Mood Indigo at LongWood Gardens

blue poppy
blue poppy

Made a trip to Longwood Gardens yesterday to catch the Orchid Show (and Sale!). It was a cold but sunny and crisp day and I only wish there had been more time to luxuriate in their stunning conservatory that was bedecked with orchids, but also had their customary spring floral display for those of us who are ready for spring now. And of course the famous blue poppies. From the rarefied altitudes of the Himalayas, these poppies are flow in in from Alaska to awaken from their frozen dormancy in the capable hands of Longwood horticulturists. One wonders, how ‘green’ this is, but for now, they remain a star attraction in Longwood’s spring display and one can see why. And for those of you who’re thinking they’re not really blue, remember that true blue is not found in the plant kingdom as far as I know-delphinium blue is probably as close as it gets.

Here are a few photos I took . I’ll save the orchids for another post.

Aechema 'Patricia'
Aechema 'Patricia'

blue poppies, many an iridescent violet
iridescent blue poppies turn a lovely lavendar violet as they mature


the famous blue poppies-this was the bluest of the lot
the famous blue poppies-this was the bluest of the lot

Gorgeous displays of the rare yellow form of Clivia miniata, a South African Speices
Gorgeous displays of the rare yellow form of Clivia miniata, a South African Speices


P1010324
thousands of plants make up the the largest living wall in the USA
thousands of plants make up the the largest living wall in the USA

Hibisiscus in February

Nothing evokes ‘tropical’ quite like hibiscus. And you can have blooming hibiscus in February! Well, if you live in Goa, India where these photos were taken last month. Goa is by the sea and enjoys a hot climate with heavy monsoon rains for about 5 months. However in February the days were lovely, mild and sunny, and the nights cool. Enjoy the burst of color!

hibiscus
hibiscus
fuschia hibiscus

pink hibiscuspinwheel hibiscus

Is that an orchid in your pocket?

pocket orchid (see the quarter?)
pocket orchid (see the quarter?)

I stopped by Whole Foods on the way home and found that they had a whole bunch of ultra-miniature phalaenopsis orchids all vying for attention.  Now these things were tiny. They were in 2.5″ pots and you could have five of them easily fit in the footprint of a standard phal. Needless to say I had to have one, and since my bag was full of groceries I stuck the tiny tot in my coat pocket and hurtled home on my bike so my latest orchid adoptee would not get too cold. We made it home intact and Phal. Timothy Christopher  ‘M-P0764’ is now happily ensconced among my other plants.

Now this is a cross of Cassandra X amabilis, so it has equestris in the background which brings down the flower size.  Other species in the background, stuartiana and  amabilis should result in lots of blooms on branched spikes. In essence, these look like a miniature amabilis.

However do note: these Lilliputian marbles will grow up. Ideally, you could have a specimen size plant covered  with loads of lowers in a 4″ pot. its a testament to phalaenopsis  breeders that you can have  a hybrid that flowers so vigorously when still quite small.

Amaryllis Chico

Amaryllis Chico
Amaryllis Chico


Amaryllis Chico is one of the more exotic members of the Amaryllis family, with its arresting spidery blooms. It belongs to the cybister group of hybrids and only became commercially available in the 2000’s. These are sometimes hard to find as they sell out quickly so get yours early in the season.

They are definitely a more compact growing Amaryllis with much smaller bulbs(and flowers) than standard Amaryllis–the bulbs are about size of a small apple.

The bloom stalks and buds seem to be a bit slower to develop but the flower are visually arresting and make a nice change from the more flamboyant standard Amaryllis.

Amaryllis growers..in the red?

Amaryllis Lemon Lime?
Amaryllis Lemon Lime?


I recently order this bulb online along with a few other Amaryllis. It is already in  bloom with four flowers and a another stalk not far behind!  However, its got unusual red markings and overlay on a rather pale background than I’ve ever seen in Lemon Lime which is usually a nice smooth color with almost no red pigment, if any. (See a photo of the true Lemon Lime.)

I contacted the source, Willow Creek Gardens who responded quickly  said they were seeing the same thing in the Lemon Limes they had bloomed out!  They were getting in touch with their grower to figure what was going on.  In the meantime, they offered to send me another Amaryllis as a replacement , which is what I expect a quality retailer to do. I selected ‘Beneficia’ which is on the opposite side of the color spectrum, a deep rich burgundy red.

Willow Creek Gardens also wrote:

” you  might want to include in your blog the sad fact that the number of amaryllis growers worldwide has shrunk – one of the biggest declared bankruptcy last year and this is the first year we’ve seen the effects on the market — prices have risen.  This  follows a  year when  all vendors were receiving unprecedented numbers of mis-labeled amaryllis bulbs from  the growers and brokers they  had dealt with for years.  In some cases, it even seems that some highly prized hybrids were just shipped under some ordinary varieties name.”

Likely, the global economic recession has had much to do with this, but possibly there is also  some shake-out also going on in the industry. When it all settles down, lets hope the top quality growers and suppliers float to the top.  Dedicated breeders spend much time with a toothpick, painstakingly creating new hybrids. Then, selecting and multiplying amaryllis for commercial release is a time consuming process that can take almost a decade, in some cases. Growers, brokers and retailers have a responsibility to maintain high standards so that consumers, without whom there would be no amaryllis industry, are satisfied with the bulbs they receive, and of course, the flower quality.

Back to the Lemon Lime, the question remains whether this is a) another hybrid b) some sort of sport of  lemon lime, or the result of c) unusual temperatures or other growing factors that affected  the plant at the cellular level when flowering was first initiated? If you have any ideas, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Amaryllis as house plants: plant your bulbs now for winter color

Amaryllis
Amaryllis flower
Who doesn’t love the trumpet blooms of Amaryllis during the dreary winter months? Now available in an amazing range of sizes and colors, from huge flowers 8″ or more across to smaller delicate clusters of blooms, there is an Amaryllis to suit every taste. Amaryllis make great house plants if you can provide them with bright direct sun. If you don’t have a sunny windowsill, but have a sunny balcony or yard, you can still grow them as house plants over the winter and spring months (which is when they flower). The rest of the year they can be grown outdoors.

With a little care, Amaryllis will bloom every year from from winter through spring. In time with good care, you will be rewarded with up to three flower stalks in succession, each with 4 or more blooms!

I recently bought a few more Amaryllis bulbs to add to my collection in a moment of weakness (see photo below). I got two cybister Amaryllis bulbs, which tend to have spidery blooms (‘Chico’ and ‘Bogota’) and a more exotic look than the traditional Amaryllis. I also bought ‘Lemon Lime’, a shorter-statured beauty with flowers in lime-yellow to soft green. As you can see, the cybister bulbs(and thus plants) tend to be smaller than the regular-sized Amaryllis, and are better suited to windowsills or apartment culture. I’ll post photos when the bulbs start to bloom!

Learn how to pot up and care for you Amaryllis bulbs.


Amaryllis bulbs ready to be potted up!
Amaryllis bulbs ready to be potted up!

Photos from the 2010 Orchid Show

orchids for sale!
orchids for sale!

The 2010 National Capital Orchid Show and Sale in Washington D.C. was held on a glorious sunny October weekend. There were hundreds of amazing orchids in bloom and we caught a few on camera. This year, the show was held in the Bonsai Pavilion which has lots of natural light–the displays were enjoyed by thousands people over the course of the weekend. The show is always held on Columbus Day weekend and admission is free.

fringe-lipped cattleya orchid
fringe-lipped cattleya orchid
jewel orchids-grown for their foliage
jewel orchids-grown for their foliage

Dtps Yu Pin 'Fireworks' has an unusual lip
Dtps Yu Pin 'Fireworks' has an unusual lip

part of  the display I designed
part of the display I designed
a stunning display of slipper orchids
a stunning display of slipper orchids

See more photos from the NCOS 2010 Orchid Show!

2010 Orchid Show & Sale in Washington D.C.

Laelia Orchid in bloom at 2009 Orchid show
Laelia Orchid in bloom at 2009 Orchid show

The 63d Annual Orchid Show and Sale will be held October 9-11 at the US National Arboretum in Washington D.C. Admittance to the show and sale is free. This is a wonderful opportunity to see hundreds of orchids in bloom, many rare and exotic, displayed by some of the best orchid growers in the country!

After you view the orchids on display, take a free class or workshop on how to grow orchids, and then head over to the sales tent for a selection of orchids you won’t find at the grocery store.

I’ll be presenting a talk on ‘Foundations of Orchid Care’ at 1pm Saturday so please join me for that!

See some photos from last year’s orchid show.

Compact Cattleyas make great house plants

Potinara Lisa Taylor Gallis "Nora'

Compact cattleya orchids, have all the appeal of standard cattleya, they’re just smaller and more manageable. They can bloom in a 3.5″ pot and generally stay under a foot tall. Plants can get large as they put out new growths, but can be kept manageable by dividing every two to three years.

Many, like the Potinara Lisa Taylor Gallis ‘Nora’ pictured here will also bloom twice a year. This plant bloomed in spring and now has two flowers an a bud(on another growth) six months later! These plants can be grown on a sunny window sill with southern exposure, or under lights.

Potinara Lisa Taylor Gallis "Nora'

Sundews sparkle from Cape Town to Cape Cod

Sundews(droseras) are among the most beguiling of the carnivorous plants. Unlike the toothed Venus Flytraps, or or the open-mouthed pitcher plants they seduce softly with sparkling pinkish-red globules that suggest pleasure, rather than pain. What’s amazing is that these tiny treasures have adapted to a wide range of environments and can be found in many countries and habitats around the world.

While I haven’t had much experience cultivating sundews, its always thrilling to look for them in the wild. Here I share pictures from two very different habitats, that nevertheless have something in common..both are capes and among the most beautiful spots in the world. Nevertheless, both are harsh austere environments with wide temperature swings, where only the most tenacious plants can thrive.

An escarpment of Table Mountain, South Africa
An escarpment of Table Mountain, South Africa

Table Mountain is simply majestic and inspiring…there are few words that can describe it. Proteas and other southern Africa flora, most endemic to this region, and some to Table Mountain itself, can be found here. One sunny afternoon in November,2008 as I explored the mountain top, I came across several patches of wet soil that sparkled with a soft greenish rosettes,tinged along the edges in deep pink–sundews!

Sundews on Table Mountain
Sundews on Table Mountain

Beautiful wide leave rosettes
Beautiful wide leave rosettes

Next, we travel to the furthermost point of Cape Cod, the ‘far lands’ of Provincetown, Massachusetts. These photos were taken in early fall, where sundews grow along the edges of the wild cranberry bogs in acidic peaty soil. In the photos, the tiny dark specks you see on some of the leaves are the remains of insects! You can see how the growth habit and leaf shape is remarkably different from their Table Mountain cousins. In this habitat, the sundews go dormant over the winter.

Almost at the tip of Cape Cod-sundews grow less than a mile from the ocean
Almost at the tip of Cape Cod-sundews grow less than a mile from the ocean

Cape Cod Sundew
Cape Cod Sundew

A colony of Sundews ready to flower
A colony of Sundews ready to flower