Sunday, October 02, 2011

Little Aussie orchids

Whenever I am asked what my favourite flower is, I have a choice of two answers.  The first and strictly speaking the more correct answer is to reply “Irises”.  They were plants I was brought up with and they remain my most favoured flower, at least partly because of the long flowering season and their relative ease of cultivation.
The other answer I give is also nearly true – “Whatever is in flower at the moment.”  Right now I am just getting over loving daffodils, and I still have a passion for tulips.  In the weeks ahead I will fall in love with flowering cherries all over again, and when the irises finish I will reconnect with roses.
But this weekend my favourite flowers will be orchids, in all their glorious variety, because the Wairarapa Orchid Circle are holding their annual show in the Town Hall, and I will once again be enamoured of this most sophisticated of all flowers.
One of the things I love about orchids is the huge range of flower and plant types, and the way there seems to be something that will suit most gardeners, from those who love big, bold, brassy flowers, through to those whose interest is in the tiny gems of the plant world.  There are wonderfully scented varieties, some with the most garish colours imaginable, and others with white flowers pure en ought to make the most avid “white garden” fan swoon.
In my glasshouse I have a little collection of Australian Dendrobium hybrids and I am watching their buds expand at the moment.   There are a lot of different species which basically fall into two groups, those that grow best in the cool and those that prefer warmer temperatures.  Because my glasshouse is unheated and also houses a lot of different kinds of plants I have restricted myself to cool growing forms, which tend to be smaller flowering but more robust.  They are often forms of D. kingianum, an eastern Australia native, usually found growing on rocks and known to locals as the Pink Rock Orchid. It is generally a small plant which produces stems of light pink to dark purple flowers held on long inflorescences above the plant. There are white varieties and a few spotted and variegated varieties, and some bicoloured forms too.  My plants are growing in orchid mix in quite small pots, and they are flourishing, but I absolutely drool when I see the large clumps that I see in the annual show – huge plants with hundreds of flower stems holding shimmering butterflies of flowers.
These attractive little flowers do not take a lot of care – they cannot if I can look after them.  They are watered every couple of days and given the occasional feed of dilute fertiliser in spring and summer, but apart from that get no special treatment.  They do not need to be grown in a glasshouse either – they will flourish in any cool frost-protected area, such as a porch or a patio as long as they get enough dappled light.

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