloom with all the parts of a giant catt, only in miniature. Could be that’s the answer… these are blooms you have to go looking for. These are the ones that are easily overlooked.  And maybe that’s why, in their own way, they’re so satisfying, too.

Bulbophyllum echinolabium (inforescense)

Almost five years ago, I bought a Bulb. echinolabium seedling. This spring, for the first time, I spotted an inflorescence on the plant. I don’t usually take photos of bloomless inflorescence…but I’m making an exception here. [See February 6 post.] Talk about satisfying!