Sunday, July 19, 2015

I'm back...but I am in Australia now!

I can't believe that it has been almost a year to the day that I last posted an update on the blog. My entire world turned upside down last year after the birth of my son and my family and I also made the decision to relocate to Australia. We are now living in Townsville in Queensland and we have just been here for a month. I have taken up a PhD at JCU which will be keeping me busy for quite a while, and I have also joined the Townsville Orchid Society. The society recently had their winter show. I was there this past Saturday spending far too much money and also taking some photos of the amazing plants on show! I bought a couple of orchids to start me off in Australia: Rhynchostylis gigantea alba, Dendrobium candystripe (for the wife), Dendrobium crumenatum, Renanthera citrina, and Bulbophyllum Doris Dukes.

A HUGE thank you to my friends Patrick and Richard for taking on many of my orchids that I had a hard time parting with. It is good to know that they are with such caring and knowledgeable orchid growers.
Bulbophyllum Doris Dukes

Dendrobium candystripe

Rhynchostylis gigantea alba

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My favourite orchid blooming and some other stuff

Rhynchostylis gigantea
Rhynchostylis gigantea is my absolute favourite orchid. I bought my first one from Van Rooyen Orchids several years ago. It was not quite flowering size when it arrived but it was in good condition and it adapted very well to my greenhouse and general growing conditions. It has flowered twice now and its leaves are long and robust. For a warm growing species it seems to be very tolerant of the winter climate down here in the Cape as long as you take care when watering to ensure no water ends up in the crown. I have a few others of this species now dotted about but they are still not mature enough to flower. Flower colour is variable in this species and a pure white and a red form are available as well as different splash colours. My old faithful is a common variety with pink markings on a white to cream background. This species has been hybridised with (as seed parent): Acampe, Aerides, Holcoglossum, Vanda and Phalaenopsis, (as pollen parent): Aerides, Arachnis, Holcoglossum, Luisia, Pelatantheria, Renanthera, Papilionanthe, PhalaenopsisSarcochilus, Trichoglottis and Vanda. These are just the true genera listed here, not the countless other hybrids crossed with this species that are registered. Interesting that there are no registered crosses with African Vandeae like Aeranthes, Aerangis, Agraecum, Cyrtorchis, Mystacidium etc. Maybe it is time to experiment...
Paphiopedilum insigne
In addition to my Rhynchostylis gigantea flowering, I also have a Paphiopedilum insigne in flower. I am not particularly fond of paphs. They don't really appeal to my sense of what an orchid should look like. That said they do have charm, albeit a sort of ugly charm.
Habenaria rhodocheila protocorms
My Habenaria rhodocheila protocorms are doing well since they were re-plated onto BM-1 with pineapple. They are shooting well now and hopefully in the next few months they should begin to start putting down tubers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ansellia africana - a robust African species

One of my Ansellias currently in bloom
Ansellia africana is probably one of those orchids that you will find in most collections here in South Africa. It is common and easily available commercially. Duckitt Orchid Nurseries produced large volumes of various cultivars which pretty much flooded the market. This was a good thing since the demand for this species seems to have been met at least locally. Sadly, even down here in the Cape we still get the odd travelling plant salesperson from Zimbabwe trying to sell poorly split pieces of wild specimens collected outside of South Africa. I asked one of these salespeople how it worked last year when he came knocking at our door at work. They remove large established plants from trees in Zimbabwe and crudely separate each individual cane, often with few or no roots attached. Several of these canes are forced onto holes drilled into dried stumps of Baboon's tail (Xerophyta retinervis). These plants seldom recover. Sometimes pieces of the plant are sold bare-root along with other orchids like Bulbophyllum scaberulum. Prices are cheap and variable but my question was of course how they get them through the border? Sadly these salespeople have no problem taking their wares across the border into South Africa. Our border officials are often poorly trained, corrupt, or simply don't care, or all of these. The salesperson I spoke with was quite proud of the fact that he has a friend working at the border who lets him through without any problems.
Ansellia africana in the wild is becoming rare as a result of illegal harvesting. This species is also used for medicinal purposes in traditional medicine and as a love charm. According to Wikipedia although Ansellia is considered a monotypic genus (only has a single species), it is made up of several species making up a species-complex ("Ansellia," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, However, this is not referenced on this page and I cannot find any published papers on the subject of a species-complex for Ansellia africana. So, for now it should still be considered just a single species. The species is quite variable though. Various colour forms are known and flowers generally appear to have less markings moving southwards into South Africa. The South African plants in KwaZulu Natal for example are nearly completely yellow in colour with very few markings on the petals. These plants are also more compact than the larger plants found further North.

Flowers usually appear in Spring or Summer although some plants are known to produce flowers in Winter. I have a large Winter bloomer and a very compact yellow variety that also flowers early. This species is quite easy to grow from seed in vitro. The seedlings however seem to be susceptible to rot when hardening off. Ansellia africana has been crossed with Graphorchis, Cymbidium, Catasetum, Cychnoches, Cyrtopodium, Eulophia, Galeandra and Promenaea. It should also breed with Grammatophyllum and Acrolophia. Pods usually take about 4-6 months before they are mature enough to use for green pod harvesting.

Plants are thirsty! I give mine plenty of water even in Winter and I fertilise with a high nitrogen fertiliser when in active growth. Plants can handle high light intensity but be careful when moving plants from a shaded position to a position that gets direct sunlight. Leaves can burn if not allowed to acclimatise to changes in light intensity. Light though is important for good flowering and flower spikes not only develop on the terminal end of the new canes but they can also develop from nodes lower down on the canes themselves which can make for an interesting display.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A visit to Duckitt Orchid Nurseries - Open Day

On Saturday 5 July Duckitt Orchid Nurseries in Darling had their open day. I was heading through to that part of the world so I made a turn early in the morning and got there just before opening time. The weather was terrible and the rain and hail were coming down intermittently. Temperatures were hovering around 7 Degree Celsius. I had packed some protocorms in a cooler box to keep them warm for a friend I was meeting at the open day and I was also looking forward to seeing the variety of flowering plants on offer. I was hoping to find some pendulous mini Cymbidiums but there were none so I drifted on towards the mass of other plants on sale. Previous open days had been a bit of a disappointment for me but this time I thought it was a good one.
I found a delightful little Polystachya panniculata in good condition which I popped immediately into my basket. I also selected two healthy flowering size Aeranthes arachnites to try at home. I also picked up two good looking Podangis dactyloceras, a Pleurothallis tribuloides and an Angraecum rutenbergianum. I was very happy to find a Brassocattleya Maikai Mayumi which I haven't seen in ages! I had one of these that flowered profusely for me some years ago but I left it at an ex-girlfriend's place after a not-so-pretty break-up... so I never did get the chance to recover it. I was happy with this one though and I also grabbed a pure white Laelia anceps (I just can't seem to resist Laelia anceps, even though I already have a couple - I love these too much and want more!). There were a few Trichoglottis philippinensis on offer that were in poor condition but I selected the largest one to try this species again as I mentioned in the post about my Trichoglottis rosea earlier. I am going to suspend its roots in water as I have done for the latter species and see how it goes. I also thought I had picked up a rather nice looking Vanda (Ascocenda) ampullaceum but it turned out to be a hybrid of this with Ascocentrum (Vanda) Peggy-Fu which I already have. I love these vandas though so I am not disappointed. I also have two Vanda ampullaceum specimens...

I have included a few photos here below in no particular order to give you an idea of the lovely plants on offer. I didn't fish around the labels for names I didn't know because I was shopping at the same time, so my apologies for this.

Inside the selling area

Laelia anceps

White Laelia anceps I bought

Lots of Cymbidiums

A nice collection of Cymbidium insigne

Lovely large green Cymbidium

Cymbidium hybrid with C. tracyanum as a parent!

Just gorgeous!

My camera can't handle the orange colour of this lovely bloom

Another stunner!

The Cymbidium greenhouse open for visiting on the day


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Some flask progress to see me into the cold winter nights

I always try to do as much flasking as possible during winter. It always seems to lift my spirits when I get depressed over the state of some of my plants in my collection that clearly don't like the colder conditions. I have sown quite a few interesting little things recently and I have some additional gems waiting to be sown. Still on the mother plants I have a Brassia Rex x Brassia verrucosa crossing which I must do this week when I have a moment. This is the crossing referred to as Brassia Rising star. It is a lovely hybrid. It is interesting that crossing Brassia Rex back to Brassia verrucosa has produced such an awesome hybrid. It has won several international awards and is one of the very first orchid hybrids I actually purchased so many years ago... oddly though I can't recall whatever happened to my Brassia Rising Star! Brassia Rex is a primary hybrid with Brassia verrucosa and Brassia gireoudiana. I also have a ripe pod on my Panarica brassavolae (Encyclia brassavolae, Prosthechea brassavolae) that is due to be sown now. These should provide some excitement into the cold nights. Currently I have several flasks of developing Cymbidium insigne alba protocorms as well as several flasks of differentiating Cyrtorchis chailluana protocorms. These I am hoping to raise up to make a mass planting. My Dendrobium speciosum seedlings are doing well and I must sow some more of these to ensure enough excess for the next season and for selling at our next WBOS show. My Habenaria rhodocheila protocorms were re-plated onto a modified BM-1 just before protocorm differentiation and they have taken nicely to the new medium. So far so good with these little gems. I am going to hold onto these ones for my own collection! Other interesting babies include a friend's Eulophia primary hybrid I have developed for him (Eulophia adamanenis X Eulophia streptopetala) and some re-plated Renanthera sp. I have also sown some locals species - Bonatea speciosa (again) and Pterygodium catholicum for a good challenge.
Waiting in the wings are some nicely developing Haraella retrocalla pods! These are still about half way from being ready to sow but I watch them daily like a doting father.
Here are some quick shots of some of the babies mentioned above:
Cyrtorchis chailluana

Dendrobium speciosum

Eulophia adamanensis X Eulophia streptopetala

Renanthera sp.

Trias oblonga

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trichoglottis rosea first flowering

Trichoglottis rosea is a species from the Philippines and Taiwan according to the IOSPE website. It is a warm growing epiphyte that grows on tree trunks. My plant has done particularly well on a mount with its longest aerial roots allowed to rest with their tips in a suspended tub of water mixed with a weak solution of fertiliser. This way the plant avoids losing too much moisture. These root tips have also responded by producing additional new side shoots growing directly into the fertiliser solution.
The flowers took a while to form and started off as little nodes protruding from the stem opposite a leaf. The first flowers opened recently and are small and delicate and closely borne to the stem in tight bunches. The flowers usually have light yellow barring on the petals but my plant's flowers are pure white with a pink lip. This is the first Trichoglottis species I have flowered. I managed to kill my Trichoglottis philippinensis and looking back I believe that this was due to incorrect potting and not enough water. I will try this one again when I get the opportunity.

Trichoglottis rosea close-up

Friday, May 30, 2014

Phalaenopsis schilleriana

Phalaenopsis schilleriana
Phalaenopsis schilleriana is one of the original pink Phalaenopsis from which so many hybrids have been produced. I think it has much charm. It is quite a large plant and grows well either mounted or in a pot. The leaves are large and have an interesting marble patterning of grey over the green. The underside of the leaves is slightly purple, much like those of P. sanderiana, the other original pink species. P. schilleriana though has a different lip shape and the colour of the flowers is a more intense pink than those of P. sanderiana.
I am hoping that my plant will be a good breeder. I have successfully mounted a large number of my own seedlings of P. sanderiana on a horizontal branch mount and I am hoping to do the same with this species.