Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The draw of orchids

If you've viewed more than two of my posts, you probably know that I like flowers.  That said, I've never been strongly drawn to orchids, although I have a half dozen.  However, now that I have my own lath (shade) house, I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand that collection a bit so, when my local botanic garden advertised an orchid show and sale last weekend, I popped in to see what was available.

I've attended this annual show a few times before.  This year's event struck me as smaller in scale on both the show and sale fronts but of course I took some photos.  Everything in the show area was tagged but that doesn't mean it was simple to identify individual plants.  Orchid growers use their own kind of shorthand to distinguish genera and there are a LOT of those.  Orchids comprise the largest family of flowering plants on earth and there are some 30,000 genera and 200,000 hybrids.  I might know enough to distinguish a Cattleya from an Oncidium but classifications that combine two or more genera make my eyes cross.

Cattleya 'Memoria Bluei'

Cattlianthe backtia 'Grape Wax'

Dendrobium subclausum 'Phlox'

Miltonia moreliana 'Surprised'

Potinara 'California Love'

Recchara 'Monument Valley'

Epicattleya 'Rene Marques', Laeliocattleya mini quinee 'Angel Kiss', and Paphiopedilum lowii 'Alba'


In addition to the individual plants vying for awards, there were several display tables put together by vendors.



I can't identify this orchid with the trailing blooms but look at the crinkly texture of those leaves - the plant would be worth growing for those alone

These Phalaenopsis are perfect but plants in this genus have become so common I'm almost immune to their charms

This display won the show award for best display



Many people look at their exotic blooms and assume that orchids are fussbudgets but many aren't much trouble, at least as long as you water them regularly, feed them periodically, and don't allow them to burn to a crisp in full sun.  Most prefer humid environments, which is probably the biggest sticking point for people who try to keep them happy indoors but, lucky for me, my small lath house provides both the air circulation these plants need and the heightened humidity level they want.

I brought home just two plants.  Even at a sale like this, the plants aren't cheap.  The cost for a plant large enough to produce blooms is roughly equivalent to the cost of a bromeliad.

This is Dendrobium 'Samurai'

This is Wilsonara Firecat 'Harmony', or at least it was labeled as such.   Wilsonara is a genus of intergeneric hybrids that combine Cochlioda, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium.  In checking on-line references to the plant, I also found it listed in the Oncostele genus, which includes crosses between Oncidium and Rhynchostele, as well as listings in the genus Colmanara, which combines Miltonia, Odontoglossum and Oncidium.  So now perhaps you have an idea why my eyes cross.


Like bromeliads, orchids prefer tight spaces so the pots are often on the small side, which means it's easy to squeeze them into even a small lath house like mine.  In the long run in my climate I may get more out of growing orchids than some of the other shade plants I covet like fuchsias, which I'm still struggling to placate.  Which plants will earn permanent space in my lath house is still an open question but, if that includes orchids, don't count on me to get their names right.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

28 comments:

  1. Well, I'm glad somebody is covering orchids! Another enormous rabbit hole ;) I'm always interested in finding some interesting reed orchids/epidendrums, and the dendrobium looks doable too.

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    1. You're right that it's a rabbit hole! I planted an Epidendrum in with the succulents in on front garden succulent bed after seeing Debra Lee Baldwin's video showing how well those plants do in Jim Garvey's garden in PV. I grew these plants in my former garden but have never tried them here.

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  2. It's like trying to trace bloodlines of pedigree animals. There are so many, how does one become an 'expert' on 200,000 hybrids?
    Potinara 'California Love' looks like one of those 'sunset' cocktails. ;) And Dendrobium subclausum 'Phlox' was such a surprise... wonder what its pedigree looks like?
    I like your choices, esp. Wilsonara Firecat 'Harmony'.

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    1. Well, Dendrobium is at least a naturally occurring orchid genus as opposed to a nothogenus like Wilsonara so hopefully the parentage of D. subclausum isn't too convoluted.

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  3. I held my breath as I began reading this post, because I've seen what happens to people who start in with orchids... but was able to exhale with pleasure at the happy ending. Those two new arrivals look very happy indeed in the lath house, and they add a lot to the elegance of its ambiance. Well done!

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    1. I can't imagine myself jumping in too deep in this particular pool, Nell. I don't like to intentionally drive myself crazy.

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  4. Your lathe house is perfect for Orchids . I've got about a dozen ...so far ! I stick to miniatures and I've even narrowed it down to Japanese Orchids for lack of space and ease of dragging them around for their weekly bath .

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    1. Even my Cymbidiums haven't gotten too big thus far, Linda, although I'm hoping that the lath house helps boost their vigor in time.

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  5. I'm always drawn to orchids, although my location is not good for them. Some people here in the Midwest try to overwinter them in their homes, and some have very good success. I have not. But I love to see them at orchid shows and conservatories. I like your selections. I'm sure they'll be very happy in your climate in your lathe house. :)

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    1. I imagine that keeping humidity up for orchids in a heated house during the winter months is tough, Beth.

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  6. The ones your brought home are lovely and the lath house is a great place for them. Seems like they really are best in a dedicated space with the right temperature and humidity range.

    I've never been able to develop an enthusiasm for orchids. There's a species Oncidium flexuosum hanging in the Acer palmatum that is doing very well, but not much interest in adding more. Those Santa Ana winds, y'know?

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    1. Our winds are a challenge. I've always kept my small collection together in a shady protected spot but, before the lath house, I also completely forgot about them for extended periods of time. Surprisingly, they can take a little benign neglect.

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  7. I’m glad you found a couple of beauties to bring home, and even more glad that I’ve not caught the orchid bug...

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    1. It is a bug, Loree. However, given your penchant for the unusual, I'll be surprised if you get through your entire life without adopting an orchid or two - there are a lot of intriguing species out there that look nothing like the ever-present Phalaenopsis.

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  8. I’m staying away from orchids! It’s been quite tempting enough with dahlias, leucodendrons and Lisianthus, and I’ve had a lot of names to learn! Orchids would never survive in my garden, so I’ll just admire them from afar.

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    1. After taking a look at the complexities of my new Wilsonara's parentage, I decided I'm not going to worry much if I can trace the ancestry of my orchids, Jane. I'll be happy if I can just ID one of the parents.

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  9. Kris, I never tried to grow orchids since I've never been a fan of "tropical" plants in fact there was a big orchid plantation two streets from my house for more than 20 years and I never visited it... but some days ago I saw a deep orange orchid in a nursery and almost buy it, maybe I should give orchids a try! I like fuchsias a lot but fuchsia mite is a big problem here and my favorite fancy double varieties are the most vulnerable to that pest.

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    1. Fuchsia mites are a problem here too, MDN. I used to grow these plants without a problem but, even with the protection of my new shade house, those I have now are struggling so the plants may not earn a return engagement next year. A representative of my local botanic garden told me that, even there, many of the plants are treated as annuals.

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  10. I like your two new additions. Orchids are beautiful in bloom and they last so long that it's easy to see why they're so beloved.

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    1. I'm sure their long bloom cycle is why they've become so popular as gifts and as "decor." I wonder what percentage end up in the recycle bin when the blooms fade...

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  11. I've never been drawn to orchids either, but maybe I'll give them a try one day, as your post is rather convincing.

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    1. With your higher humidity they might do even better there than they do here, Pam, provided you can provide protection in the event of winter freezes. Oncidiums and Epidendrums are the easiest in my estimation.

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  12. We have had a nice orchid grower/greenouse in the area for a number of years. I tend to visit them when I want an orchid treat. But I've mostly accepted that I don't have space or light to make them rebloom. But they are so beautiful and seductive. I love that colors of the second one you bought.

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    1. I was drawn to 'Harmony's' color on my first pass through the sale tables and found I couldn't pass it up.

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  13. I love them. So you bought a couple? It's a slippery slope you know. It starts with one ot two then becomes a full blown addiction. That's what happened with me and succulents.

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    1. I already had several orchids but added 2 more to my (perhaps burgeoning) collection. My own succulent collection outstrips the orchid one many, many times over but then succulents actually like my climate.

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  14. Replies
    1. Thanks for providing a clue to the mystery orchid's identity, Diana!

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