There’s been much beavering by the committee in recent weeks to ensure the National Orchid Expo display stand and theme are going to work … then, naturally, the weather threw a spanner in the works!
Fortunately, that spanner – a cold snap with cold winds – has been the same all over the country so it’s still a level playing field.
Like many orchid societies around the country, delivery day for us was today (September 15) and it was a delight to see all the lovely plants arriving and being assessed, names checked and classes for entry assigned.
Some plants were scratched by their owners because they hadn’t come on fast enough but there were just as many added in so in the end it has balanced out and we’re hopeful of having a display that does our club proud.
Plants were then passed to a team of packers who carefully wrapped the precious cargo for transport to Palmerston North. The show is open from Friday to Sunday (September 20-22) at the Fly Palmy Arena, $10 entry if you’re not a registrant. See the details here.
Thanks to everybody who brought (and prepared) their plants, to the judges among our members who helped with entry information and fact-checking, to committee members for lending a hand and to the owners of the garage for their hospitality (and baking!).
I think everyone’s gone home tonight to write lists …
If you’re talking about Cymbidiums in New Zealand, sooner or later the name Norm Porter will come up for not only did Norm expand his hobby into a business, he was also a Cymbidium breeder of note and encouraged others into following the same path, among them Andy Price of Hinemoa Orchids (Whakatane) and Allan Rae of Tipperty Orchids (Palmerston North).
The following is taken from A History of Orchid Growers in New Zealand by Nancie and Dennis Bonham (1990).
Norm started growing orchids in 1957, his first plant Cymbidium Pauwelsii. In that same year he met Harold Anyon, who possessed clones of famous Cymbidiums … selling Norm 20 backbulbs for £20, warning him that orchid growing was a disease.
A year later Norm bought his next plant, in flower, from Herbie Poole for £5. At the time Norm had a large glasshouse in the back garden of his Johnsonville home and Andy Easton, a young teen at the time, remembers the wind blowing straight through it. (Andy, already keen on orchids, had met Norm in 1961, while staying with relatives in Wellington.)
Norm took on the local agency for UK nursery Mansell and Hatcher (in business 1890s-2006) and sold community pots of their Cymbidium seedlings. Norm and Leo Hatcher were also both enthusiastic stamp collectors and often swapped stamps for orchids!
From 1959 for several years, Norm imported Cymbidiums from the UK, Australia and the United States (including from Andy Easton when he was in the US). All the plants were grown in glasshouses and flowers sold to local florists.
In 1967 Norm moved to Waikanae and increased his growing area to 279 square metres. He started hybridising in 1960 and over 30 years made some 1300 crosses, most since 1980, when he retired to grow orchids as a full-time profession.
Norm built his own nursery and grew all sizes of Cymbidiums. His potting mix comprised ponga mixed with sand, turf roots and oak leaves. He then experimented with peat, sand, ponga and a little bark, moving on to peat, bark and pumice for 10 years before finally using straight bark, fine or coarse.
Norm sold his nursery in 2011 but the business survives and is now known as Eva Orchids Nursery.
Norm was a judge for the Orchid Council of New Zealand (OCNZ) and for the Cymbidium Society of Americ (CSA). He is survived by his wife, four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“They are generally considered to grow best at intermediate temperatures but will withstand summer heat if shaded correctly and well-watered and can take some cool nights in winter if kept drier than usual,” the AOS reports. “Wet and cold is usually fatal and the unsightly leaf spotting we sometimes see on the leaves of both hybrids and species … can usually be traced to moisture on the leaves at night when temperatures are lower than optimal.” It goes on to say that Z. mackayi is particularly susceptible to this spotting – don’t I know it!
Putting the lie to some of the above is an outdoor planting of Zygopetalums in a public park (I won’t say which one just in case someone with light fingers reads this) where they get rained on at night and are in plenty of sun.
Zygopetalums plants don’t have a rest period so feeding and watering (and growing) continues throughout the year. The advice is to repot immediately after flowering, and to keep at least three pseudobulbs with each division as this will see the plant come more quickly back into flower. Apparently, Zygopetalums like to be slightly crowded in their pots.
At a club meeting in the recent past, we were told that some growers are putting their Zygos into potting mix and having good results. I did three of my smaller hybrids and two have done well (the other one flowered and then died!) but as my Z. mackayi is happy in bark I might leave well enough alone.
In 2016 the club purchased some flasks containing Cymbidium pubescens x self and Cymbidium dayanum and in March 2018 the plantlets were brought to a club night and members invited to pot one up and take it home.
Club president Conrad Coenen’s parting shot was, “who will be the first to flower one?”. That question was answered definitively at club night in July 2019.
Noeline Gardner brought along her Cym pubescens x self which not only had a trailing flower spike, but was also a magnificent size plant. Going by the comments as she presented her plant to members, no one else was within co-ee of having a plant that big.
What’s Noeline’s secret? She grows the plant in her sunroom year-round, using vertical slat blinds to control the entry of direct sun and opening windows to control summer temperatures and allow airflow. She estimates the room can get up to 30°C during the day in summer but likely wouldn’t get below 10°C at night in winter. “I have the heater on until about 9pm and then I shut all the doors,” she says.
“At the meeting we were told to keep it in a smaller pot, but I disobeyed. I potted it up almost straight away and then it developed such a deep root system and was growing so big I potted it again at the beginning of December 2018, but it hasn’t been touched since.” When the orchid fronds started to make the pot top-heavy, Noeline added a couple of large stones to the top of the pot to keep it balanced.
She has used a potting mix of bark (two-thirds), Fernwood ponga fibre (one-third) and a”smattering” of charcoal “to keep everything clean”. “I use the charcoal with the Phalaenopsis too and they also seem to love it.”
“I’ve been a bit indisposed this winter, health-wise, so I hadn’t been looking at it every day. I went to water it about 10 days before the meeting and was so surprised to see a spike trailing out of the pot. But even then I didn’t know if it would flower so it was just as thrilling when the buds started to open.”
Conrad’s parting shot this time, after members had applauded Noeline for her success, was “and this plant has a reputation that it’s difficult to flower”.
Also known as Cymbidium bicolour, Cym pubescens is a species orchid found in tropical Asia,from Vietnam to peninsula Malaysia, through Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, Sumatra and the Philippines, at elevations of 400 to 1100m. Lindley described it in 1833.
Unfortunately, the future for Noeline’s Cymbidium dayanum isn’t looking as bright. She’s recently repotted it in an attempt to save it but thinks it may be too late. “It’s never thrived like this other one.”
Continuing on with our series of orchids that we grow in Tauranga and surrounding areas but which we don’t often see at either our own show or the Bay of Plenty show in April.
Laelia anceps is a great orchid for a new grower – quite hardy and reliable. It’s native to higher altitudes (between 500 and 2400m above sea level) in Mexico meaning it can tolerate lower temperatures, even as low as -2C.
The plant grows as a creeping rhizome with blooming triggered by its exposure to bright sunlight (no direct sun during summer’s burning hours). A hardy plant, it can tolerate up to 32C in the summer if it’s getting enough humidity in the atmosphere. A number of people in our club grow Laelia anceps outside. If the foliage is too green the plant is not receiving enough light and will not grow strongly or flower well.
Flowers come in a variety of colours, depending on the plant – lavender, pink, blue or white.
Watering should follow the seasonal pattern these plants experience in the wild. The late spring, summer, and early autumn are periods of heavy tropical rains, while the opposite happens during the rest of autumn and winter, when temperatures are lower and it is quite seasonally dry. Laelias love ample fertiliser during their rapid growth in summer.
If you don’t think your plant is getting enough humidity, for instance during a period of dry, summer winds, mist it daily.
Cal-Orchid Inc of California notes that these plants are susceptible to root loss if they are kept too wet in the dry season or if the potting mix is old and recommends very coarse mixes for Laelias.
“The time of potting is also important. It is best done when a flush of new roots appear. If you wait too long, the spikes will actually begin to appear, even though the bulbs are not mature. It is essential that the roots given a chance to get established in the new mix in order to get a strong flowering. Don’t worry, the plant will establish very quickly. If you miss this time, your plant will sulk and not thrive.”
Cal-Orchid says these plants are good candidates for mounting. “We prefer cork bark for L. anceps and its hybrids. Consider growing a cork oak (Quercus suber) and mounting your orchids onto it for a stupendous garden centerpiece!”
The Gardeners Chronicle of 1887 contains an article by M.L. Kienast-Zolly which describes the natural conditions of the species:
This orchid is always met on the borders of the virgin forest, growing on the trunks of trees … exposed to a powerful sun and wind … often clinging to rocks … during the rainy season, May to October, the plants are daily drenched and are thoroughly wet during the night, [in the morning] a sharp and fresh wind comes from the highest peaks, begins to dry the plants, a work which the burning sun completes. [Then] the daily storm drenches them afresh … Under these conditions, Laelia anceps grows with extraordinary vigour, and flowers about the end of October or November, just as the pseudobulbs arrive at their perfect development. About the end of February, new roots start from the base of the bulb … the fine rain falling almost like fog … this rain is too weak to saturate the plants.
About 30 members in total joined us yesterday for our second annual Garden Tour – some came to all four gardens, while others joined us for just one or two. It was lovely to see some of our newer members among the self-drive group.
To ensure the privacy and security of the gardens we visited, one in particular, I’m not naming names. It’s not apparent to the casual passerby that these collections exist and I don’t want to give the game away to anyone who would exploit the information.
Two of our gardens were rural, two suburban. The first and last on the tour were all about the orchids and having a peep into how other people set up their hobby growing is always interesting. One garden gets very cold in winter (more so than city growers experience) while the other is near the coast and its salt-laden winds but has healthy-looking – and flowering – plants growing outside against the wall of the brick house, sheltered by the boundary fence across the pathway and the eaves.
Both of these growers also have shade and protected houses. I reckon more than one was doing a mental ‘measure up’ as we walked round. “Yep, I could fit that in my back yard” or “what do we need a carport for anyway?”
Of the other visits, one was to a larger garden created by a couple who have a keen interest in the rare and unusual. Always immaculate, this garden had our group asking lots of questions and getting into animated discussions about the plants as we wandered the many pathways.
The other ‘garden’ was simply jaw-dropping. Not because it’s well landscaped (it isn’t) and not because it featured orchids (it doesn’t). Instead, we were treated to how one man’s love of bromeliads and tillandsias has turned into an amazing collection. Plants everywhere, all labelled and all growing well. Our members were astounded and delighted in equal measure. Some hadn’t met tillandsias (air plants) before and so took the opportunity to learn.