Orangeries: Storing Plants the British Way

One of the most effective means of storing plant life is through the use of an orangery. Ever since these structures were introduced into UK homes during the 17th century, they have been a staple of British homes, becoming more prominent during the 20th century to the point where there now several hundred-thousand UK homes with one.

Despite becoming an extra room added to British homes for a variety of reasons, such as being used as home offices and children’s play areas, the most prolific use of an orangery remains their original intended use of cultivating exotic plants that the climate of good old blightly will not allow for, such as citrus plants.
But what are the correct methods and means of storing plants in an orangery?

Getting the lighting right!
For a plant to truly prosper in an orangery environment, the lighting inside needs to be kept at a level higher than others rooms of the house. This is because the material used for both standard and bespoke orangeries is different to that used for ordinary houses and offices. These materials causing sunlight to pore onto the plants in a way that a household plant will not experience, therefore, considerable shading is needed for the plant’s health. This is particularly true of conservatories and orangeries that are built facing in Southern or Western direction.

The use of window blinds is ideal for achieving the right light as their tilting effect prevents excessive light from entering. Alternatively, painted-on shading can be used. This is a practical water diluted colouring product that is either painted or sprayed onto the outside of an orangery to effectively filter sunlight with no damage to plant life inside.

Watering the plants
The water needed to keep a plant healthy is usually dictated by its size, its number of leaves and the weather conditions surrounding it.

A leafy plant stored inside a small pot will need watering every day during the summer months, and should ideally be watered at least every two days throughout the rest of the year. However, a plant with less leaves and growing within a larger pot is not as likely to require such frequent attention.

As a general rule, watering once or twice a week will be sufficient for plants in such a position, but this is not to say that such an approach should be observed without giving consideration to the appearance of each plant individually because checking plants separately is vital in establishing the level of water it requires.

This check assessment can be made by looking to see if the plant’s compost is drying out. If it is, be sure to add enough water to the plant so that you are sure it is reaching the bottom of the pot.

Don’t be afraid to let a little water pour out the bottom as this indicates that the plant has received enough water to maintain its health for a while. But don’t go crazy with the water either, after all, you don’t want to drown the roots. It’s also worth remembering that cactus plants require less water than others.

Repotting plants in an orangery
If maintained correctly, a plant can prosper fantastically inside an orangery, and this can even mean that the plant becomes so healthy and large that it needs a larger pot to maintain it. When a plant becomes too big for its pot the roots begin to dry out. If you are unsure of whether the roots are suffering behind the disguise of a plant pot, gently remove the plant from its pot and observe the rootball. If it appears tight or you can see the roots protruding, be sure to pot it again as soon as possible. If you make this discovery during the spring or summer months, get the plant in a new pot immediately as the growth of a root is strongest and quickest during these months.

To decide what size pot you should use, the best method is to judge accordingly; but if you are struggling to make a decision, it is advisable to just use a tub that has a circumference of 2-3 cm bigger than the last one you used. Also be sure to feed and maintain the plant in this new pot in as similar a manner as before. After all, the reason you’re repotting the plant is because it’s grown so well under your previous nurture methods. Be sure to keep it well watered after repotting to make sure the roots are comfortable in their new soil.

But what plants should I cultivate?
The original intention of orangeries was to use citrus trees to manufacture fruit such as Oranges, Lemons and Grapefruits. This is still practiced extensively today by orangery owners using a home temperature of 4°C and upwards.

In order to achieve the best effects from their growth, it’s best to keep citrus trees in the lightest area of a conservatory and feed them regularly with citrus fertiliser. Before long you’ll be enjoying a variety of beautiful flowers and delicious exotic fruits in the comfort of your British home. It’s not often you can say that!

If you want to reap the many benefits of adding an orangery to your home, be sure to contact Auburn Hill where bespoke models are custom made to cater for the usage of all customers.   

Repotting Orchids in Bark - A simple Video Guide

Its quite easy to repot your orchids providing you have the correct equipment, orchid grade bark chippings come in differing sizes, if the plant roots are thick choose a larger one, if they are small and thin then choose small chippings. They make a good general compost.

Bollopetalum Midnight Blue 'Cardinal Roost'

Bollopetalum Orchids are created by crossing a Bollea with a Zygopetalum. This stunning example is Bollopetalum Midnight Blue 'Cardinal Roost'which is a cross between Bollea violacea x Zygopetelum B. G. White.

Masdevallia pastinata

Masdevallia pastinata is an intresting species that grows on the western slopes of the Andes in the El Choco region in Colombia. Since Masdevallia stay very small, you can also cultivate a nice collection of Masdevallia on your window sill. The most important condition is a good water quality. They do not like dry air, so misting twice a day is advised if you are not in a humid location. In Europe, these orchids can stay on a facing south window during the winter months, however from late spring to early autumn they should be moved to a less sunny window the temperature in the winter must not drop below 5-7°C.

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.