Catasetum tenebrosum

Catasetum tenebrosum is an unusual species of orchid and comes Ecuador and Peru. Catasetum tenebrosum is a deciduous orchid, and after flowering they enter a period of dormancy at which point they drop their leaves.

In their native habitat, these orchids mostly  grow as epiphytes in the wet forests. Species of this genus all host wood devouring mycorhizzial fungi which supplement the plants nutrition by breaking down decomposing wood. The majority of the species have a prolonged saprophytic stage in decomposing wood as seedlings before developing leaves and photosynthesis.

To grow these well at home, strong light is needed, especially when they are actively growing and forming flower spikes (from the spring until autumn). They need bright indirect sunlight for best results.

This orchid can tolerate hot summer days whilst in growth but should be given a cooler period while dormant. In the summer they can take in excess of 30C in a humid orchid house. Once the pseudobulbs mature, they can tolerate lower day time temperatures temperatures between 18C to 30C with lower temperatures at night (down as low as 11C-12C). This is quite a wide temperature range which makes them difficult to grow with other orchids.

Water is critical for producing large pseudobulbs and strong flowers. Water heavily as leaves are forming especially during the spring and summer and when flower spikes are forming. The plant stores water in the pseudobulbs to use whilst in active growth and then to take it through the period of dormancy.

Brassia 'Eternal Wind'

What stunning flowers these are on Brassia 'Eternal Wind', beautiful pale green star shaped flowers with horizontal bars in chestnut brown and chestnut spots on the large frilly lip. Lower sepals are slighly curved and flowers are around 4.5 - 5 inches long.

Phalaenopsis Sin-Yuan Golden Beauty

This stunning yellow phalaenopsis hybrid invokes the lovely warm colours of autumn. This orchid is strictly known as Doritaenopsis Sin-Yuan Golden Beauty, Doritaenopsis being the correct name for a cross between Phalaenopsis and Doritis.

Generally speaking, Doritaenopsis are well known for their rich yellow, rose and magenta colours. These hybrids often have slightly smaller flowers than typical Phalaenopsis.

Phalaenopsis Sin-Yuan Golden Beauty prefers low to medium light levels, avoiding direct sunlight, however more mature plants can tolerate higher light levels. Doritaenopsis can burn easily, so do take more care with them. These orchids do need a a good amount of indirect sunlight in order to get them to flower. They can easily take upto 10 to 12 hours of indirect light each day.

They prefer warm environments with temperature ranges from 18C to 30C being ideal (65F to 85F). Doritaenopsis will cope with a short period of colder or hotter temperatures. However longer exposure to extremes of temperatures will cause problems.

As is typical with Phalaenopsis this orchid generally need only a little water occasionally. Phalaenopsis Sin-Yuan Golden Beauty will suffer from root rot if it is over watered.

Flowers are approximately 3. 5 inches across and this variety generally blooms autumn to winter.

Ferliliser Friday / GBBD

The 2012 Hampton Court Flower show has just concluded in the UK and Orchids were as you would expect very much centre of attention. The following were some of the blooms that caught my eye in the large floral marquee.

Phalaenopsis  'little zebra'
Brassia Painter 'Big Spider'
Anguloa clowesii

Paphiopedilum Vanguard 'Las Colinas'

Paphiopedilum 'Armeni White'

Dendrobium Phalaenopsis 'Thailand Black'

Phalaenopsis 'Snow Apple'

For more flowers, check out the rather fabulous Fertilizer Friday over on Tootsie Time's blog.
For Garden Blogger Bloom Day photos see Carols Blog May Dream Gardens.

Rare Orchid in Flower

An extremely rare and endangered orchid which was once on the brink of extinction in the UK is blooming again in woodland in Gloucestershire.

Cephalanthera rubra known as the Red helleborine, is usually located in Europe where it is classed as "vulnerable" and is only known to exist in just three sites in south England. Cephalanthera rubra gets its name from 'Kephale' is Greek for head, and 'anthera' is botanical Latin for the part of the flower which contains the pollen, so Cephalanthera are characterized by pollen recepticles that look like a head. 'Rubra' is from the Latin for 'red', a reference to the flower colour.

Seven years ago there were only three plants remaining at the National Trust site in the Cotswolds. However, following extensive conservation work there are now over 30 plants in this particular location.

National Trust countryside ranger Tim Jenkins said although the species had been recorded in the beech woodland site for over seventy years, it was only in more recent years that the number of plants had increased and they were starting to flower regularly.

He said that whilst little was known about the precise habitat and growing conditions required for the plant, conservation work was going on at the site in an attempt to optimise the surrounding area to attempt to let the orchid flourish.

"We don't fully understand how the plant reproduces here as the particular bee that normally pollinates it is not found in the UK. We've tried manually pollinating the orchid and even taking cuttings but we've not had any luck yet but we are sharing our knowledge with experts at Kew Gardens and Natural England. To improve the soil temperature and increase light levels we've cleared some trees and the area undergoes intensive management in the winter to help improve the growing conditions."

There are over fifty species of orchid native to the UK and the red helleborine is amongst the rarest native species.

Feeding Moth Orchids

As with all plants Orchids require nutrition, clearly with many thousand s of different species of orchids each will require their own particular form of care and attention, light levels, watering and nutrition will vary from species to species. For the purpose of this post I am only talking about the typical Phalaenopsis or more commonly known as moth, orchids because these are the most common orchids for beginners, widely available everywhere from DIY sheds, Ikea, garden centres and even small corner shops. Many People view orchids as some sort of exotic, tricky to grow plant, which is simply not true, or rather is not true of Moth Orchids. Orchids have traditionally been grown by specialty growers, producing flowers for the florist trade as well plants for the collectors.

Phalaenopsis  'Las Palmas'

With any plant to get the best out you should consider their cultural requirements, Phalaenopsis orchids epiphytes, which essentially means they they grow on tree trunks, branches, rocks, and anywhere else they can get a hold. Their roots are mostly exposed to the air and as such Moth orchids do not grow up out of the soil like a typical terrestrial plant.

The roots collect all the moisture and nutrients the orchid needs from the surrounding environment, for instance organic materials like rotten leaves, animal droppings, as well as mineral deposits in rainwater serve as to feed the orchid.

For convenience, a slow release fertilizer with equal proportions of N-P-K (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K)) (14-14-14) used as directed, works well with Phalaenopsis. However, most serious growers prefer to use a liquid plant food, again with equal parts of N-P-K, appled at the recommended rate every second time you water.During blooming season you might consider a blooming plant formula with elevated phosphorus levels (i.e. 10-30-20). During winter months you can reduce liquid fertilizer applications to once a month.

If in doubt remember, Orchids will do far better with too little fertiliser than with too much.

Fertilizer Friday

As its a Friday and the weekend is nearly here what better excuse is needed to see some more fantastic orchids!

For more flowers, check out the rather fabulous Fertilizer Friday over on Tootsie Time's blog

Masdevallia Orchids

A selection of Masdevallia orchids on the Ochid Society of Great Britains Stand at the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower show. Starting at the bottom left and moving clockwise are Masdevallia 'Copper Wing', Masdevallia 'Hoosier Angel', Masdevallia 'Falcons Gold' and finally Masdevallia 'Fancy Pants'

Masdevallia, is a large genus of flowering plants of the Pleurothallidinae, part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae). There are well over five hundred different, which are grouped into several subgenera. The genus itself named after Jose Masdeval, who was a physician and botanist in the court of Charles III of Spain.

The native habitat of  Masdevallia is from Mexico down to southern Brazil, with the majority found in the higher regions (2,500-4,000m above sea level) of the Andes in Ecuador and also in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. They can grow as epiphytes, terrestrials or growing as lithophytes on damp rocks.

The plants are characterized by an abbreviated to elongated and creeping rhizome that gives rise to stems that lack pseudobulbs. The stem bears a single, fleshy, ovate to lanceolate leaf. The flowers are triangular and occur singly or in racemose inflorescences. They are characterized by a showy calyx and reduced corolla. The sepals are fused at the base and frequently caudate. The petals flank the semiterete column and the tongue-shaped lip is flexibly hinged to a free column foot.

The species are sensitive to inappropriate cultural conditions and will show signs of stress by leaf spotting or dropping. They can usually be grown in pots with sphagnum moss or seedling grade wood chips although a few species produce descending inflorescences and are best grown in orchid baskets. In both cases the rhizome should remain at the surface of the medium in order to prevent rot.

Most of these plants are from high altitude cloud forests and require very cool conditions and abundant moisture throughout the year. They cannot tolerate dryness, low humidity, or excessive temperatures. They will simply drop all of their leaves and suddenly collapse if allowed to dry completely or are exposed to high temperatures. Many members of this genus from very high altitude cloud forests are not available in cultivation. Most of the species from this genus are considered less difficult in cultivation than plants from the genus Dracula, and some of them are very easy to cultivate and have a weedy habit such as Veitch's Masdevallia, but the majority of these species are usually very difficult to maintain in cultivation unless the plants can be kept cool and moist all the time.

Low humidity conditions or watering the plants with a water source which contains high levels of dissolved salts will result in the leaves yellowing and rapidly dying from the tips back to the rhizome. Masdevallia should be provided with rain water, distilled water or a very pure water source. The medium should always remain moist as the plants do not have any significant storage structures like most orchids.