With all the snow we’ve been having, I thought i would post a photo of Phalaenopsis amabilis, an orchid species from Southeast Asia that is in bloom now! It has pristine snowy white flowers, and has been used to breed the standard large flowered white phalaenopsis orchids that have become so ubiquitous. Nevertheless, there is something charming about this species, with its small delicate flowers that are produced in great abundance.
Thailand has long been synonymous with orchids and for a good reason. Not only do orchids abound naturally, but there is a long history of orchid cultivation. Now, cattleyas, and other non-native orchids, are grown alongside local varieties. Wherever you go in Bangkok, you see orchids, whether in a fancy arrangements in a hotel lobby, hanging outside in front of a modest home, or simply growing epiphytically on trees for the pleasure of all who pass them.
These photos were taken in Thailand last fall, mostly at the weekend Chatachuk market where people converge to buy orchids, from cheap dendrobiums to highly sought rarities. (Also see our earlier post, Tropical Houseplants in Bangkok)
I’ve seen more cattleyas in Thailand then anywhere else in south-East Asia. Granted I haven’t been to Malaysia, but even in Indonesia or Singapore, they are not as common. Thai growers will have many different types for sale-they are so ubiquitous that they often do not have name tags attached!
Vandas are native to south-east Asia, but are slow growing plants. They demand bright light, heat and humidity and are grown to perfection in Thailand and other south-east Asian countries.
Below are some more unusual orchids. Paphiopedilums, phalaenopsis, bulbophyllums and many other unusual orchids can also be found at the weekend market.
(Below)This type of Vanda hybrid, probably a Mokara, is very common through south-east Asia. They are the equivalent of carnations (though much more exotic) and you will seem them widely used as cut flowers often in huge bunches. They come in a variety of colors from the yellow through red part of the spectrum, often in rich oranges and sunset shades with darker spots on the blooms.
Doriataenopsis Sogo Gotris is a very compact growing phalaenopsis hybrid that produces several short statured flowering spikes with miniature blooms. These types are phalaenopsis orchids are generally known as multiflorals and make great houseplants. Some growers market them as ‘sweetheart’ type phalaenopsis.
No matter what you call them, these charming hybrid have been developed for small spaces and will thrive on a bright windowsill or under lights. A plant in a 3.5″ inch pot, as shown to the left, can easy produce one or two spikes with 15 or more flowers in less space than an African violet!
Some multifloral phalenopsis can actually get quite large as plants, but many, depending on the parentage, will remain on the more compact side. Chances are, they will never outgrow a 5 inch pot and if you can get them that big, you should have a specimen plants capable of producing multiple spikes covered in blooms for a good part of the year. This particular plants consists of two growths which are joined like Siamese twins. This is fairly typical of some species, such as phalaenopsis equestris, that is used in this kind of breeding. Eventually, you can get several growths in a pot each producing one or two spikes resulting in a cloud of blooms.
This particular hybrid bring art shade colors into genre that has been dominated by white with red lips, or dark pink flowers. The flowers, also tend to be very long-lasting and the plants will be in bloom for months!
These orchids are quite robust and do not need special care making them good houseplants. Since they tend to need smaller pots, the only thing you have to be especially careful about is that they do not dry out during warmer weather. They tend to produce their flowering spikes in the fall bringing much needed color during the cooler winter and early spring months.
Oncidium Sweet Earsis ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium that is not difficult to grow if you follow our tips. It is a cross between two Oncidium hybrids: Sweet Sugar x Cloud Ears, hence the name. The flower is a fairly typical for a ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium: bright yellow flowers with variable darker brown markings and a large lip, but, nevertheless, its an improvement over other similar Oncidiums. There are several clones of this hybrid available, and most should be easy to grow.
The plant shown to the left is a young plant blooming on a single mature growth in a 3.5″ pot. It exhibits a compact ‘Christmas tree’ or candelabra flower arrangement that breeders are striving for when it comes to orchids for the houseplant market. Oncidiums have been bred for many years and the goal is now to produce plants that are more compact than the species which can grow to be very large and often have very long unwieldy flower spikes.
Read on to find out how to grow these oncidiums as houseplants on your windowsill.
You can grow dancing doll onicidiums in bright light in a slightly shaded southern,west or east facing window. Allow them to dry out slightly between waterings, and fertilize regularly during the growing season. They will bloom on a mature spike, generally in the cooler months. the flowers last several weeks each, and flowers on the branched spikes will open sequentially resulting in a long lasting display of blooms. After flowering, restrict watering and fertilizer slightly, until you see new growth emerge at the base of the mature bulbs.
The clone photographed is Oncidium Sweet Ears ‘The OrchidWorks’ which was patented by James McCully a grower in Hawaii. Apparently, this clone was selected for its superior qualities from 120 plants. There are many ways that breeders can benefit from discovering, or breeding, a superior plant. I do not believe that patents should be granted for such orchid ‘inventions,’ unless there is a mechanism to share the economic benefits resulting from such a patent with the breeders who bred the parents used to create the patented plants, not to mention the countries from which the parent species were first removed from, without permission and without any compensation; an impossible task once you think about it. Nevertheless, tissue cultured plants like these are often widely available for reasonable prices. This plant, for example, was purchased at Trader Joe’s.
See the close-up of the flower on a second blooming (above right) of the same plant, the year after the main photo and the close-up (below left) were taken! The flowers are significantly larger(some of them almost twice the size as the year before) , especially the lip. The coloring is also more intense though that is affected by growing conditions, especially temperature and light. This year, our plant had three branches, but apparently more than five branches are possible. The lesson here, is that it takes several years for orchid plants to bloom to their full potential. Grow the strongest, most robust plants you can and you’d be amazed at the quality and quantity of flowers that you will get!
Here are a few pictures from the 2009 National Capital Orchid Show and Sale. This event takes place every year at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington D.C. on Columbus Day weekend and admission is free! Most of these photos are from the Carter and Holmes display as there was sufficient natural light to get good photos. However, there are a large number of displays with hundreds of orchids in bloom. Orchid societies from surrounding states also put on displays which are enjoyed by several thousand people over the course of the weekend. For more information visit www.ncos.us
Orchid growers Carter and Holmes, a long established greenhouse in North Carolina are having their fall open house and sale this weekend! See details below. Their new fall orchid mailer is full of color photos is now available. Carter & Holmes are renowned for their cattleya orchids and have bred many wonderful and award-winning cattleya hybrids over the years. Also not to be missed are their spectacular Psychopsis papilio hybrids(see photo)!
“You are invited to our 2009 Fall Open House & Sale on Thursday, August 27th, Friday, August 28th, and Saturday, August 29th from 9 AM to 5 PM each day. We will have the following programs each day at 10 AM.
Thursday, August 27th – General Orchid Culture
Friday, August 28th – Cattleya Species
Saturday, August 29th – General Orchid Culture
We will also be serving lunch between 12:30 and 1:30 PM each day for customers buying plants or supplies.
If you plan to attend one or more of the programs or if you plan to join us for lunch, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us toll free at (800) 873-7086.”
Orchid Update September 2: Here is our mystery summer blooming Cymbidium Chen’s Ruby ‘Gold Tiger’. It opened its first bloom in late August and all flowers on the first spike are now open. It has a second spike popping with nine buds as well! The flowers are wonderfully fragrant during the day, a rarity among cymbidiums! I think this one is a keeper for its heat tolerance alone.
This compact cymbidium orchid seems to be more than just ‘heat-tolerant. In fact, it seems to love the heat! Its produced two spikes of buds during 80-90 degree weather during the past two month in Washington DC. Yes, it is growing outdoors on a balcony where it gets direct sunlight from morning through early afternoon.
The buds have fully formed, with no signs of dropping or blasting during the past two weeks when temperatures have pretty much hit 90 degrees every day. The plant last bloomed in October when I purchased it. Interestingly, other growths have young to maturing shoots, so unlike many standard cymbidiums that all produce their new growths at about the same time (and thus all bloom on those same growths about the same time) these will matures at different rates. This means the plant could bloom more than once a year, especially since temperature seems to be less of a factor. I can see this orchid doing this when they get up to size.
I know what hybrid this is, and the flowers are stunning, but I’ll keep it a surprise until the flowers open and post a photo then!