Oncidium Dancing Ladies have been in my collection for more than 15 years, but became a feature when I mounted several pieces on ponga slabs and hung them on a pergola in full sun and all weather. The new flower shoots appear about November and flower continually until June or a frost, whichever comes first. Hosing the plants over summer is important as is remembering to feed with a spray every now and then.
All the other orchids shown here grow in a glasshouse, 12ft x 8ft, with a second skin of plastic outside the glass to retain heat. But the real secret to its success was to raise it on to a 30cm base, that has ventilation doors along the sides, allowing the air to enter low, flow up through the plants and exit through a lifting ridge vent. Even so, I have a fan on a timer to circulate and mix the air.
I bought a flask of Rhynchostele Drayton Pearl x Oncidum forbesii at the National Orchid Expo of 2013. Sadly, the golden browns of forbesii did not come out in the cross, and it is mainly Drayton Pearl. I had root problems until I placed a tree fern post in the pot, which the plant loves.
Miltassia Dennis Kleinbach ‘Crowhurst’ was purchased from Conrad in 2018. A very strong grower, it lives low down on a bottom shelf but still produced 8 flower stems this year with the first flowers just opening. With a strong grower like this it looks much better filling a large 10in pot.
This slow-growing plant is a cross between a Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc) and a Sophrocattleya (Sc). It was bought in 2011 at the auction of the collection of plants owned by Roy Harris (a former TOS member). Seven years later it flowered and has now flowered 3 times in the last 2 years! This cross has produced an amazing range of colours, from my cream to pinks, blushes, yellows etc. Look it up on Google.
Another slow grower is Lc Coriad’s Mini-Quinee ‘Angel Kiss’ BM/IOGA HCC/AOS (below). This cross is from Lc Mini Purple x C Intermedia. I bought the plants in 2016 at our Show but this is only its second flowering.
By contrast, LC City Life ‘Eden’ would be one of the stronger Cattleya crosses I have grown. I have only had this plant 8 months and this is its second flowering. I bought the original cross (LC Liptonii x C Circle of Life) in 2013 and it flowered very nicely in 2015 and has done every year since. At present it has 3 stems of 4 flowers.
The annual Reports from the Orchid Council of NZ are now available on the OCNZ website – President’s report, Committee on Awards report, Yearbook report, and MPI report.
This last one may be of interest as it outlines a Royal Horticulture Society of NZ project that OCNZ is contributing to, trying to rationalise the plant lists held as part of the Plant Biosecurity Index.
If you’re growing Pleione orchids now is the time to unpot them and prepare them for winter storage.
These shallow-rooted terrestrial orchids are deciduous and come from Taiwan west through China to Nepal, including parts of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. The greatest number of species are found in the Himalayas, a region which has warm, wet summers and cold, dry winters – so can tolerate cold if they’re dry and high temperatures if they have water.
Most Pleione have flowers in the pick-lavender range, although there are some yellow- and white-flowered types too.
Paul Cumbleton, who lives in Somerset in England, runs a great online resource, The Pleione Website. Within those pages is this one about unpotting, winter storage and and repotting.
Roots die off about three weeks after they lose their leaves, and the plants begin their winter dormancy, so leaf fall is the sign to stop watering.
Graham Jackson, a Pleione enthusiast in the Manawatu Orchid Society, has been kind enough to share some of his tips with us:
Repot Pleiones every 2 years to keep them vigorous and flowering well
Graham sprays the bulbs for mealybug before storing them
Clean up the bulbs before storage by peeling off loose skins
Trim roots (with sterile tools) to 3-4cm, Pleione roots die off as they lose their leaves
Store in a labelled paper bag in a dry, dark and unheated spot
When repotting, Graham uses a mix of the best potting mix you can find and No2 bark
Free drainage is essential so you may need to drill extra holes into plastic pots.
Graham keeps his bulbs in the fridge (at about 4degC) from now until the end of July when he begins repotting – the bulbs are used to a ‘deep freeze’ winter in their native habitat. “I keep an eye on them because even in the fridge the bulbs can start to move,” he says. “My routine is based on getting them in flower for our show at the end of September – but it’s trial and error.”
When repotting Graham warns the bulbs should be as firm as possible in the mix as any ‘wobble’ damage to a root will kill that root. Unlike many other orchids, Pleione don’t have roots that regrow by branching. The website linked to above shows how to position the bulbs when repotting. As you’ll see the bulbs are potted quite quite close together as Pleione seem to do better when planted like this.
Any damage to the roots or shoots at this stage will cost you a year’s growth (and flowers)! Water gently as growth starts, enough to keep the mix moist (but not too wet as this can rot the new roots).
The genus is named after Pleione, mother of the Pleiades (in Greek mythology, matariki in Māori mythology), and comprises about 20 species.
Interested in growing Pleiones but have never seen them for sale? Blue Mountain Nurseries in the deep South has some bulbs in their online catalogue – price is per bulb. A quick phone call to the nursery confirms that the freight charge shown for the North Island is not what will apply to an order of these bulbs. Freight is decided when the order is packed (and so the size of the container known), and will be about $10 for a Pleione bulb or 10.
This popular orchid is native to Australia being found in New South Wales and Victoria, from the coastline to about 240km inland where it grows on rocks at the base of cliffs and in open forests with good air movement as a small to large-sized, cool to hot-growing lithophyte (grows on rocks) or epiphyte (grows in the branches and forks of trees). Known as the ‘rock lily’ or ‘king orchid’, Dendrobium speciosum blooms in later winter and spring with fragrant flowers on an erect or pendant long, many-flowered raceme.
In 2006 a 15-year Australian study concluded that Den speciosum is a single species with nine distinct varieties: Var. speciosum Var. hillii Var. grandiflorum Var. capricornicum Var. blackdownense Var. carnarvonense Var. curvicaule Var. boreale Var. pendunculatum.
Some grow at altitude, some grow in drier areas and one at least, var. curvicaule, grows from sea level to altitude.
Hybridiser Ted Walmsley in Kempsey, northern NSW, and his wife have organised a Dendrobium Speciosum Spectacular show for a number of years, alongside a native orchid show. Sadly, 2020 will be the last ‘spectacular’. Ted has some growing advice for Den speciosum:
I believe the best procedure is to water one day and fertilise the next. I never fertilise into a dry potting mix because, while the plants must never be waterlogged, I feel that if the mix and roots are damp and active they will be more able to make use of the fertiliser. However, it is always better to be on the dry side with your plants rather than having them too wet.
Every 2 months during the growing season I apply a solution of Condy’s crystals (potassium permanganate) and Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate heptahydrate) – 0.5g of Condy’s crystals and 5g of Epsom Salts per 16 litres of water.
In addition, every 6 months I like to top dress the plants with [something like] Blood and Bone at the rate of 1 teaspoon for a 100mm (4″) pot and half a handful for a 200mm (8″) pot. I also use a soluble fertiliser two to three times a year during the growing season at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration.
I am a firm believer in liming your plants, and have the philosophy that TOO MUCH LIME IS NOT ENOUGH. I use hydrated lime or Brickies’ lime (calcium hydroxide). I lime my plants as often as they need it, even up to six to eight times a year depending on the weather. I put the lime on as thick as it is needed to give good coverage on the plant.
These cultural notes refer to my conditions and I do not recommend that you selectively use aspects without thinking through the consequences. For example, some fertiliser solutions form insoluble precipitates with lime, in which case the regular application of limewater between fertilising may be more appropriate. Be prepared to experiment to get things right for your conditions and draw on all sources of knowledge.
Den speciosum is easy to grow in Tauranga’s climate and although glasshouse cultivation is not necessary, the plant should be kept out of frosts. Application of liquid fertiliser during the growing season (spring-summer) will promote healthy growth.
Gerry Walsh, The Rock Lily Man, offers some growing advice on his website (Australian conditions) and offers a regular email newsletter for those who sign up. See more here.
Like other cane dendrobiums, watering should be kept to a minimum during winter but when buds are sighted bring watering and feeding levels back up again. The key to flowering is good light. In New Zealand Den speciosum tends to flower biennially (every 2 years), using the ‘off year’ to gather enough light (strength) to flower the following year. Flowers, depending on the variety, range in colour from white through cream to yellow.
Callyn Farrell gave a talk on hybridisation work using Den speciosum at the 2019 NZ Orchid Expo in Palmerston North – he and his grandfather Grahame Young founded Elermore Orchids in NSW in 2012 and 3 years later took over Down Under Native Orchids (DUNO).
Callyn says that while hybrids occur in the wild, by far the vast majority of hybrids have been man-made. As of 2019, 222 hybrids had been registered, with the first being in 1960. Read his talk here (don’t mind all the typos!). Roslyn Capell has compiled a list of Den. speciosum cultivars, quite a task. See the 2017 plant list here.
Den speciosum ‘Windermere’ is considered by many Australians to be perhaps the best-breeding speciosum, as it lets colour from the other parent come through in the offspring. It’s also a great flower producer, with inflorescences that can carry 60 or more light yellow flowers per inflorescence.
Some hybrids with Den speciosum in their background include: Den Hilda Poxon (Den tetragonum x Den speciosum) created by Noel Grundon and registered in 1977; Den Elegant Heart (Den Peewee x Den speciosum) registered by Walter Upton in 1986; Den Lisa Turner (Den Zip × Den speciosum), registered by John Purvis in 1995; Den Avril’s Gold (Den Aussie Child x Den speciosum) created by Ray Hill and registered in 1998; Den Australian Chocolate Starfish (Den Lynette Banks (a speciosum cross) x Den tetragonum), registered in 2007; Den Greta Snow (Den Jayden x Den speciosum), created by Don Cruickshanks and registered in 2010; Den Jesmond Star (Den Jesmond Treasure x Den speciosum), registered by John Purvis in 2010; Den Samford Moondream (Den Topaz Dream x Den speciosum), originated by Cedarvale Orchids and registered in 2017; Den Hunter Crash (Den Gillieston Jazz x Den speciosum), registered by Callyn Farrell in 2018.
The latest American Orchid Society journal to land in our mailbox contains an article on the last page that will be in equal parts shocking and wryly amusing to those people cleaning up their orchids for winter.
Although written in a ‘humorous’ style, the article nevertheless contains some gems which the author claims as observed:
Each brown scale ‘mother’ produces about 250 juveniles that crawl (they look like clusters of icing sugar)
The movement of juvenile scale from the ‘mother’ was 1cm every 10 seconds
Extrapolated out this means that in 1 hour they would move 3.8m
And that in 1 day they could have been 90m away from their starting point, ie, through other plants.
He also decided to take a more conservative approach to the measurements but calculating their speed at one-tenth of that observed meant that at the end of 1 day these vigour-sucking pests could still be 10m away from their point of origin. Crawling scale can also be distributed by wind or fans.
Another article about scale, by another author, on the AOS website says scale have three life stages: Egg, larva (or nymph) and adult. Eggs are laid under the female’s shell and remain there after she dies. These hatch into the mobile nymphs, called crawlers, that move between plants. After finding a suitable place, crawlers settle to feed. The females then form a light yellowish protective covering, which enlarges as the insect grows and darkens to tan or brown as it matures. Male scale form an armored ‘shell’.
Scales have short life cycles, but may cycle many times a year. Typically, a month or more is required for completion of a scale generation, but a mere two to three weeks is possible. Overlapping generations create the biggest scale-management problem. All control methods are at their greatest effectiveness against crawlers. By the time the scale has matured to a hardened shell, it is too late to easily kill with chemicals – and there are eggs waiting to hatch under there.
So what can we do?
Removal by hand is easy if you have only a few plants, and looking for scale encourages a close look at a plant which may reveal other issues to be dealt with or simply show where some tidying needs to be done (removing old leaves and tidying pseudobulbs, including removing papery sheaths, give scale fewer places to settle).
Be sure to look at both sides of the leaf (including the edges and tips) and down into where the leaf attaches to the pseudobulb, if the plant has one.
Scale come off easily enough if you’re treating by hand. A cotton bud, small artist brush or old toothbrush dipped in methylated spirits and gently wiped across the leaves will remove the majority of adult scale by dehydrating them. Or damp a dishcloth with meths and wipe the leaves up and down, being sure to wear gloves as it will dry out your skin. Or use the toothbrush without any meths and brush across the leaves. Once scale are removed from their food source (the leaf), they die.
Neem oil is good to use on crawlers but not effective on other stages.
If you don’t have many plants but want/need to use a spray, big box stores and garden centres sell the pre-mixed Yates Bug Oil in a trigger spray with scale being one of the ‘bugs’ it works on (this seems to be a pre-mix of Conqueror Oil). Remember to follow the instructions regarding repeated application for best results.
Ants ‘farm’ scale and aphids for the honeydew that scale secrete and protect the pests from predators such as ladybirds. To counteract this scatter some Ant Sand on top of the bark in your pot (the product is available from big box stores).
Paphiopedilum Pembridge Firebrand x John Harris was bought at the TOS auction in 2014 – although this is the first time it has flowered for me. I’ve had it growing in my orchid house but brought it inside when the bud was almost open.
This is one of the plants obtained from the estate of the late John Noble, a kiwifruit grower at Omokoroa. Barry Curtis says there was a ‘massive array’ of lovely Paphs in the Noble collection and was astounded to see that they’d been kept so wet there was moss growing on their leaves! “Not what we’re told to do at all, but they seemed to be thriving.”
The name is perhaps unproven as many of the Noble labels could not be read. Firebrand, made by S. Farnes in 1945, is a cross of Paph. Balaclava x Paph. Cardinal Mercier.
Sandra has tried Google and Pam Orchid Wiz without finding the Pembridge or John Harris names in my plant. If you can help with a name, please let us know.
As a side note, the first slipper orchid hybrid was Paph. Harrisianum made by John Dominy (1816-1892) at Exeter in England, and was named after his colleague, the Devon surgeon, Dr John Harris (1782-1855). It was registered in 1869.
Paph. King Arthur ‘Burgoyne’ was bought in flower in March 2019 from Laurie Dawbin. It has rewarded our good care by flowering again this year. The plant grows in the orchid house with a mixed collection but was brought inside so we could watch and enjoy the developing flower. This plant has received an Award of Merit (AM) from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Paph. King Arthur was registered in 1915.
Phragmipedium Hanne Popow was purchased in April 2018 from Selwyn Hatrick at the BOP Orchid Show. This is the first flower to open and there are more coming. The blooms have a slight fragrance of roses. The plant’s natural habitat is Thailand, and Vietnam where it grows in 20-35 degrees C, so I have it in our warm cabinet. Needs good air circulation.
This is a primary hybrid (ie, a cross between two species) that was registered in 1991.
Coelogyne fimbriata currently has the most flowers on it ever. Usually they appear one at a time but not this year. I bought it a couple of years ago at the TOS Auction, I think. It had formed a mat, so about a year ago I transplanted it to a ponga pot and used some fishing line to pull the mat edges towards the ponga.
I keep the pot in a tray so that moisture is continually wicked up to where the roots are. It’s sprayed over once a day, and fed once a week. Cool growing outside all year, in bright shade.
Cochlanthes aromatica currently has two flowers open and another unopened spike (last year it only had the one flower). As the name suggests it’s very sweet smelling, a bit like sherbet-dip! I grow it cool and outside here in Bellevue (central Tauranga). It’s usually bright shade, mild and watered daily. Purchased a year and a half ago from Leroy Orchids.
Aspasia lunata x Miltonia Connie Warne has done well this year with 9 flower spikes. It’s cool growing, and didn’t look its best over the long summer, but has certainly perked up since we’ve been getting cooler nights. I would have purchased this plant from either the Tauranga show (our sales stand) or one of our Auctions. I’ve had this plant about 2 years and have divided it once already and donated the division to this year’s auction.
Oncidium sotoanum (previously ornithorhynchum) never fails, smells great and has sprays from 13 flower spikes. This also looked a little worse for wear over the summer but loves the extra moisture and cooler nights it gets now. I grow this outside hung about 6ft off the ground, 50% shade cloth and out in the wind, and rain. This was a purchase from Tuckers 4-5 years ago, but in the past 2 years I’ve only just started to realise how to grow!
At present I’m transitioning my plants to their winter quarters (greenhouse). Anything that needs a dry winter rest or is intermediate or warm growing is now in the greenhouse. Remaining plants outside are the cool growers. I’ve been in Bellevue for the last three years and temperatures during winter rarely go below 5 degrees. A few nights a year, it’s about 3 degrees just before dawn. On those mornings the wetlands surrounding Bellevue (Carmichael Reserve and Carlton Reserve) all get frosts. But, then the sun is up and temperatures rise rapidly.