August 2016: Newsletter 382

July Day Meeting

It was a lovely sunny winter’s day as 18 members gathered at Noeline’s home. She has a wonderful view looking north over the Waimapu Estuary towards 15th Ave and the Hairini bridge. A wonderful scenic vista to enjoy throughout the day, and probably at night with all the lights.

Noeline’s collection of orchids is steadily growing and gradually taking over more areas of the courtyard and sun-room. Her plants are looking very healthy and growing well under her dedicated care.

Following our last club night talk on insects there was much discussion on dealing with the bane of Cymbidium growing, ‘scale’. It doesn’t seem to matter how careful we are, there always seems to be another clump hiding under the bend of the leaves.

Thank you Noeline, it was a delight to visit and see your growing collection and enjoy your lovely home.

Evening Meeting, July 21

Present: 29 members.

A First Aid Kit is now available at all of our events.

Our speaker was Maurice Bycroft from Matamata who explained how he got into orchid growing and how he grows his plants now.

Maurice began growing orchids when he brought an aluminium glasshouse to his property in Matamata in 1975. He had a great mentor in Jim Gardner who was one of the originators of the NZ Orchid Society in the 1930s, who persuaded Maurice to grow orchids instead of begonias and supplied the first back bulbs to get his collection under way. Maurice had success with his first flowers, winning novice competitions and was hooked.

He now has two glass houses, a small 2.4 x 2m for his Masd, Sarcs and other genera and another house slightly larger for his Cymbidiums. The smaller house is heated to 4°C and the larger just during frosts to 2°C.

Maurice grows his Masdevallias in sphagnum moss, which he buys in a bale and soaks in the rain. He suggests keeping the moss off the ground, away from slugs & snails while doing this.

The moist moss is then placed in a sealed container until used, when it is packed tight around the roots with no air spaces. The plants are watered every 4 days in summer and could be as long as 3 weeks in winter. Don’t allow the sphag to dry out as it is very difficult to rehydrate. Feed at your normal rates after every third watering, but Maurice suggests low nitrogen levels and check to see if your fertiliser is high in iron as this will kill the moss.

Sarcochilus are grown in a bark and pumice mix, but it is interesting to note that when growing from seed or tissue culture Maurice grows the seedlings in community pots of sphag moss. He finds that the Sarcs like growing in mesh hanging pots lined with moss. They receive the same fertiliser mix that he uses on his other orchids.

Orchid pests that we discussed last month, scale and aphids, are his main problems, and just like we discovered, a number of old sprays are no longer available. You will need to use the oils and natural sprays more often and pick up and check individual plants more regularly.

Maurice then showed a wonderful photo collection of his Masd & Sarcs, many of them from his own breeding, producing award-winning orchids.

Orchid Show Preparation

Only a 5 weeks until our show, so begin sorting through your collection for display plants. Some tips that me be helpful:

  1. Put in some flower stakes now to show off your spikes to best advantage, cutting them off level with the flowers. Use a small, neat tie to secure the spike to the stake, preferably in green or a neutral colour. Keep the top tie loose so that if the spike length is still extending it has the chance to grow without being trapped and distorted. Try to keep your plant facing the same direction as this will stop flowers twisting on the stem. If individual flowers on a stem are facing the wrong way, gradually turn and tie, to lock them correctly before they naturally ‘set’ in position.
  2. Tear away sheaths from around the spike on cymbidiums. This will release any trapped water and reduce the risk of spike rot and also allow the spike to grow stronger and firmer with even colouring.
  3. Check the plants over for scale and insect problems. A wipe with diluted ‘all seasons oil’ will remove scale and shine up the leaves. A wipes with milk will also add a shine. If your plant has untidy or marked leaves, these could be removed or ‘sharpened’. Use pliers to remove any old husks and flower stalks.
  4. Clean up your plant’s label or better still, write a new one, and give those pots or bags a wash. If the surface bark is old and mossy, try removing a layer and replacing it with new bark. This will do wonders for the look of the plant.
  5. Occasionally you will have an orchid in a bag that has slumped sideways. Do not repot it! Simply put it in a larger pot and top up with fresh bark. So simple. (Afterwards, remember to repot.)
  6. In the last week, decide which is the ‘front’ of your plant and place the plant label there for others to read. Put a sticky label on the back with your name. A great help when dismantling the show.

Culture Notes for August

There is plenty of spring development as flower spikes lengthen, buds swell and new growths start to form. Look over your plants that need repotting and if they show no sign of flowering move them into a larger pot or divide. The warmer days and fresh bark will have those new roots on the move. Be aware that several warmer afternoons can quickly dry out your bark, so take note of Lee & Roy Neale’s watering rules and water early in the morning, so there is no water trapped in leaf nodes or flowering shoots to chill off at night.

This is a prime time for pests to multiply while we have a winter relax in front of the fire. Work through the orchids on those top or back shelves, lifting them down and looking under the leaves and bulbs. Deal with any small areas of scale with a wipe of oil, but badly infected plants should be gathered for a decent spray session. Warning! Finding ONE small white mealy bug on or in a flower means the whole plant needs spraying. These little devils can be in your bark, deep down in the leaf nodes, hiding among dead leaves and even in your spring clips.

It is definitely time for me to do another Neem oil spray with an insecticide included. This programme has kept my infestations to a minimum and keeps the ant population down as well.