Slipper Orchids from the NCOS Show

Here are two maudiae-type slipper orchidsthat I bought at the recent orchid show held in Washington D.C. Most of these hybrids are being bred in Taiwan (slipper orchids are from south-east Asia) and the quality is outstanding. Growers usually have a batch of identical seedlings in bloom, and its fun to go through and pick out the best ones. ‘Best’, is of course, subjective but most slipper orchid enthusiasts will agree that if you look for flowers that are symmetrical, show clear color and boast a good flat dorsal sepal(that’s the striped one at the top of the flower that ends in a point) you can’t go wrong.

Slipper orchid hybrid
Paph Hsinying Rubyweb '#4' x sukhakulii '#25'

Then, of course, you have to like the flower, so that you’ll enjoy it once its home and blooming on your windowsill (the flowers can last six weeks or more). The orchid to the top is 50% sukhakulii, a species from Thailand that impart wide spotted petals to its progeny. Below is what is known as  a vini-color hybrid–the goal with this kind of breedingis to get wine colored flowers–sin fact, some of these can be an extremely dark wine-red, or practically black. The vini colored slipper orchids are best admired while sipping a glass of claret red.

Maudiae-type slipper  orchids also have beautiful foliage . They are relatively low-light plants and with a little care can be grown as houseplants. Learn how to grow slipper orchids


Paph Fever Pitch x Macabre x (Onyx x Ruby Leopard)
Paph Fever Pitch x Macabre x (Onyx x Ruby Leopard)

Easy-to-Spot Orchids

I purchased this gorgeous cattleya orchid at the NCOS Orchid Show that is on this weekend in Washington D.C. The large spotted waxy flowers held with their heady fragrance proved to be irresistible. There were about ten of these in bud or bloom being sold by Orchid Enterprise and most of them were snapped up quickly. I think you can see why.

For orchid nuts: This is a tetraploid mutation of the ‘Carmela’HCC/AOS clone.’Linwood’ received an AM/AOS

Cattleya Caudebec 'Linwood' AM/AOS

Orchid Show in Washington D.C. on Columbus Day Weekend

Paph. Hsinying Citron X Pat Rowlands purchased at last year

Enjoy a dazzling display of orchids in Washington D.C this Columbus Day weekend. This fall tradition brings thousands of orchids in bloom, and visitors, to the U.S National Arboretum. There is a also a sales tent where vendors from around the nation offer many orchids that you won’t find in your local grocery store.

Members of the National Capital Orchid Society (NCOS) are also on had to give tours and answer any questions you many have on orchids. Better still, attend one of the many free orchid growing workshops offered and and then select some orchids to take home with you from our sales tent. I’ll be giving a talk on Saturday at 1.45pm on ‘5 Secrets to Great Orchid Growing;’ come find out what they are!

Admission to the show, classes, and sales tent is free! Show hours are:
Saturday 10 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5:00 pm
Monday 10 am – 3:00 pm
The entrance to the Arboretum is at 24th and R Street, NE, not the New York Avenue address. For more information visit the NCOS website.

If you’re an orchid nut, and looking to to add plants to your collection, get there early on Saturday.  However, there are enough orchids to suit everyone’s taste, so even if you get there later in the day, you’ll still find something you like. I found the slipper orchid pictured above left well into Saturday afternoon after the best stuff had supposedly been ‘picked over.’ Read my orchid website post on how to buy orchids so you can make your way through the sales tent like a pro. If you want to enjoy the displays, then Monday is usually the quietest day ..

New this year are special photo sessions before the show opens to the public:
Saturday, October 8, 9:00 – 10:00 am
Sunday, October 9, 9:00 – 10:00 am
Monday, October 10, 9:00 – 10:00 am

Photograph rare and exotic blooming orchids set in spectacular museum-quality displays without the worry of crowds or space to set up your tripod. The fee per session is $12 (Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) $10). You can register on the NCOS website.

You can also sign up to become a member of the National Capital Orchid Society at the show. Meetings are held monthly at the arboretum and feature a guest speaker as well as a show table with hundreds of orchids in bloom. Here are some photos from last year’s NCOS Show to whet your appetite.

Here is an exhibit I designed for Orchid Enterprise at last year's show

Last of the Summer Roses

Rose Norwich Castle

Well, these garden grown roses aren’t quite houseplants but as summer winds down there is nothing quite like the last of the summer roses to remind us of glories past,and to sustain us during the bleaker days ahead. And there is no better place to take in these elegant beauties than the rose gardens at The Regent’s Park in London. I’m sure that even Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham would wholeheartedly approve and might even stop to sniff the roses when no one was looking, as untoward as that might be…



Sheila's Perfume

Summer blooming spiders (orchids that is)

brassia orchid
spider orchid

While even the campiest of orchids take a break in the summer, not so the brassias orchids. These spidery giants of the orchid world that hail from central and south America seem to revel in the summer heat. Here are some photos of our brassia orchids on bloom. These photos are from last summer. The flowers were about 18″ from top to bottom! They also have a light spicy fragrance that adds to their allure. Learn how to grow brassia orchids.

spider orchids

Flowers in Brazil I

decorative pineapple


I was traveling in northern Brazil last week–it was hot and on the dry side given that the rains had just ended a month or so ago. I try to make it a point to visit garden centers or nurseries wherever I travel to see tropical houseplants. In many cities the garden centers, or nurseries, tend to be clustered together so if you find one, you find them all! These photos were taken in Teresina, the capital of the state of Piaui in Northern Brazil.










Sobralia orchid plants--about 5 feet tall
Sobralia orchid--native to South America







Gorgeous Guzmanias

Guzmania Limones


Guzmanias are a genus within the Bromeliad family.  They are grown primarily  for their attractive flowers that emerge from the rosette of leaves, and that can last several months!

These tropical beauties like heat, bright indirect light, and humidity. While these specimens depicted were growing and bloomed by the US Botanical Gardens, there are many smaller growing hybrids that are popular as house plants. Guzmanias are often used in office  interiors in mass plantings where their flame colored bracts and blooms provide a rare burst of color.

Most guzmanias that you will find have plain foliage, but there are exceptions such as the stunning specimen shown below which is attractive even when not in bloom!  If you have guzmanias in your house4plant collection, be sure to keep the central vase filled with water and occasionally add a little dilute flowering plant fertilizer to keep your plants blooming.

Guzmania Marina


Wisterias as Pot Plants?

Wisteria frutescens
Wisteria frutescens-close up of blooms

When we think of Wisterias we think of large sprawling vines that look like they could bring down a house, not houseplants. Hard to tame, we forgive them because of their pendulous racemes of grape colored blooms that appear for a few weeks in late spring. But lost in our tangled affair with the Asian wisterias, is their more demure and timid cousin, the American wisteria (Wisteria fructescens). This one can be grown in a pot, though not quite a houseplant; and yes, it will bloom at this size.

I purchased one in an 8″ pot about 2 years ago, in bud of course, and was thrilled to have a wisteria in bloom on my small balcony. I trimmed the vines down as they started to grow too long and clipped away extraneous branches over time to create a more bonsai-like appearance. Once clipped in early summer, I found the plant did not attempt to throw out a lot of new vines but managed with what it had. The wisteria overwintered on my balcony (dropping all its leaves as in nature) with no special protection(I’m in zone 7b) . It rewarded me again with blooms the following spring.

This year I had twice as may flowering racemes but missed most of the show, which lasts two-three weeks, as I was traveling . I’ve posted a photo from last year so you can get an idea of how striking this plant is. Its still in the same pot, and receives no special treatment–full sun, a little trim after blooming, and a little fertilizer now and then. While it is not a houseplant, it can certainly be brought indoors so you can enjoy the flowers during a few weeks in the spring. And the rest of the year you can still enjoy the delicate foliage on this southeast USA native species.

Wisteria frutescens
Wisteria frutescens

Aloe, Aloe…

On a recent trip to Kenya I was reminded how diverse the aloe family is–apparently there are hundred of species. And while many share a resemblance to the Aloe vera plant that we might grown as houseplants, for some aloes that grow as big as trees, the sky is literally the limit. Some of the rosettes shown are several feet across! So here are a few photos I took at the small botanical garden at the Nairobi Museum. Not all plants had tags identifying them. There were some interesting succulents too, and I’ve included those.

Succulent Garden at the Nairobi National Museum


Euphorbia lakipiensis




Aloe volkensii ssp morijensis

The Lustrous Deep Red Amaryllis Benfica

A new addition to our Amaryllis collection, the deep cranberry red flowers of Amaryllis Benfica are simply astounding! This bulb is now on its third flower spike of velvety excess. Enjoy with a glass of Merlot and fine chocolates to complete the experience. Who knew nature could be so beguiling?

What more, this Amaryllis no more difficult to grow than that other types. Find out how to grow and flower these exotic amaryllis amaryllis for years to come.

Amaryllis Benfica
Amaryllis Benfica