Summer Blooming Orchids

Well, even here in the heat of the D.C. summer, there are still a few orchids that brave the heat and put on a strong show. I popped down to the US Botanic Gardens on a 95 degree day over the weekend to see what might be in bloom there. Here are are a few beauties that caught my eye! You can see more on my new photo feeds at Instagram or at Tumblr .

Paph dianthum, once thought to be a sub-species of Paph parishii is an attractive species not seen very often.
Paph dianthum, once thought to be a sub-species of Paph parishii is an attractive species not seen very often. It enjoys the summer heat and humidity.
Paph Sunset 'Alpha' AM/AOS is a classic pochid in many collections.
Paph Sunset ‘Alpha’ AM/AOS is a classic orchid in many collections. It received its award in 1937 and what you see is a division of the original plant!

Spathoglottis 'Golden-Passion'. This orchid is grown as a terrestrial in many tropical gardens.
Spathoglottis ‘Golden-Passion’. This orchid is grown as a terrestrial in many tropical gardens.
Milotnia regnellii is a species from South America. Many of the Miltonias are summer bloomers.
Miltonia regnellii is a species from South America. Many of the Miltonias are summer bloomers.

Hip Hippeastrums

Ok, these are commonly known as Amaryllis but the correct name is Hippeastrum. Here are a few photographed at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flowers Show. Now is a good time to get your hands on some as these bloom in spring. Go here for easy Hippeastrum care information.

amaryllis chelseas 2015 2

Hippeastrum display: These bulbs from Dutch growers were a crowd-pleaser.

Amaryllis Daphne             Hippeastrum Daphne

Amaryllis multiflora 'Pink Garden'             Hippeastrum multiflora ‘Pink Garden’


Amaryllis Splash

Hippeastrum Splash

Morning in the Garden of Orchids

A quick getaway to sultry Savannah to escape the winter blues revealed the many surprises of this spanish moss-bedecked southern city. Among them were beautiful gardens where we found orchids adding a tropical touch, whether on the steps of a grand mansion, or a tiny patch in front of an apartment door.

Cynbidium Orchid
Cynbidium Orchid

phalaenopsis orchids
phalaenopsis orchids

Winter Orchids at the US Botanic Gardens

Things are quiet at the USBG. Several sections are closed off for renovation and even the orchids appear to be in short supply as the USBG gets ready for its upcoming orchid show. Nevertheless, here are a few gems that caught my eye in the late afternoon sunshine. These are all generally orchids that like temperatures slightly on the cooler side.

Cymbidium Red Beauty 'Evening Star'
Cymbidium Red Beauty ‘Evening Star’

Paphiopedilum Alfred Dimmock
Paphiopedilum Alfred Dimmock
Dendrobium Wave King 'Akebono' AM/AOS
Dendrobium Wave King ‘Akebono’ AM/AOS
Anguloa clowesii
Anguloa clowesii
Cymbidium Longleyense, a pendulous hybrid
Cymbidium Longleyense, a pendulous hybrid

Miniature monsters–the tropical pitchers

Well, I finally succumbed and purchased a few more miniature growing nepenthes commonly known as  tropical pitcher plants . Some of the species can get to be monsters in the wild, big enough to capture a hapless frog or small monkey! But if your’re growing under lights indoors, then the miniatures are your friends–and kitty is safe (meow of relief).

These hybrids came for Predatory Plants in California. They took a while to get to me as the first shipment was lost, but another was dispatched from their cosy greenhouse–as soon as there was a break in the weather (33-45 degrees F)–to my deluxe apartment in the sky. Well not quite.

The babies arrived with pitchers fully formed , tightly bundled in sphagnum moss like new born babes in zip-loc bags. Below is a close up of a small-growing cultivar of a delicate species with tendril like leaves called Nepenthese glabrata.

a miniature pitcher plant
a miniature pitcher plant!


The  grower included pots and long-fibred sphagnum moss so I could immediately pot these up with minimum trauma. I went ahead and added some peat moss and perlite, mostly sprinkling this on top of the moss as its hard to get the two to mix together very well. I gave them a  good soaking with some collected snow-water, that I warmed up first. I also added a few drops to the pitchers as per the instructions. Here is a photo of the trio of plants potted up.


Young pitcher plants potted up.
Young pitcher plants potted up.


The last step was to drop them into a decorative jar then i got from one of the home decor shops a while back. I added some lava rocks at the bottom to capture any drainage water as Nepenthes like to be wet, but NOT sit in water. This also provides added humidity to the jar terrarium. The lid totally encloses the pants into a  little stove-like greenhouse but they seem to love this. The plants were set under my grow lights. In winter the temperatures are ideal(mid 70s day–low 60s at night)  but in summer I may have to move them to a bright spot that does not get as hot. By then, I hope they are well established and growing strongly!


tropical pitcher plants--at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!
tropical pitcher plants–at home in assorted vase and jar terrariums!

Miniature Sinnningias Put on a Show

sinningiaThe cooler fall weather seems to have perked up my miniature sinningias. So I threw a bunch together and took this photo. As you can see there is quite a variety of shapes and sizes , though any of these would sit easily in the palm of your hand! Despite their delicate appearance, the flowers are quite sturdy and last a while!




Miniature Sinningias



Charming Chinese Clivias

Unbeknownst to most of us, the Chinese have been cultivating Clivias for more than half a century now but have gone in a very different direction than here in the west. The Chinese clivias have been bread for their leaves; short, wide, round-tipped leaves with uniform inter-venal patterns on a ‘fan shaped’ symmetrical plant are highly valued, often to the tunes of several hundred dollars.  The flowers themselves are secondary to the foliage! With descriptions such as ‘broad leaf monk’, ‘malian’, ‘oil miller’  and ‘painted face’ there is an entire lexicon around these most intriguing of clivias that Chinese breeders have made their life’s work.

Chinese clivia in 5 " pot
Chinese clivia in 5 ” pot

What has intrigued me the most is the compact nature of the Chinese clivias. Standard clivias grow up to be large showy plants that take up a lot of room. The Chinese ones are about quarter to half the size from as little as a 12 ” wingspan up to only 22″  across.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to find three ‘Broad Leaf’ monk seedlings for sale in the US on ebay. One of them perished after a year, but the other two grew well and developed the characteristic fan-shape of the Chinese clivias. The one pictured here, that is blooming for the second time,  is about 22″ inches across. Its twice as large as the other one, which has yet to make its debut on this website.

I enjoy these plants both for their exquisite foliage and lovely blooms. I grow them the same as regular clivia, though they apparently have more specialized and exacting needs. One things they do seem to more susceptible to is root root–so I make sure not to water them excessively.  I also use a very open bark-based mixture, and I ensure that the base of the plant sits just above the soil level.  If you’ve grown and bloomed clivias before, you may want to try your hand at one of these lovely compact Chinese cultivars.

Chinese clivia--flower close-up
Chinese clivia–flower close-up


Scarlet Baby Awakens

Well, one of the indoor gardener's first sign that winter is on its way out,  is the appearance of buds on Amaryllis bulbs.  So, here is a multi-bulb pot of Amaryllis Scarlet Baby emerging from dormancy. If you can't make out the buds look  for the lightest yellow coloured areas amidst the foliage--yup, those are the buds! And they are emerging from all four bulbs. They are pale as they've been in a dark storage room but will green up in light.  As you can see they look dead and dry to the world, but will soon spring back to  life with a little warmth, light and water. We'll post  a picture when they bloom but if you would like a sneak peek, head over to our Amaryllis bulb website

March 9 update: We’re in full bloom! see below..20 flowers and buds

Amaryllis Scarlet Baby
Amaryllis Scarlet Baby

Amaryllis bulbs after 8 -10 weeks of dormancy
Amaryllis bulbs after 8 -10 weeks of dormancy


Pinwheel Patterned African Violets

A 'pinwheel' African violet
A ‘pinwheel’ African violet. This cultivar is called ‘Petunia’

Perhaps not as exciting as the mythological chimera (a mishmash of snake, lion, and goat) chimeras in the plant kingdom refer to distinct  types of plant cells within the same plant  that have different characteristics. So in the case of African violets, you can end up with the beautiful pinwheel effect displayed here by the miniature variety ‘Petunia.’

These are no harder to grow than other African violets, though you may have to go to a specialty grower to find them. They also will not reproduce by leaf cuttings so you’re out of luck there unless you can get hold of a sucker(young plantlet that forms at the base of the mother plant. Petunia happens to form multiple crowns so could be easily propagated. It also has an attractive semi trailing habit. This plant is growing on a tiny plastic two inch pot that we dropped into this decorative cache pot for display.

Government Shutdown forces DC Orchid Show to Relocate

2013 NCOS Orchid flyer 2

Usually held at the beautiful US National Arboretum, now closed due to the  government shutdown, the NCOS 66th Annual Orchid Show and Sale will now be held at Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705.
For directions see

Same DATES: No change: still October 12 to 14 (Sat., Sun. and Monday, Columbus Day weekend).
Same HOURS: No change: still 8:00 am members-only Advance Sales, 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, and 10 am until 3 pm on Monday.

Here is your chance to see thousands of orchids in bloom, attend free workshops and demos, speak to experts and but choice orchids from vendors that you won’t find in your local grocery or big box store! Its just past the beltway and there is ample free parking.

 Below are some photos from recent orchid shows to tantalize you..

gorgeous cattleya in bloom at a previous show
gorgeous cattleya in bloom at a previous show
Paphiopedilum Misty Del
Paphiopedilum Misty Del

Habenaria medusae, a terrestrial orchid
Habenaria medusae, a terrestrial orchid

inpiring your green thumb