April 2016: Newsletter 378

March Day Meeting

After a run of hot, sunny weather, March 2 dawned grey and misty after a few light showers during the night. But, undeterred, 18 brave souls set out to walk the “track to the kauri” at the top of Hot Springs Road near Katikati.

Bob Mankelow had been asked to lead a group on a walk in the Kaimais where we might possibly see some native orchids growing in the wild. Thus the Kauri Walk was chosen and proved to be suitable. A good, wide well-used path – length of track not TOO long, but just long enough to make us feel we’d done a “good walk”.  The rain stayed away, as did the sun, and so the temp of the air was “just right”. Bob pointed out many native trees and some interesting features and facts as we went along. All of us reached the kauri grove (which was an achievement for some in the higher age group, as the last bit was a choice between taking many steps or taking a longer, fairly steep loop track to reach our goal.) The kauri were magnificent, and well protected by a railed board-walk – well worth the uphill effort. Oh! And yes! We did find some native orchids (alas not in flower) growing on a tree trunk which had fallen across the path. We hope their futures will be long and happy.

We had had our morning tea at the car-park area before setting out, and had left Natalie there with her crossword puzzles to check on the security of our vehicles.

March Evening Meeting

Present: 34 members.

Burt and Evelyn Ong had travelled from Auckland with a great display of their beautifully grown orchids and a Powerpoint of information and photos.

They grow their orchids using a system Burt has developed over 3 years, called Passive Hydroponic Orchid Culture, or PHOC. Burt has a lengthy article in the OCNZ Orchids 2015 Year Book and we were keen to hear him explain the system.

Burt and Evelyn were extremely successful orchid growers over many years, winning numerous awards for their orchids using the standard bark/pot method. However, life became very busy for both of them as their business ventures developed and time with their beloved orchids diminished. Sadly many orchids died through lack of watering over this period and Burt began looking for a culture method that required less time and attention, and not so many heavy pots to move round.

During their work, they were left with a large number of clear-plastic brochure holders that proved to be the catalyst for his new system. Using these brochure holders as an ‘orchid holder’ they developed a system of hydroponic watering, learning through trial and error just how to make a completely new idea work. Drowned orchids, rotted orchids, happy orchids, they gradually improved their system, learning from their mistakes until 3 years later we see the wonderful flowering orchids brought along to our meeting.

A wall of orchids being grown in plastic brochure holders. Photo: Lee Neale.

So how does this system work? PHOC is a passive watering system that does not use pumps to move water around, but instead relies on a wick that is wrapped around just the roots, to suck water up to the plant on demand. The plant is suspended well above the water in the brochure holder, wrapped in coconut or palm fibre, or attached to ponga slabs. Water, along with any fertiliser being used, is added to the brochure holder perhaps once every one to two weeks, and the level maintained below the roots, according to the demands of the plant.

A Promenea orchid doing very well using POHC. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Because the holder is made of clear plastic it is very easy to see the water level and supply the correct amount. Evelyn has been experimenting with adding clay-balls, coloured river stones or marbles to add visual interest to the water area of the holder. The brochure holders themselves are very sturdy and stable and slope the plant slightly backwards so there is no danger of tipping forward. The orchid ‘presents’ nicely, with the plant and flowers facing forward instead of upwards.

Burt is in the process of producing a book on PHOC, with far more information and informative photos to answer questions and help explain the system. After seeing his plants on display I would be interested in trying out a few orchids using his methods as it obviously produces beautiful flowers.

Popular Vote March

Diane Hintz: Epi. Pacific Sunset 1st
Vanda Midnite Passion 2nd=
Pleurothallis sanderana 3rd

B & N Simmonds: Lc. Colorama ‘The Clown’ x Blc. Toshie Aoki ‘Goldrush’ 2nd=

Barry Curtis: Sl. Ironclad

Barbara Nalder: Phal unknown.

Display Plants

(* = Note correct &/or new name.  [?] = Not identified)

Barry Curtis: C.schilleriana;  Odm. Mayflower x Milt. Goodale Moir; Milt. Connie Warne ‘Gold Bars’ x Onc crispum;  Milt. Belle Grade.

Brian and Natalie Simmonds: Catt. Itsa Blue.

Barbara Nalder: Den. Kuniko.

John Edwards: Stenoglottis Durban.

Diane Hintz: Epi. Powder Puff;  Epicat. Lime Sherbet; Pths. sanderana;   Lyc. macrophylla x deppei (= Lyc. Libra )*.

Sandra Simpson: Trichosalpinx triangulipetala (was Pleurothallis); Slc. Purple Jewel ‘Sycamore Creek’;  “Cattleya” dayana (name very confused –was historically Laelia pumila variety dayana, then Laelia dayana. In 2008 it changed to Sophronitis dayana, but from about the same time has been recognised by both Kew and the RHS as Cattleya bicalhoi!); Cattleya Quinquecolor.

Isabel Clotworthy: Slc. Bright Angel ‘Patsy’.