Saturday, 21 August 2010

starting over with orchids

Well my first experiment with orchids ended with disaster, as most of my sudden fad-interests in plants tends to do. My pretty little dendrobium came with an ugly little rot. It turned the leaves gray and the stem black until all the flowers and most of the leaves fell off. At least the garden centre gave me my money back.

I'm usually very impatient when I get excited about a new group of plants, like succulents or rex begonias. So for a little while I did roam garden shops, wondering if I should buy myself a very expensive cymbidium orchid (usually running $50-$70) because they're meant to be dead easy to grow and they're certainly prolific. But I made myself be patient when I found out that in only a few weeks, one of Australia's largest orchid shows would be coming to town.

Well I went to that show this weekend and I'm glad I waited. The two most common orchids for indoor display are Cymbidiums and Phalaenopsis. Cymbs are relatively easy to care for but there was something about their colours I didn't love - they're all a bit "dusky" and I wanted something with a cleaner, more vibrant colour. Phalaenopsis are lovely, especially the clean white ones, but I didn't trust my ability to make one re-flower. They're notoriously hard to get to flower again.

There were also Cattleyas and lady slippers, but what really caught my eye were the Oncidiums or dancing lady orchids. They just had a wildness to them that takes my breath away. So I had a chat with a few of the growers to find out if they'd suit my limited growing skills. man from Woolf Orchid Culture, all the way down from Toowoomba Queensland, pointed me to a hybrid of his that he says is particularly tough: Colmanara Space Race 'Topaz Gold'. He says the flowers will last for over a month and after flowering to put it out on the porch where it'll grow some more greenery and put out another flush of flowers in the same year. This is what the flowers will look like, though they're quite small (a bit larger than my thumbnail) with a good 20 or so per spike. now it just looks like this, but as you can see it has a flower spike just about ready to blossom as well as two more small spikes just coming up. In any case, even if I can't get it to flower again or kill it over the summer, as long as I get one good flush out of it I'll be happy. This little potential beauty only cost me $25, which is about what I spend on cut flowers every month (this guy's meant to replace those cut flowers). I'll be sure to post photos when it flowers.

In the meantime, here are some snaps from the orchid show. I think these are Odontoglossums, another one I'd love to grow except I didn't see any for sale (at least not ones in flower). Like my colmanara, I love how "wild" they look.
This one's definitely a Cymbidium and I hadn't seen a colour like this before.
These are some of the weird and wonderful specimens in the show section. No idea what most of them are!
On the right is a lady slipper orchid. On the left, an Edward Scissorhands orchid. OK, technically it's a "Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann Buckleberry."
And finally, I didn't even realize Phalaenopsis could come in this beautiful sunset shade! It's called "Brother Sara Gold", though I didn't see a flowering one for sale anywhere.
They are beautiful, aren't they?