March 2016: Newsletter 377

February  Day Meeting

Although there were grey clouds gathering over the Kaimais, as we drove towards the home of Barry and Libby, it once again was all to nought. No rain, but plenty of sunshine – both in the air and on the faces of TOS members who hadn’t seen one another for a couple of months. In the meantime, we’ve had Christmas and New Year and although we are already into the second month, cries of “Happy New Year” rang out as the crowd grew. And it was lovely to see Secretary Natalie looking so well after several months of iffy health.

Barry’s orchid houses are always worth visiting and this Day Meeting was no exception. More experienced growers admired and praised, while the less experienced just walked round with their mouths hanging open. Everything tidy and in its place, everything labelled and many an ingenious trick here and there (note to self: stand Coelogyne cristata in a saucer of water). Much envy (and admiration) over our President’s potting bench. “Running water and a sink,” someone exclaimed, sounding like they’d just discovered gold.

Wilsonara Hambuhren Sterm.









Barry has two orchid houses – one hotter than the other, although on this day it was noticeable that the ‘hot house’ was a pleasant temperature, cooler, in fact, than the other house. Perhaps it was the polystyrene pads around the base for winter insulation that were doing a great job of keeping the temperature down, but he also has an outside frame around the house that’s draped in shade cloth. (Note to self: Purchase a minimum/maximum thermometer and – handy tip – make sure it’s easy to read.)

There were a good number of flowers to see, both in the orchid houses and in the house. At least one visitor was admiring of the Promenaea orchids in flower as these little fellows can be tricky to grow. (Note to self: Don’t water from the top.)

Barry was his usual generous self, offering visitors pieces of a plant he was dividing. Speaking of dividing, his national champion Cymbidium Cricket is for the chop! Although it’s flowered well again this season, Barry says the spikes are struggling to get out from the centre of the plant.

Oncidioda Charlesworthii.

Morning tea, which included glasses of cold water, was taken in the garden where … there were more orchids! Barry has planted a bed of Cymbidiums beside his entertaining area (with much larger plants under the avocado trees) and hanging on the pergola are two thriving Oncidium flexuosum orchids growing on ponga slabs, as well as another very healthy looking Coelogyne cristata. Seeing well-kept houses and thriving plants is an inspiration to us all, no matter what stage of our orchid ‘journey’ we’re at. Thanks so much, Barry, for sharing.

February Auction/ Evening Meeting

Present: 34 members, including 1 new member. Welcome Daniel!

It was wonderful to see the stage again well covered with a marvellous array of orchids, bromeliads, house plants, fruit, pots, planters and baskets, books, paintings, and metres of Spanish moss. I would have to say that the quality and presentation of the orchids on offer, was the best I had seen for many years. The bidding for these plants quickly rose, but compared to prices you would have to pay at orchid shows, they were bargains.

What a wonderful opportunity for Club members to build up their collections at minimum cost. Please let us know when you bring one of these orchids along to Club night with a flower. There is a special reason to sell off all that Spanish moss – we will be wanting to borrow plenty for the two Orchid Shows later in the year.

It was great to have Conrad back as auctioneer, and he kept us amused, knew the names of all the plants and coerced or tricked us into buying far more items than we planned. Thanks also to Diane, Pam and Audrey, always so knowledgeable about orchid names, colours and growing conditions, and the recording gang of Natalie, Brian and Lynley. Thanks also to all those who dug deep and purchased so many items. Without your fantastic support, the evening would not have been possible.

I hope you have found space for all the plants you took home. The Club was very pleased to receive $1260 from your generosity, again an increase from last year.

Culture Notes for March

From Orchids, month by month by R Handcock & M Smith (Sydney), abbreviated and with additions from the local area.

Cattleyas: Watch carefully your watering programme, as evening temperatures can drop suddenly and damage can be done to wet foliage. From now on it would be safer to err on the dry side of watering and stop damping down entirely until Spring. Keep up preventative spraying and feed actively growing plants. This is a good time to ‘back-cut’. That is to sever the 3 front bulbs from the rest of the plant by cutting through the rhizome, and leaving it to heal and push out new buds. When repotting next time your new plant is well formed.

Cymbidiums: Cut back on watering, though if our days stay hot water well when you do. Remember, plants are over-watered by too frequent watering, not by giving too much. Continue to feed your plants to ensure strong growth is maintained. Change to a lower nitrogen, higher potash fertiliser to assist flower formation. Apply Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) at the rate of 1 tsp per 5 litres of water, to facilitate spike formation. Younger plants need high nitrogen feed. A Neem oil spray now would clean out scale and red spider mites. Begin spreading slug baits to remove the slug population before your flower spikes emerge over the next two months.

Paphiopedilums: Keep the plants’ growing medium moist but avoid overhead watering, as water can lodge around the young developing buds and cause rotting. Stake up all new flower shoots as soon as possible so that the bloom will sit correctly on the stem. Don’t let them dry out and feed with high nitrogen every third watering. Reduce fertiliser as the leaf fans begin to mature and as we move into autumn.

Phalaenopsis: As nights start to cool off it’s time to put your Phals in a cool place to initiate flowering. The temp needed to induce flowering is about 15°C, at night. After about 3 weeks in these temps you should be able to see the inflorescences developing at the base of the plant. Applications of bloom-boosting fertiliser will encourage blooming. Take care that the plants don’t get chilled with a sudden cold weather change, as this can interfere with the whole flowering cycle. Also be very careful that watering is done early in the day so no water is left around the new leaf growths as the evening temperatures drop. Move your plant back to your normal growing position before colder evenings can cause harm to the plant. Place a max-min thermometer among your plants and keep an eye on your evening temps.

Nobile-type dendrobiums: Keep up the moisture and give a high potash feed, as well as high light to ripen their canes.