Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maxillaria luteo-alba in bloom

Maxillaria luteo-alba - Photo by Richard Lindberg

Maxillaria luteo-alba grows in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela at low altitudes. It is cool to hot growing and is fragrant.

I have had this plant for just a little over a year. I bought it from the member sale table and the top of the plant looked fine. When I got it home I found that the sphagnum was completely broken down and the roots were skimpy except at the new growth. I divided the plant and I don't know if this half is the one with roots or the recovery half.

I went through a phase where if I saw a new Maxillaria species I grabbed it. However, I am learning that I better be a little careful since the conditions that Maxillaria need is by no means predictable from looking at the plant. The cold growing Maxillaria are particularly hard to grow in my environment.

Friday, January 30, 2009

In bloom today

Laelia anceps sanderiana - Photo by Richard Lindberg

Laelia anceps sanderiana

The Laelia anceps season continues. While it is true that I have never met an anceps flower I didn't like, this is my favorite.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Polystachya caespitifica in bloom

Polystachya caespitifica - Photo by Richard Lindberg

Polystachya caespitifica is one of those flowers I have a lot of difficulty photographing. It is about 3/8 of an inch across and white. I have seen better, but after three sessions and quite a few photos, I am going to give it a rest.

I have only had the plant for a month and it was in spike then. It grows in Kenya and northern Tanzania in mountain forests. It is cool to warm growing and is fragrant. Now that the buds have opened, I will repot it. The sphagnum in the pot now is quite broken down.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Great new orchids in my collection.

I visited Steven Christoffersen's greenhouse the other day. I was there to see his new seedlings and compots and to give him a hand getting rid of a computer virus he had.

I managed to clean the machine and I will go back to help him some more in organizing his orchid pictures. In return, he gave me two very nice Laelia anceps divisions.

The plant in the picture is Laelia anceps vestalis 'Figment' AM/AOS. It will develop the third pseudobulb and bloom during the next blooming season in the fall. Here is a link to Eric Hunt's picture of a flower from another division of the same plant.

The other plant is just as exciting. It is a cross between 'Figment' and 'Marble Queen' that Steven made. The cross is so far unbloomed but ought to bloom this year. 'Marble Queen' is white and has wider pedals.

As with any plant grown from seed, I don't know if my plant is award quality. Both parents are great plants. I will just have to wait and see.

Monday, January 26, 2009

In bloom today

Laelia anceps coerula 'Santa Barbara blue' - Photo by Richard Lindberg

Laelia anceps coerula 'Santa Barbara blue'

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Restrepia sanguinea propogation

The genus Restrepia contains 30 or 40 species found from Mexico to Northern Argentina. Their culture is similar to small Pleurothallis species and grow well with small pots, high humidity and shady conditions.

Restrepia sanguinea grows in Ecuador and Venezuela. It is cold to cool growing.

Ron Parsons commented that Pleuros can be propogated from a previously bloomed leaf. I am always interested in new techniques, so about six months ago I placed one (Restrepia is related) in a saucer of pea gravel and gave it reduced light and regular watering.

It is developing nicely. It has started growing a second leaf. I removed a sphagnum top dressing that holds moisture so you can see the plant better.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In bloom today

Laeliocattleya Gold Digger 'Orglades Mandarin' is in bloom. This plant is one with which I have a love/hate relationship. This plant introduced me to Boisduval scale.

Up to this point in my orchid experience, I had had no particular pest problem. I was growing indoors and a little soap/alcohol/water mix took care of the few bugs that showed found my orchids.

Boisduval scale is a serious problem when it gets started in an orchid collection. It spread pretty quickly in mine and I spent a couple of years fighting it without using poisons.

I am happy to say that I have beat it back. It is not totally gone, but I seldom find it anymore. I'll go into more detail about that another time.

For today, I will stick to the love part of the relationship. Today, I'm enjoying the flowers.

PS: This is an older picture of scale. I haven't seen this much scale on one of my plants for quite some time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oncidium varicosum backbulb

Oncidium varicosum grows in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. It is cool to hot growing and blooms in summer and fall with many yellow flowers on spikes up to 5 feet long.

I got an Oncidium varicosum last July, probably a raffle because I don't buy Oncidiums. As I almost always do when I get a new plant, I repotted it. I changed the medium to rock, removed two backbulbs and put it back in the same pot.

That plant is doing well with a spike over two feet tall. I can see buds starting to form, so perhaps I can show you flower pictures in about a month.

In the picture above is one of the backbulbs. It is doing very well with actively growing roots that are long enough to consider this plant in transition. The other backbulb is doing fine but not quite as far along.

I have to be really careful now. It is going to stay undisturbed for awhile longer but I will be sure that it starts to get fed and watered.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In bloom today (and most of the time)

Coelogyne usitana grows only on Mindanao. It is warm to hot growing. It will set a spike in spring or summer in new growth. A properly cared-for spike will bloom sequentially indefinitely.

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

This is a wonderful plant but a bit tricky to transport and display. The spike hangs down and keeps getting longer with each flower that opens. More than once I have knocked off part of a flower. As long as the last bud remains intact it will recover and continue blooming.

There is one particular thing to watch out for. Conventional wisdom says to wait until blooming stops to repot. With this plant one spike will likely still be blooming when the next growth period starts. These are best potted in sphagnum which should be changed every year or two.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Failed transition

Panarica brassavolae grows in Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in lower wet mountain forests. It is cool to warm growing and fragrant and blooms pretty much any time except winter.

The genus Panarica contains 6 species growing in Panama and Costa Rica. These were separated from Encyclia for technical reasons. Dry winter rest, good watering during the growing season.

These backbulbs came from repotting my larger plant, to move it away from the side of the pot.

The backbulbs sprouted fairly quickly. The new growth was coming along well. Then I made a fatal mistake. I moved it from the sheltered area to the general greenhouse population without checking the root development.

I really do know better, but the pseudobulbs were plump and growth was fast. Alas, the plant was just not ready.

Yesterday I had to throw the plant out. There was no doubt that this plant was dead, there was not a trace of green.

Problems started with water in the new growth. The new growth died and the pseudobulbs did not re-sprout. The green color faded.

It is tempting when talking about backbulbs to focus on the sprouting part of the process. However, it has been my experience that the transition back to being in the greenhouse is trickier.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Repotting a Laelia anceps

This is the Laelia anceps I got a few days ago. I took it out of the pot today and was not happy with what I saw, although from the condition of the top, I kind of expected something like this.

It was in a 3-inch clay pot with foam peanuts in the bottom. The sphagnum was very old and broken down. There had once been a good root system in the pot.

Sphagnum moss can be a very good medium for Catts and other orchids that need to dry between watering. It takes getting used to like any medium. It works best in a bright environment with good air movement.

This plant had been growing indoors where there is not enough light and no fan. It had certainly been over watered.

I removed all the sphagnum and trimmed all the hollow roots. When that was done I saw that the part of the plant that was in the pot had absolutely no roots.

Once the cleanup was done I was able to follow the rhizomes and look for ways to divide the plant. There were two leads with a group of pseudobulbs to go with each. One group had been in the pot so had no roots and the other was mostly out of the pot so had pretty good roots.

Each part of the plant presents a challenge. Starting new growth and new roots on the left one is obvious. The other seems as if it should be easy, but sometimes roots that have grown entirely outside a pot have difficulty adjusting.

There will be one more round of cleanup to make sure that there is no place for bugs to hide and that the plants look as good as possible.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In bloom today

Dendrobium Aussie Chip
aberrans x atroviolaceum

I have not studied Dendrobiums. I can barely grow hard cane hybrids that one can't help but accumulate. I got the Aussie Chip four months ago at the end of a raffle.

When I got it home I put it in the dry section of the greenhouse for no good reason except that it was a dendrobium. Then I promptly forgot about it.

It called attention to itself by blooming. I took the flower picture and found some sketchy information about it. I saw a picture of one in bloom and it seems that there ought to be three or four flowers.

It is a cute miniature, less than four inches tall. Both parents are from Latouria section of Dendrobium. I am guessing warm to hot growing, maybe a little cooler and dryer in winter.

I will repot it and give it an inventory number. I might sell it when I start back up on eBay in May, I don't know just yet.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

In bloom today

Laelia anceps striata type

The Laelia anceps blooming season is well started. This striata is the second of the types to bloom. There will be Laelia anceps in bloom for a couple of months.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cork mount hanger details

I was telling you how I made up my cork bark mounts. I want to mention a couple more details about the hook part of the wire hanger.

I hang my orchids both on a dowel and on a wire mesh. My hanger has to work for both. In addition, I have a PVC frame that I take for "show and tell" so people can see my plants.

The pipe on the PVC frame is 3/4 inch. I tried 1/2 inch PVC but it isn't strong enough to hold several plants. The base size of the loop is 3/4 inch and it starts two inches above the cork. I form it by bending the wire over the frame.

Looking at the top of the loop closely, you can see that it is not quite a half circle and that the loop is almost entirely behind the plant. This is so that it can catch a wire mesh and hang firmly against the mesh.

I'll tell you more about the frame another time. It has turned out very handy not only for showing the plants but also for working with them.

One very nice feature is that it sits two ways. Sitting on one side it is a stable place to hang tall mounts and baskets. When it is sitting flat on a table, several smaller plants are at a level that is easy to view.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blooming today

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.

I got this plant in trade about four months ago. It is the plant I mentioned earlier with a proper tag that allowed me to identify another plant I have.

The flower is small and white, a configuration I still haven't figured out. It took two sessions and 10 pictures to get one that was acceptable.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Impulse buying

Bulbophyllum facetum grows throughout the northern island of the Philippines in the mountains. It is warm to hot growing.

This plant was on the member sale table last night at the Sonoma County Orchid Society. It is quite a nice plant even though it has that ugly green wire. It is well attached and I will remove the wire right away.

I had not planned to buy anything but when I saw this plant I knew I wanted it. The problem was that I didn't bring my plant list with me.

I went to a lot of effort so that I can have an up-to-date list of all my plants. I have made the mistake of buying a plant I already had more than once and I thought I had learned from those experiences. Apparently not!

In this case it turned out all right because I didn't have this species. But I renew the promise to myself never to go to an orchid society meeting or any other potential buying opportunity without the list in the car.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Show and Tell in Santa Rosa

Cattleya trianaei grows in Colombia and is the national flower. It is fragrant and needs bright light.

I have had this plant for several years and it has bloomed well every year. This is the first year I have taken a picture of the flower.

What has happened is that I see that it has bloomed when I am in the greenhouse. Then I go about my business and forget it. Then I notice it is past its prime and tell myself I will get the picture next year.

I am taking this plant for Show and Tell in Santa Rosa tonight. While I was dusting off the leaves, I finally took the picture. I think that I was letting the fact that this flower blooms when the weather outside is worst interfere.

Monday, January 12, 2009

In bloom today

Encyclia bracteata grows in Brazil in low elevation forests. It is fragrant. I have had the plant for several years and it has bloomed every year in the greenhouse. It in mounted on a hardwood branch has grown slowly.

The greenhouse got warm enough for the foggers to come on briefly this afternoon. This is the first time it has got over 80 degrees in quite a long time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free orchids come my way

Having a website like I get offered free orchids quite often. Let's hear it for free orchids!

Here are two that I got this week, both species, both needing a bit of TLC.

The first plant is a Laelia anceps that is a bit beat-up with the smallest pseudobulbs I have ever seen on a mature plant (that's a three inch pot). It has a bit of sunburn and needed to be repotted three years ago.

The second plant is a Scaphosepalum breve. The leaves look healthy enough, but it can't stand up in the pot and the last time it was re-potted (according to the tag) was more than three years ago.

Today is pretty fully scheduled but first thing Monday I will clean both of these plants up and get them re-potted.

Both of these fit my collection, a New World species. The Scaphosepalum breve is most welcome since it is the first of that species for me.

The Laelia anceps, not so much. I have twenty Laelia anceps already, almost all of them named varieties. If this plant has some roots in the pot, I will simply clean it, repot and try to find a new home for it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Greenhouse microclimates

I am asked “How do you create microclimates within your greenhouse?” The answer is that it would be difficult NOT to have microclimates in my greenhouse.

The variables in a microclimate are light, temperature, amount of water and humidity.

Light is controlled by east-west location and shade cloth. The greenhouse is on the west side of the house and the sun shines on the west end of the greenhouse roof the longest. In addition, there are some areas that have a piece of 50% shade cloth. Sometimes when I want to reduce light on a hanging plant I simply turn it to face east.

Temperature is varied because the heater is in the southeast corner and the big fans are in the northeast and northwest corners with the thermostat in between the fans on the north wall. The east side is warmer than the west side.

The east end is the dry end. There is no watering at all except by hand. The west 3/4 of the greenhouse is on an automatic timer that rains on the plants. This is daily in summer down to once a week in winter.

The middle half also has foggers. These come on if the temperature is above 90 degrees or above 80 if the humidity is low. This area is extremely wet in hot weather.

I use thermometers and a light meter to locate microclimates. Then I try to place plants in the appropriate place.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Humility check

While I was enjoying the success of the Degarmoara Winter Wonderland 'White Fairy' sprouting I got a humility check at the same time. Also under the bench was this Maxillaria endresii I got a year ago at POE.

This backbulb was a bonus that came with a plant of the same species. I think it is safe to say that this is dead.

The other plant is doing pretty well. This species is a hot growing tropical from Panama and not really the best fit for my environment. I have pretty much decided not to add more of these or to replace any that die.

I am expecting blooming in the next month or two. I have not bloomed it, but I bought it in bloom at the end of February.

There were a lot of flowers that are open all at once. Have I taken good enough care of the plant that it blooms? We shall see. The plant appears health enough and it developed new growth during the year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A happy surprise

Degarmoara Winter Wonderland 'White Fairy' is a very beautiful and long lasting hybrid. It grows well in intermediate conditions. Lots of people have them in their collections.

I got a couple of plants free four years ago. They had been part of the decor in an effort to make a house that was for sale look classy. They had been over-watered and when I took them out of the pot there wasn't a single live root.

As a backbulb propagation exercise after removing the leads and repotting those, I divided all the remaining pseudobulbs into groups of one or two and put them in pots.

Some of the backbulb divisions sprouted the first year and the remaining backbulbs produced sprouts the year after that. All except this one.

This pot just kept getting dryer and dryer looking. Finally I took it out of the 'hospital' section of the greenhouse and set it under the bench.

I didn't throw it away because it was in a spot that was much too dark to grow anything. Also, I keep orchids until the get completely brown. Orchids are real survivors and as long as there is any green they might sprout.

I happened to glance into the pot yesterday and was really pleasantly surprise to see a sprout. WooHoo!!

The backbulbs will go back into the pot with a few chunks of rock and be moved back to the hospital section of the greenhouse. There are no roots yet. It will remain undisturbed now until roots are more than an inch long.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cork bark is my favorite mounting material

About ten years ago I started doing more and more mounts. I tried a number of materials but have settled on cork bark as my favorite. It is easy to work with, never breaks down and has a pleasing textured surface.

This morning I took one of the large pieces I have and broke it up in to usable sizes. I broke the pieces off rather than sawing because I think it makes for a better look. I added the wire hooks and hung them up on a frame so I can choose from them next time I have a plant to mount. They are the seven pieces on the left side of the picture.

Early on I started looking for alternate sources of cork bark. At a retail price of $5-$10 for a small piece, I could see that the budget for plants was being eaten up by the cost of the bark. This was not a good long-term solution now that I needed more and more cork bark for mounting.

I looked for more information about cork bark on the Internet. I figured there must be someone selling it in larger amounts for a more reasonable price. I was thinking 20 pounds would be about right.

The only quantities I could find was in pallets, about 10 times as much as I wanted. I don't remember the price, but it seemed like a real bargain. I bought a pallet and I bet I never have to buy cork bark again.

Last but not least is the mailing box test. I could potentially sell or trade the mounted orchid and I hate to go searching for boxes that fit the plant while I am trying to pack for shipping. I have found out the hard way that it is much easier to adjust the cork before there is a plant, so I slip each one into a box I keep handy for just such testing.

My favorite shipping box is the USPS Priority Mail shoebox and I keep a stock of them handy. They are a great size for many plants, they are free, and the USPS delivers them right to my house. Check out for a great source of other shipping supplies.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Orchid photo processing

After I take my pictures I save the originals right out of the camera in a YYYY-MM folder, a new folder each month. I keep them on my computer for two years. After that they are backed up on an external USB drive.

My next step is to select the picture I want and verify the identity. If it is one of my own plants, I have already done it, but for pictures taken at society meetings I check If it is a hybrid, I simply believe the tag.

I keep adjustment to a minimum. I want to see the flower in the picture to closely represent the actual flower. I may adjust levels, brightness and contrast, but nothing else.

When I am satisfied, I process up to five versions of the picture, three for the web and two for print.

The web pictures are three widths intended for specific purposes. These are saved with low-medium quality and in one-inch, three-inch and six-inch sizes. I allow the height to be whatever shows the flower best.

The two print sizes are 600x600 and 900x1500 and are stored at maximum quality. I can usually get the 600x600 but often can't get a 900x1500 I like. I don't worry about it since I do very little printing of pictures.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Remounted Oncidium nudum

Here is the Oncidium nudum after it was remounted. It still looks beat-up but the tape and wire are gone.

Before trying to unmount the plant I gave it a good soak, about 5 minutes. I wanted the water to saturate everything it could. A well-wetted root is easier to detach.

There were in fact a few roots attached to the bark, but they released with minimal damage after a bit of coaxing. There was also a clump of dead roots attached to the older pseudobulbs. I left most of those and removed about half of the sphagnum.

I placed the newest growth more to the center and lower on the bark. New growth will develop next to the mount and be a bit higher than the last. I will do some more trimming in a couple of months for a neater look.

The final step is to attach the tag. I used my friend's tag since it will go back to eventually. I slid the tag wire under the hanger wire.

I have found out the hard way that sliding the tag over the hanger wire is not good enough. It stays fine most of the time, but tends to slide off on the way to "Show and Tell" or some other inconvenient time while it is being handled.

I have never seen this species so I don't know how big it really is. Perhaps I should have used an even bigger mount. In any case, it will be fine for a couple of years. If necessary the bark can be trimmed and attached to a larger piece then.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rodent attack

Oncidium nudum grows in Panama, Colombia and Venezuela at lower elevations. It is hot growing, likes high humidity and blooms in winter.

This plant belongs to an orchid friend and is spending some time recovering in my greenhouse. I am going to try to rehabilitate it at least to getting active growth started.

The plant was left in the potting bench for a couple of days where some rodent attacked it. The green tape was added after that to stabilize the plant.

There are no leaves and the inflorescence is about a foot and a half too short. There is (in my opinion) too much sphagnum and it needs a firmer attachment.

Blooming is usually considered good, but sometimes it is out of desperation. The plant has little energy left and is blooming to save the species. I believe that is what is going on here.

After being sure I had a good flower picture I cut off the inflorescence and have re-mounted it on a larger piece if cork. The roots were not in too bad condition. There is a reasonable chance that growth will start.

I don't have much experience with Oncidium and especially not with hot growing plants. Still, I plan to take my cues from the description of the natural conditions and do the best I can.