Tag Archives: dendrobium orchids

An abundance of spring bloom

IMG_5588Starting with a small brag photo: michelias used to be white, in the main. At least the hardier varieties are generally white. Sure the tropical M. champaca is orange and M. alba is creamy yellow, but they have not shown compatibility with the hardier varieties and don’t have enough virtues to warrant using them as breeder parents. I did a little round-up of Mark’s current seedlings that we have flowering here. It has taken him 20 years of work to get to this colour range and there is a long way to go yet. A good garden plant is much more than just an interesting bloom. There are a huge number of variables when it comes to selecting a new variety for commercial release. But even I was impressed by the range of colour, flower shape and flower size that he has achieved in this line up.
IMG_5502
I see I optimistically posted in August on the early blooming lachenalias. I may at the time have thought there would be two or three posts charting the lachenalia season, but we are now entering the final stage so I thought I had better do a round up. From left to right we have arbuthnotiae, pallida, contaminata, orchioides var glaucina (2) and the attractive end one we have as rosea. I missed several varieties during the mid season, but one reason I missed them is that they are not fantastic performers in our conditions.
IMG_5434Glaucina is our stand-out blue, and we once gathered as many different blues as we could. It is variable in colour and somewhat frost tender, but it does at least stay within the blue spectrum (some of the other alleged blues faded out to cream or very pastelle mauve) and it increases well for us.

Lachenalia contaminata with the rockery behind

Lachenalia contaminata with the rockery behind

L. contaminata is one of the last in the season to bloom, very easy to naturalise, scented, feeds the bees (I have personally observed this) and generally under-rated.

Earlier season L. aloides and aloides quadricolor

Earlier season L. aloides and aloides quadricolor

L. aloides tricolor

L. aloides tricolor

 

 

 

 

 

L. aloides var. vanzyliae

L. aloides var. vanzyliae

L. aloides is pretty interesting as a species. I mentioned aloides quadricolor and the common form in New Zealand which may be aloides bicolor in my earlier post. Aloides tricolor then comes in much later, predominantly green but with enough red and yellow to make it visible. When these three forms of the species are so easy and reliable for us, why oh why is the most striking L. aloides var. vanzyliae so very difficult? It is a mystery to me and it was a bit of a surprise I managed to catch the small patch (which does not get any larger) when it was in flower.

Quite how I achieved this stylish, albeit over exposed image, I am not sure.

Quite how I achieved this stylish, albeit over exposed image, I am not sure.

IMG_5533
We are big fans of the Australian dendrobium orchids and they are at their peak right now in the woodland areas of our garden. I did a little round up of the different ones in the garden and was surprised to find the range was somewhat greater than I had thought. Somehow we do not think of Australia having such pretty and delicate wildflowers.
IMG_5547
Tomorrow, if the rain continues, I shall return with… clivias. Big, bright and bold.

Plant Collector: Dendrobium Bardo Rose

Dendrobium Bardo Rose

Dendrobium Bardo Rose

Out there in the world are legions of orchid aficionados who are typically possessed of technical knowledge about this plant genus, the most complex and varied of all plant groups. I take one peek in to the details of orchids and get completely lost. But when it comes to orchids suitable for the garden, I can recommend the dendrobiums from Australia. There are many different dendrobium species. Some are tropical and only suitable for glasshouse culture here. But the obliging ‘Aussie dendrobes’, as we refer to them, sit happily in woodland conditions needing no care or attention at all. In early to mid spring, they spark into flower and this pink one has nigh on fifty flower spikes. The flowers are much smaller than cymbidiums and the whole clump only stands 30cm high at the most.

Bardo Rose is the grex name (more or less a collective noun) for all dendrobium hybrids which are falcorostrum x kingianum. We have both those species growing here as well but this pretty pink one is a hybrid between the two. Each flowering spike has 20 or more perfect little orchids which measure about 3cm x 3cm. Other dendrobiums we grow are in pure white (including the aforementioned D. falcorostrum) and shades of yellow.

I do not know if dendrobiums are sold commercially. All ours came from the Orchid Society who are renowned for their generosity. These folk will also be able to advise which ones are fully hardy – and some are. Critical issues in growing these plants include excellent drainage, good light levels but dry in winter so under evergreen trees seems to be a good location.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Orchids as garden plants

Referred to here as the Aussie dendrobes - dendrobiums

Referred to here as the Aussie dendrobes – dendrobiums

We are at the peak of orchid season in the garden. There can be few plants which carry the aura of luxury and exotica accorded to orchids. They belong to a huge and complex family, second only to the daisy family in number and go well beyond the common cymbidium. Yet they are not a plant that is common in New Zealand gardens.

Besotted by calanthes

Besotted by calanthes

The calanthe orchids are particularly rewarding as garden plants but you need to take the long view. We use them mainly as woodland plants. The blooms are a bit frost tender. Some we had on the margins were once hit by a memorable late frost but that was a one-off event. After about five decades of building them up, we have large swathes or drifts. In fact we have so many that a gardening ingénue who saw them recently drew the conclusion that they must be an unusual but easy bedding plant. Ah, no. But for those who have the time and inclination, they are a very rewarding branch of the family. Over time, they form a string of back bulbs below ground and can be increased from these.

For orchid enthusiasts who want the technical data, we understand that it is mostly forms of striata that are showiest for us. We have a pale lemon one which flowers in early spring and a much brighter yellow form that comes later. We used to have them under different species names but have come to the conclusion that they are more likely just different striata forms. Note: I have now been informed that the pale yellow calanthe shown is in fact Calanthe ‘Higo’ (C. sieboldii x C. aristulifera) which makes sense to us. We also use the white C. arisanensis but alas we failed with a lovely lilac species and appear to have lost it. All of these are evergreen varieties, though I understand there are deciduous species as well. The fresh spring leaves are large and could, at a pinch, be thought of as looking like pleated hosta leaves. A fair number of garden visitors over the years have asked us about the yellow flowered hostas. (Hint: hostas only flower in white or shades of lilac to purple.)

The Australian dendrobiums make compact, clumping plants with many smaller flowers and are pretty as a picture in the subtropical woodland areas. They combine very well with bromeliads and ferns and are an easy care garden plant. We have them in pinks, lilacs, white and yellow. We don’t know much about the hardiness of these. Ours are in positions where they never get frosted but they will get cold and they never turn a hair. They are probably similar to cymbidiums in hardiness.

Cymbidiums give long lived blooms, even outdoors

Cymbidiums give long lived blooms, even outdoors

DIY bamboo stake

DIY bamboo stake

Cymbidiums are the usual florist’s choice and are surprisingly easy as garden plants, given the right conditions. All of ours are grown in the ground, not containers. We don’t get florist quality blooms but they last an amazingly long time in flower and put on a splendid show as long as I remember to stake the flower spikes at the right time. I see I started photographing the flower spikes a full two months ago and those same flowers are now a little weather beaten but still showy. These days I harvest stems of green bamboo which still have convenient leaf axils because I can gently engage the flower spikes in the leaf axils and don’t have to tie each one which makes staking much faster and more discreet. I admit this only works if you have a convenient stand of bamboo to harvest.

The jury is still out on whether we can get the disa orchids naturalised by the stream. They were fine for the first two seasons but the proof of the pudding is in the five to ten year cycle – whether they are still strong and flowering after that time. At this point it is not looking good. The native English field orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata, has gently ticked on here for decades but is romping away more enthusiastically now we are trying cooler, damper positions. We didn’t succeed with the masdevallias (though we probably didn’t try very hard) and the tropical orchids like phalaenopsis (moth orchids) won’t do as garden plants for us.

One of the easiest orchids to grow - pleiones

One of the easiest orchids to grow – pleiones

This week it is the pleiones which are the stars. Their flowering season is nowhere near as extended as some of the other orchids, but they form pretty carpets, are not at all tender and are dead easy to increase. Most bulbs will make one or two offsets a year. Along with the dactylorhiza, they are deciduous, becoming dormant in autumn. The yellow pleiones want more of a winter chill and have gradually died out for us but we have an abundance of purest white ones and an array of lilacs and purples.

These are not generally plants that you will find offered for sale at garden centres (which may be why they are not often seen in gardens). You probably need to find your nearest Orchid Society and enquire about sales tables. Orchid enthusiasts tend to be a different breed. At the risk of making sweeping generalisations, Orchid Society people are more often collectors than gardeners. More than any other horticultural group we have come across, orchid people have well above average technical knowledge and like to show off their treasures in bloom. They are also generous and encouraging to any novice who shows an interest. Much of our collection has come from Orchid Society people over the years. We cannot speak highly enough of them as a repository of knowledge about a very complex plant genus.

For details on how to multiply calanthe orchids, check out our earlier Outdoor Classroom on the topic.

First published by the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.