Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Orchid photos

I am an orchidist who takes pictures, not an orchid photographer. My camera is an Olympus C-740 with 3.2 megapixels with a maximum 2048 x 1636 resolution.

One of my goals early on was to take decent pictures of individual flowers. As a beginner, I had trouble finding good pictures that I could compare to plants I had.

One search for photos that drove me nuts was when I tried to identify the Colmanara Wildcat varieties. It seemed that so many photos on the interweb are miss-labeled that I had trouble feeling confident in the identification.

I have to admit that I have become a bit compulsive about orchid identification. I have a few plants in the greenhouse that are unidentified. When one of these blooms I try to take a clear picture that will make identification possible.

The other reason for pictures is pride. I like to show off my orchids and post pictures on them on my website.

For some flowers there was no problem. I took them outside, found a good background in the right direction for the sun and snapped. Others were quite a challenge.

If you have an Oncidium Twinkle you will appreciate this photo. The flowers are small. It took three separate sessions and 30 to 40 pictures to get this one. I would snap a few, download them and open them in Photoshop. Finally I got one I liked that would be big enough on the screen (432px wide) and showing the details of the flower.

Every time I see the picture it makes me happy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Orchid tags are important to me.

I got this plant about a year and a half ago. It was on the opportunity table at San Francisco. I collect Encyclia and it was a species name I knew I didn't have so I picked it up.

As plant tags go this one is perfectly readable. There was nothing I thought I was guessing about except where the award came from. Yet when I tried to find "Enc laterace" on there was nothing at all.

Ok, not unheard-of but unusual. adds species all the time and of course there is the whole Genus renaming situation to keep up with.

I looked at the species name and thought it looked odd. Perhaps it is a hybrid even though the first letter is lower case. Quite a common error. I checked the Royal Horticultural Society. Again nothing. The same for a straight Google.

It sat for a year in the greenhouse. I didn't add it to the collection inventory since plants must be identified for that. It bloomed and the inflorescence came from the base of mature pseudobulbs. I decided it wasn't an Encyclia at all.

I finally identified the plant when I got another one in trade. As soon as I saw the plant I knew they were the same, expecially with the "Emerald Gardens" name.

What happened? I don't know for sure. The only thing that makes sense is that the plant my division was taken from had an unreadable tag and the owner made their best guess when writing the new tag.

Epidendrum laterale grows in Costa Rica and Panama and into Colombia. It grows very tropical in humid, warm to hot conditions at low elevations. It is fragrant and the flowers are reasonably long lasting.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mounted Oncidium onustum

Oncidium onustum grows from Mexico to Ecuador and Peru. It is warm to hot growing and needs a complete dry winter rest from after blooming until new growth starts.

I got this division from a friend just about two months ago. At that time it had no roots but now it has a single green-tipped root growing along the pseudobulb rather randomly. The root needs guidance and I provided it by mounting the plant. The root will grow toward the moisture in the small amount of sphagnum on the cork.

Oncidiums do well in cultivation but have one interesting quality. Each new growth is higher than the last. It quite literally climbs up trees this way. This is the reason I mounted this extra low on the piece of cork.

In a pot I leave room for two years growth. On a mount I usually plan for about five years. I try to find a balance between having bare-looking bark and having to re-mount the plant too soon.

One other thing to point out about mounts in general that I got wrong at first. The new growth goes next to the cork. The plant attaches roots much better. It is much more attractive as time passes if mounted toward the bark.

The plant is attached with two loops of fishing line, one below the plant and one around the rhizome. I like this method because the plant is held firmly without being unsightly.

The sphagnum has been trimmed a little and I will trim it again in the spring.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


A very useful website Intergeneric Orchid Hybrid Abbreviations. Many tags have abbreviations and unfamiliar ones sometimes leave me baffled. I come here as a first step to figuring out what conditions the plant wants.

If you hang around orchids for awhile you start to learn some of these abbreviations but nobody knows them all. There are hundreds!

This website seems to be up to date but I am not sure who maintains it. It is very helpful.

UPDATE: This site is no longer available.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steno what?

That was my first reaction when I saw this plant at the Sonoma County Orchid Society party last night. I wasn't even sure it was an orchid. Shows you what I know about orchids.

When I got the plant home I tried to look it up. After a little "interpretation" of the plant tag I found it. Live and learn.

The genus Stenorrhynchos contains 30 species spread throughout the tropical Americas. In reading through the list of species, I see that this genus has been extensively re-classified.

Stenorrhynchos speciosum is a terrestrial growing at higher elevations in the Andes from French Guiana to Argentina. From the description I am going to give it moderate light and even moisture.

I always like to learn about a new genus, and the party was very nice. There were door prizes and a gift exchange. Lots of orchids changed hands last night and I got to talk to several people that I didn't know well.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finishing a mount

There are a few different methods of attaching a plant to a cork mount. I'll show you the one I like best. It does the basic job of holding the plant completely still in relation to the cork and looks pretty good right away.

This summer, after it bloomed, I took half of my Epidendrum peperomia plant off of its treefern and made it into small divisions. Now I'm taking the largest piece to mount on cork.

I laid the plant on the mount and position it. Then I mark and drill four holes. I will attach the plant to the cork with fishing line running across the rhizome at two points.

The 3/16 inch holes may seem large, but I have learned the hard way what size I need to be able to thread the fishing line. In addition, I don't have to change drill bits. NOTE: Be sure that the holes don't cross inside the bark.

Have a little moist sphagnum moss available. And I do mean "a little". I am providing a cushion for the plant, not potting it. A few strands will be enough.

The order of placement is first a couple of strands of sphagnum moss through the loops, then the plant, then another strand at the points where the fishing line crosses the rhizome.

I gently tighten the line across the rhizome and tie in back with a single knot is looped under twice. That will hold just enough tension so that I don't need a finger on it while finish a square knot and trim the ends in back.

The final touch is to trim any loose sphagnum to make a mice neat appearance.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Epidendrum peperomia divisions

The genus Epidendrum contains 1000 known species through out tropical Americas and the Caribbean. Extremely varied. It is kind of the default genus for orchids.

Epidendrum peperomia grows from Nicaragua to Ecuador in pine and oak forests. Cool to warm growing, low light. AKA Neolehmannia porpax.

The plant does well mounted and it is often seen on treefern. It forms a thick mat which is covered with flowers when it blooms. It can bloom any time of year but mine likes summer.

This summer, after it bloomed, I took half of my collection plant off of the treefern and made it into small divisions. I put them in the saucer shown in the picture to grow them a bit before mounting.

The 8 1/2 inch clay saucer has had a small hole drilled in it to keep water from standing in it. Then there is a thin layer of pea gravel and a thin layer of sphagnum moss.

The 10 small pieces of peperomia were spread around the saucer in a pizza-like pattern and another layer of loose sphagnum moss was added. I placed the saucer in fairly low light where it could get wet regularly. This plant wants even watering during the summer growing season and a little dryer in winter.

I checked the plants today and all of them have formed new roots and have grown. Three of them are large enough to mount as separate plants and I will do that later today.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cold today

Today was a day in which the overnight temperature sank to 32 degrees and the daytime high was 59 degrees, a degree less than the thermostat in the greenhouse is set.

The greenhouse remained closed up all day. I had intended to do some work but there is very little space inside. My work area is just outside the door and I didn't want to let the warmth that built up to get out. Inside it got up to 70 degrees late in the afternoon.

I decided that a post without a picture would be too boring, so here is Bulbophyllum lobbii 'Winter'.

Bulbophyllum lobbii grows in Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines above 2000 feet. Warm to hot growing and fragrant.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How many rounds of rescue can a plant stand?

The genus Laelia About 60 species from Mexico through South America. They are highly varied.

Laelia anceps grows in Mexico and Honduras. It is warm to hot growing and needs a dry winter rest and bright light. If it is dry it can winter outside if there is no hard freeze.

This is a very weak lead that was badly potted and lost all the roots it developed. Two previous rescue attempts failed before I got the plant and it didn't look to strong to begin with. This will be a challenge as a third round rescue.

Still, there is a good chance that this plant will recover. Laelia and Cattleya are very hardy. A grower friend who specializes in Cattleya and Laelia ties a tag to the plants and adds them to a pile. Every once in awhile he checks them.

I am very interested in saving this plant. It is Laelia anceps 'Sea God' and is a division of a plant from the Raymond Burr collection. I haven't seen what the flower looks like, but the plant is interesting from a local history standpoint alone.

The plant is now in with the other backbulbs supported by limestone chunks and with the pot sitting on wet sphagnum moss for just a hint of moisture.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More about the greenhouse.

If you can walk through your greenhouse in a straight line and without ducking, you don't have enough orchids. This is the view from outside the door on the south side.

I sometimes envy those with neat benches
and nice rows of similar sized pots. A greenhouse where you can measure the light an know that it applies to the whole quadrant.

Not in my greenhouse. It's a jungle in there. Every orchid has its own micro climate, as close to what it needs as I can figure out.

My top light level is 4000+ footcandles. The top of the greenhouse is full of hanging plants and mounts so everything is shaded by at least a couple of other plants. Here is a view looking west along the aisle on the north side. Looks as if you would need a machete to get through.

Watering is overhead sprayers.
There are about 20 2-gallon per hour heads that run for two minutes early in the day. It is very rain-like. In summer they run once a day and winter once a week with manual runs as needed.

Cooling is from overhead foggers. These cover the same area and run on a thermostat and timer combination. The highest temperature I ever see in there is 92.

Almost all the potted plants are in some kind of rock. As you can immagine, this is a very wet environment and any other potting medium would kill most orchids.

The greenhouse is pretty interesting to manage. It is not optimal for most of my orchids, but I can grow a pretty broad range by placing it properly.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Winter watering

Winter watering has been in effect for awhile. That means I have to load up the pump sprayer and hand water those plants that need even watering and let the winter-resters be dry.

I get spoiled in the summer. Watering is fully automatic. There is a base amount of watering with additional watering based on humidity and temperature. I repot, take flower pictures and enjoy the orchids. Sometimes even breaking out in song. Summertime, and the livin' is easy.

The last two weeks, what with the holiday and all, I have been lazy about the watering. I think about it but put it off.

Yesterday I decided to take some greenhouse pictures to post and looked at the Masdevallias in particular. They are very much in decline at the very time they should be perking up. They need regular watering.

I am sure I have other plants that are starting in decline but the Masds are showing it quicker.

No greenhouse pictures today. I will be out in the greenhouse making sure that the wet and dry orchids are properly separated and that the watering is done.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shipping and Handling

I have been selling and trading by mail for a couple of years. I like doing it that way and it has gone smoothly with one exception, that being the first time I tried.

My first sale was a real growth opportunity. The most important lesson was get the shipping box first, THEN sell.

I did pretty much everything wrong. I used a box that was too small, I didn't use enough packing material and I shipped into cold weather. Bottom line, the plant froze and I refunded the money while losing a future customer.

I have some advice. Open an account with and shop for supplies there. There are many free items, but the most important is strong priority mail boxes.

I keep two sizes around the house that work for almost all my plants. For larger plants I have a roll of Priority Mail labels to make any box into priority mail. These are all free.

The first is the Priority Mail Shoe Box (7.5 X 5.125 X 14.375). This is the one I use most often. The second is Priority Mail Box O-BOX4 (7" x 7" x 6"). Browse the site, you will find some other useful boxes and supplies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Coelogyne mooreana backbulbs

The genus Coelogyne contains 100 species found in all of Asia east of India and Indonesia and Fiji. Conditions vary considerably.

Coelogyne mooreana grows in Vietnam in high mountain cloud forests. It is fragrant and blooms in spring and early summer on immature growth. It is an easy grower and a nice addition to any collection.

A few months ago I bought a quite large plant that was in serious need of repotting. It produced about a dozen nice plants.

In addition to the divisions there were a bunch of backbulbs. Some of them were single pseudobulbs with a leaf and good prospects for recovery. I shared these with friends for postage plus a dollar.

This left a half dozen hard-core backbulbs. They had no leaf and no roots and no visible eyes. I put these into a hanging pot with sphagnum around them as fluffy as possible. I hung it in the wettest part of the greenhouse.

This is that pot today. A couple of them sprouted right away and are now separately potted. One is totally dead and one group is dying but has sprouted. That one will be tricky to transition.

That leaves two sprouting and one yet to decide about sprouting or dying.

This Coelogyne and the two are all high altitude wet growing plants. They responded to sphagnum and wet conditions.