Pre-show publicity: Conrad Coenen

Tauranga Orchid Show
September 22-24 (Friday-Sunday), 10am-4pm daily
Tauranga Racecourse, Greerton
$3 entry (under-12 free)

Although orchid growers ‘invariably’ kill a few plants they should chalk it up as part of the learning process, according to Tauranga Orchid Society president Conrad Coenen.

He won’t let on how many plants he’s sent to the great compost heap in the sky – or what their total value might be – but says he keeps the name labels to remind him of his mistakes. “It’s like gardening in general. You grow with your plants.”

Hundreds of years of orchid-growing experience will be available at this year’s Tauranga Orchid Show and Conrad invites people to take advantage of it. “Come and ask questions, look at the plants on display, watch our repotting demonstrations and buy some plants to take home and try.”

Conrad Coenen with his Zygolum Louisendorf ‘Conrad’s Star’, which in 2013 won an Orchid Council of New Zealand award. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A qualified nurseryman who works as a landscape gardener, Conrad is a ‘born-again’ enthusiast after letting his membership lapse as a young family and work took up his time.

“I remember buying an Anguloa clowesii, or tulip orchid, for $40, a huge sum for me back then. It flowered once in 5 years – but for me getting something a little bit difficult to flower is the whole excitement of orchids. We try things out, we look things up, we talk to people more knowledgeable than ourselves.

“What I love about belonging to an orchid society is the camaraderie, the people you meet and the plant collections you get to see.”

His favourites are Lycaste orchids, a close cousin to the Anguloa type. “They’re big, they’re bold and I can’t get them to flower,” he laughs. “I get one flower on a plant and think it’s amazing but I know they can throw 40 to 60 flowers at once.”

The theme for this year’s show is ‘Alice in Orchidland’ which is allowing society members to show off plants in a fun setting.

“The show is a chance to let people see some stunning flowers as well as letting them know that orchids aren’t always ‘hot-house flowers’ that need special equipment and demand lots of attention. There are plenty of people in Tauranga growing orchids outside and there are many cool-growing varieties that will do well here.”

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Here comes our show!

Please join us at

Alice in Orchidland

The adventurous orchid show
at Tauranga Racecourse

Massed display of flowering plants

Plants for sale

Potting demonstrations

Growing advice



Free parking

September 22-24, 10am-4pm daily
$3 entry (under 12 free)

Plant entries accepted from 2pm on September 21.rabbit - Copy
Plants may be collected at show’s end on September 24.
Please have a clear owner name on all plant pots.

Tauranga Orchid Society, while exercising all care, will not be held responsible for unnamed or uncollected plants.


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Knowing your roots!

Fourteen members and 2 visitors (with close club connections) gathered at Conrad’s on Sunday, August 6 for a new-grower workshop. What did we learn? The main message, no matter what type of orchid, is: If there’s a problem, tip the plant out and look at the roots. The difference between healthy roots (white) and degrading roots (brown) is obvious. Many plants are able to remake their root system when they’re happy.

BEFORE: A mass of tired Cymbidium roots. Photo: Sandra Simpson

AFTER: Conrad’s haircut didn’t leave much but he was confident it would regenerate new roots. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Roots are for drinking/feeding and breathing so what’s going on under the plant is essential to the health of the top of the plant.

Keep working tools clean and sterile and treat wounds/damage with Flowers of Sulphur or Conrad was using Physan in a squirt bottle.

Worms, centipedes, cockroaches or slaters in a pot means the bark is breaking down and it’s  time to change the medium. Some caterpillars live in the bark and come out to eat leaves. If cockroaches are a problem put the pot in a sealable plastic bag, spray the bark with fly spray, seal and leave until the cockroaches are dead.

Sphagnum moss is likely to keep the roots too wet and cold, or too dry – it’s better to use a chunky bark mix to let air round the roots, and water more frequently.

Roots go where the air and water flow so if a plant’s roots are growing along the inside wall of a pot it means the medium at the centre of the pot needs replacing.

Conrad puts coarser bark at the bottom of the pot and finer on top. If you use all fine bark it will start to clog the pot’s drainage holes as it breaks down, causing problems. Good-quality orchid bark is essential (the club makes an annual order, keep your eyes peeled for the notice).

Use a knitting needle or similar to work bark in around the plant roots, tapping and shaking the pot to settle the mix as you go.

The building block of plant cells is calcium so feed this to the plants for good health (calcium nitrate is available from Barry).

Conrad spreads dolomite lime over his pots when the weather starts to warm (September / October) and waters it in. The lime sweetens the bark. (Move any that don’t like lime!) Blood and bone is another good topdressing for watering in.

Tiny, but healthy roots. This little plant is grown only in a coir wrap. Photo: Sandra Simpson

A recycled computer part makes a nifty orchid mount. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Some plants, eg Oncidiums and Phalaenopsis, can grow with their roots exposed to the air so are better suited to slab culture (grown on a mount). When you split a plant, Conrad advises trying some in pots and some on mounts to see what happens.

Use warm water on cold days. If you have larger, clumpy plants soak them for half a day in a bucket of water mixed with the appropriate amount of fertiliser.

Orchid pseudobulbs and canes store carbohydrates (= sugars) so can rot easily. If you see it happening, cut out the affected bulbs/canes and sterilise the wound(s).

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New grower success

If there’s one thing we know about Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann ‘Buckleberry’  is that it’s hard to flower – ‘grows well’, everyone always says when yet another plant is offered at the annual auction, ‘but difficult to flower’.

So exciting news from one of our newer members – Dan Bond – who has a plant in flower. While talking to a long-time member of the society this morning, I mentioned Dan’s success and the experienced grower laughingly noted he’d had  B. Elizabeth Ann ‘Buckleberry’ since 1995 and had yet to see a flower! Dan has had his plant for 12 months.

The striking flower of Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann ‘Buckleberry’. Photo: Dan Bond.

The plant was registered in 1969 by J.Chambers and is a cross between Bulbophyllum longissimum and Bulbophyllum rothschildianum. This orchid is one of the most famous Bulbophyllum orchids, due to its pendant, showy blooms. Read more here.

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Eaten to extinction

If you were at the June evening meeting you may have heard Conrad mention the food ingredient salep when he was giving his talk and demonstration about terrestrial orchids. Salep powder is made from orchid tubers and imparts a distinctive flavour and texture to hot drinks, ice-cream and other sweets.

Coincidentally, I came across a piece about the destruction of wild orchids in eastern Europe and Africa – they’re being eaten into extinction! – on the excellent Australian gardening website Garden Drum.

To put the scale of the problem into perspective, it takes between 1000 and 4000 orchid tubers to make 1kg of salep, all harvested from wild populations. In Turkey alone 30 tonnes of tubers are harvested every year representing 38 different species of terrestrial orchid.

Salep hot drinks are said to increase resistance against colds and coughs. Image: Discover Turkey.

In Turkey the orchids used to make salep have disappeared entirely, forcing suppliers to neighbouring Iran, in which the same smash-and-grab harvesting practices are being used to collect maybe as much as 11 million tubers – and collection is increasing. Read the full story here.

In this New York Times story, Harold McGee notes that the commercial stabiliser guar gum (from the tropical cluster bean) and Japanese konjac flour (from tubers of a taro relative) contain closely related carbohydrates that behave in much the same way as salep – and there is a nice photo of just how stretchy salep ice-cream is.

The Discover Turkey website offers some orchid-collecting advice!

The largest tubers  grow best in soil with a high lime content, and those with the finest aroma and richest in starch are found at altitudes of 1000 to 1100m. In Anatolia most orchid species belong to the genera Orchis and Ophrys. The tubers are gathered while the plant is in flower (April and May). Some of the flowers are scentless, while others produce a sweet scent that is strongest in the evening, and their colours vary from white to various tones of purple

Each orchid has two tubers, one the main tuber from which the flower springs, and the other its younger offshoot. Only the young tuber is harvested (the website says, but that’s in an ideal world, I suspect).

Tubers are washed and tossed into boiling milk or water for a short while to remove the bitter flavour and make them easier to dry. They are then dried either in the open air or in ovens and after drying they may be stored whole or ground. The principal substances contained in salep vary according to the time of harvest, but basically consist of mucilage, starch, sugar and nitrates. The colour is generally creamy.

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Winter Orchids

The Peter Black Conservatory in Palmerston North’s The Esplanade is always worth a visit – beautifully maintained by orchid fancier Brian Adam, which means there are all sorts of interesting bits and pieces to see. Here are some photos from a visit in June 2017.

Dracula orchid - Copy

A Dracula orchid. These plants are native to Central America and northern South America. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Some of the Dracula orchids are also known as monkey-face orchids. If you look at some of these photos on the American Orchid Society website, you’ll see why.

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Dendrobium subclausum var subclausum hails from Papua New Guinea. Photo: Sandra Simpson

One online source says: “Found in northern Papua and New Guinea and the Molucca Islands occuring at many elevations but mostly above 2000m, both epiphyticly and lithophyticly. This species is found in many habitats and in many sizes. It can basically bloom at any time of the year but mid-winter is the most possible on a cluster that surrounds the previous years cane arising from below the leaves.”

Den anceps - Copy

Dendrobium anceps has curious ‘flat’ foliage that looks more like that of a succulent. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The AOS notes that this family of ‘flat-leafed’ orchids was originally named Amporum but was then reclassified as Dendrobiums – and now DNA seems to indicate that the first classification was right! Read more here. From Southeast Asia.

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Brassia longissima – the Brassias are commonly known as spider orchids. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The genus was named in 1813 in honor of William Brass, a botanical illustrator who collected plants for Sir Joseph Banks in Guinea and South Africa. Read more here.

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Angraceum alabaster x nasutum. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Angraceums are one of the first African family of orchids ‘described’ by science. Read more about them here.

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Orchid recognised with award

There was a special presentation at the most recent Tauranga Orchid Society meeting – Helen McDonald, in her capacity as chairperson of the Bay of Plenty Orchid Judging Group, presented Brian Enticott with a certificate from the Orchid Council of New Zealand.

His Grand Champion at this year’s Te Puke Orchid Show, Paphiopedilum Gary Romagna ‘Palm Beach’, has received an Award of Merit (AM) from the OCNZ.

Paphiopedilum Gary Romagna ‘Palm Beach’, grown by Brian Enticott of the Tauranga Orchid Society, has won an Award of Merit from the Orchid Council of NZ. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The plant needed more than 80 points from the judges to receive the award and scored 82.44. Generally speaking, this is the highest award for an orchid in New Zealand as the FCC award (First Class Certificate, over 90 points) is rarely given.

Brian says the same plant was also awarded 16 years ago, which was when he was able to name it ‘Palm Beach’ for where he lives. This means that any division of the plant will also carry that name and a note on its tag that it is an AM/OCNZ plant (AM/AOS = Award of Merit from the American Orchid Society).

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