Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala

James Bateman was an influential orchidist.  I knew of this book, published in 1843, and I came across it in the Kindle Store at Amazon for only 10 bucks, so I thought I would read it.  It was a quick and fun read - historically interesting.  I especially enjoyed the Introduction, in which he praised the orchid and justified his orchid obsession as well as provided six rules of orchid growing, which of course are as true today as they were then.

Here is a passage extolling the joy of orchid growing.

The six rules of orchid growing are:
1) "The plants can scarcely have too much light or too little sun."
2) "Take care of the roots."
3) "Beware of noxious insects."
4) "Give the plants a season of rest."
5) "Attend to the condition of the air."
6) "Do not over-water."

To this he added the unwritten seventh rule: "Do not aim at having too large a collection, but rather strive to grow a few good kinds in the best style."

To which I can only say, Amen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cattleya labiata 'Tipo' buds

I got this plant about two years ago - Tropical Orchid Farm via Orchidmania.  This will be the first bloom - 6 flowers on two spikes.  Looks like it will be pretty dark.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter growing - Cattleya crispa

I have been growing a C. crispa (also known as Laelia crispa) for a couple of years.  This year it put up a big fat pseudo-bulb (biggest one so far), so I was feeling optimistic that the next growths would bloom.  Now I'm not so sure.  The new growths look pretty good, but it sure seems that this most recent p-bulb, which was really round this past summer, has been significantly depleted to foster the new growth.  I wonder if in spite of my efforts to be careful with water this winter, the plant has been too wet and many roots have rotted (I may try to assess tomorrow).  Alternatively, maybe I am not watering enough.  Finally, it may be that this is the normal growth pattern.  Maybe in nature the old bulbs MUST be used to supplement the new growths because water is scarce at that time of year - then later in the year the old bulbs re-hydrate.

It blooms in the summer in its natural habitat in Brazil.  Doing a bit of searching (thank you Wikipedia), I found that in a location typical of its natural distribution, the city of Rio de Janeiro, summers are wetter and winters are drier (I should have known this...).  I'm going to make the possibly erroneous assumption that the inland climate is not extremely different in terms of rainfall.  If this assumption is OK, then new growths are generated at the driest time of the year (winter), and then they bloom in the summer.  So this makes me lean toward the third hypothesis - new growth is generated in dry times and I should expect the older bulbs to look like this.  However, if I can determine that the roots are in good shape, perhaps I should give it a bit more water. 

Obviously I don't really know what I'm doing.

My purpuratas show a similar, though less extreme growth pattern - however, they differ dramatically in that they are putting out new roots, while this species is not.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another C. maxima

This is the last of my maximas for the year.  This one is the result of a cross between a coerulea and a coerulescens form.  It has a beautiful, delicate coloration.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cattleya maxima

A first bloom seedling.  Interesting that it is blooming so much later than two others posted earlier this year.

The color is difficult to get right.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coerulea catts

The coerulea (blue) forms of Cattleya are rare in nature and this has given them some desirability among collectors - they are often more expensive than other color forms (and often less vigorous).  I'm not into them myself, but I stumbled across this set of articles summarizing one man's decades long scholarship and investigation on this topic.  Impressive. 

One interesting point is that in Cattleya breeding crosses between highly diverged species often produce hybrids having the same coloration as the parents.  This suggests that the genetics are simple and that the same genes are often responsible for a given color form in many species.  This is an interesting evolutionary phenomenon.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Grow area update

Well, the temporary greenhouse is approaching steady state.  I don't think I'll have time to add more rods for hanging plants.  The major recent change is the addition of a bunch of CFLs to up the light level.  They also add a bit of heat during the day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

C. labiata + bonus!

This is a 1st bloom seedling acquired from Cal-Orchid in 2007.  And much more important, here is Hannah, the newest member of our family, born on Monday afternoon.  We think she's perfect.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No problem!

OK, we're good.  Here you can see the min-max thermometer which recorded a low/current of about 46 (blue = low, green = high, red = current) when the outside temp was probably 29 or 30.  Excellent.

You can also see a spike on the L. anceps that bloomed for the first time last year.  This year's growth and spike are much more robust than last year, so expecting a better blooming.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Going down to the high 20's tonight.  I hope my little heater can keep the temps above 40.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cattleya labiata semi-alba buds

Way back in August I posted a pic of a first bloom seedling.  The (fat) buds are finally emerging - at least three, possibly a fourth.  This is an extremely robust young plant - hoping that translates into high quality flowers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Finally, a flower to post

In a previous post I showed you a C. purpurata that was imported from South America and was getting ready to bloom at the "wrong" time up here.  Well here is the flower - not bad for a first bloom.  I like striata types.  At the same time it is blooming it is developing a new growth, which is not typical for purpurata.  It is getting on Northern hemisphere time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Temporary greenhouse

Well, it looks like the rainy season is upon us here, a bit earlier than normal.  So, the greenhouse went up this afternoon.  If it rains and temps drop I can get everything in there pronto.  I still have some work to do to get ready for the winter, including anchoring the greenhouse and setting up a few purlins to hang baskets.  The first pic is the top.  After assembling the top, the cover went on and then the legs went in.  The last step was pulling the cover down and installing a few braces.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Winter plans

John asked what my plans were for winter.  Last winter (and the one before) I had a temporary greenhouse on the patio.  It worked, but as you might expect, there were problems.  There were leaks and it was crowded.  In fact, I lost a specimen Blc Copper Queen because it got soaked and it was cool and all the roots rotted.  Pathogens spread because the plants were too close together and I couldn't easily examine them.  I had to build benches that specifically fit into the greenhouse.

This year I'm trying a King Canopy 10 x 10 x 8 temporary greenhouse.  It is much bigger than last year's space, my benches will fit it, and I should be able to rig up plenty of space for hanging baskets.  The greenhouse will go against one of the south walls of the house and I will have to figure out how to anchor it to the ground - probably with some greenhouse anchors I'll buy from Farmtek.

If all goes well I will put up the greenhouse in two weeks or so and get the plants in the week after.  I probably won't have to start heating it until Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two C. maximas

This gives you an idea of the different in stature between lowland and upland forms.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Slowly but surely...

the C. maxima buds are growing, elevating and rotating.  Let's hope the flowers are worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another C. maxima with buds

This is a first blooming for this seedling of the clone 'Hercules'.  The next blooming will have more flowers.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cattleya maxima update

Here are the buds today compared to September 5.  We're maybe a week from blooming.  I have another maxima about to stick developing buds through the sheath.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cattleya gaskelliana alba

I acquired this plant in 2008 using an Oak Hill Garden gift certificate given to me as a birthday present by my lovely wife.   First bloom seedling.  Four additional growths have sheaths.  This is supposed to bloom in Spring.  So is lueddemanniana.  Both species bloomed for me in the last month. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

C. maxima buds

Well, the first of the maximas will soon bloom.  Here are some buds on the lowland form.  If all of these buds mature (too early to count them) we should have a nice show.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ebay seller uses blog photo

Today while wasting a few minutes looking at ebay orchids I found this: an ebay seller using my photo of C. forbesii.

 This isn't very nice, but is it illegal?  Any lawyers out there?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who was Frederick Boyle?

I have been unable to find out anything about this person, who was born in 1841.  He was obviously a man of some means who later in life became an orchid maniac (we understand completely...)

Apparently, all that is left of his orchidmania are two lengthy articles he wrote on orchids that are available at Project Gutenberg.  The first, About Orchids: A Chat, was published in 1893.  The second, The Woodlands Orchids, was published in 1901.

I had a blast reading these pieces.  Five things in general stand out.  First, Mr. Boyle had a greenhouse  and he loved his orchids - the greenhouses and collections described in The Woodland Orchids were owned by an acquaintance of his, one Mr. Measures.  Second, many wonderful plants collected in the jungles during the 19th century are now gone forever, as the clones have been lost and the plants almost extinguished in the wild for several species.  Third, there are some great stories of orchid collecting trips.  Fourth, the pieces are written in a wonderful chatty style - the author assumes you will find his tales to be most entertaining (which I did).  Finally, the racism common in that era comes through in the discussions of indigenous peoples.

Orchid fanatics will enjoy these works.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Re: things to look forward to

Here are two plants that had been growing in one direction for a few years - in other words, each year there was just one new growth.  This year, they decided to start growing in multiple directions.  The first plant is C. mendelii.  I posted this plant earlier this year and the flowers were very disappointing.  If it doesn't improve a lot next year, I will look to trade or sell it.  It is now putting out four new growths, which should bloom in Spring.  The second plant is a C. purpurata that has not bloomed for me yet.  There is one new growth off to the right that has a nice fat sheath in it.  Plus, three new growths (one hidden) just started.  So this too could bloom off four growths next Spring.  I think I'm getting the hang of this whole orchid thing.  Only took me three years(!) to figure it out...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cattleya lueddemanniana buds

According to my records I acquired this seedling three years ago.  I almost killed it, but it came back with a strong growth and two buds this year.  This species normally flowers in the Spring.  The flower-to-plant ratio on this plant is high.  Fingers crossed that the first bloom will be nice...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cattleya maxima sheaths

Not a lot of blooming going on - but lots of good growth.  I have several Cattleya maxima - one of my favorite species.  Here are four plants that will bloom this Fall.  The first is a famous mericlone 'Hercules'.  The other are all seedlings.  There are two major types of this species, the lowland form and a higher elevation upland form, which tends to be shorter than the lowland form.  'Hercules' is clearly upland - the pseudobulbs are less than a foot long.  The last pic is of a lowland form - the p-bulbs are between 2-3 feet long.  I got this plant with zero roots about 1.5 yrs ago, and it just now really taking off.  The middle two look somewhere in between upland and lowland (leaning towards upland) in terms of habit.  As is always the case, Chadwick's article on the species is worth reading.