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More Orchids

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In March 2006, I bought two little seedlings, tiny enough to both fit in my palm, at a flower show in Chicago where I was speaking. It was so cold that I put them in my shirt for the ride to the hotel and airport. I didn't know what they'd look like when they bloomed, but I was willing and eager to wait. Hey, I'd be waiting anyway. Might as well have something to look forward to. One is blooming now, and here's what I got.
It's Phalaenopsis "Brother Coral" x "Everspring Pearl." And guess what? It's fragrant!! I do like it! Worth the wait!

With orchid crosses like this, people hand-pollinate the flowers with a brush, and when the dustlike seeds form and ripen in the pod, they scatter them on agar (a seaweed derived nutrient medium gel) in a closed flask. When the seeds germinate, they're almost microscopic. The seedlings are grown on in the flask until they're big enough to transplant. You don't really know for sure what you'll get, since some seedlings will have more properties of one parent than the other. Buying seedlings is a bit of a crapshoot, but I like that kind of gamble.

Iwangara 'Appleblossom" is a hybrid cross of Brassaevola, Cattleya, Diacrium (Caularthron) and Laelia orchids. Yes. A quadrigeneric hybrid. This is part of what is so dang cool about orchids. They are man-made, and yet manage to be so beautiful through it all. Someone decides he (or she) likes the growth habit of one, the fragrance of another, the color of another, the form of another, let's say, and crosses the plants and comes up with something unknown in nature, something virtually unnameable. So then they have to come up with a new genus name for this creation. Hence the bizarre genus Iwangara. It has a terrific growth habit, with nice fat pseudobulbs and springy arching paired leaves. And, like most of my others, it's wildly fragrant. Stinks up the room, it does. Ahhhh. In the picture below, you get a hint of that growth habit. Big plant! Has its own pedestal.
For pure bizarreness, it's hard to beat the Paphiopedalums, or slipper orchids. This is Paph. Emerald "Buint Ruby" x Paph. superbens "King." They're the most fun to photograph, with light coming through their petals.
It's on its second year with me, and it's made incredible growth from the seedling stage. The whole affair is about 2' tall. Love that checkered foliage, too. This flower will last two to three MONTHS on the plant. Most of my orchid flowers last two or more months. That's just another thing to love about them.
Back in February, I wrote about a very special orchid I bought last May--Psychopsis Mendenhall "Hildos." It was just a seedling, with two leaves (sound familiar?). Over the past year, it put out three great big mottled leaves, and in February 2008 I noticed something protruding from beneath them. It was, against all expectations, the plant's first flower spike. I really had no idea what I was in for, but I knew it would be good.

Here's what it looks like now. The spike is 37" tall. Yes. From a plant in a 2" plastic pot. Obviously, a very happy plant. Hildos lives in the east bedroom window, and loves to be bathed in sun for a few hours a day.
At the tip of that yard-tall spike is a very hopeful and bizarre-looking bud. The stem flattened out like a newt's tail and made a little tulip-shaped bud at the end. It has changed even more over the past few days since I took these pictures. And it is driving me crazy, because I think it's going to open while I'm away.
There is a precedent: Phoebe took her first steps the evening I left her with her daddy overnight for the first time. Some things in life just aren't fair. I came back from my overnight trip, and my baby was walking. I fully expected to come home from North Dakota and find this flower open.
Psychopsis Mendenhall "Hildos."

Since I wrote this post, I found that the bud had swelled and enlarged until it looked like an elf's shoe. Yesterday, I photographed it, but I was troubled by its color--a bit yellow. This morning, I looked closely at the bud again, and touched it oh so gently with a fingertip, whereupon it promptly fell off. Well, isn't that special. You wait since February and watch this thing grow to three feet and you know it only has one flower at a time but that one's a lollapalooza, and the very first bud falls off before it opens. However...there is another bud right beneath the stump of the first one, and I choose to interpret this inauspicious event as the plant trying not to bloom while I'm off giving a talk somewhere. Ahem.

Can I get an ARRRGHHH from the choir? It was my personal Belmont Stakes moment.

And looking on the bright side, this spike will live for years, unlike those of the Phalaenopsis orchids, which generally wither when the flowers do. It will throw out one blossom after another. I'm already nervous about repotting this plant, since they are said to resent disturbance. I would too, if I had a 3' flower spike. Oh well. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So that, my friends, is what's blooming (and dropping much-anticipated buds) right now on Indigo Hill. Inside the house, that is.



I admire your orchids so much I went out and bought one and took it to work. It's beautiful in my windowless office. Made of silk.

Mary, who will attempt a live one soon.

Oh Julie, I'm so envious of their beauty and will enjoy your on-line orchids since I can't grow them at my house (too cold & dry in winter, plus Kitty thinks they're a snack!)

ARRGGH! There ya go.

I bought an orchid today. At Kroger. I have no idea what kind it's purplish.

: )
*I missed both of the girls' first teeth. My Mom was watching them both times, and she was the one who discovered them.
There should be a law against children walking or erupted a tooth without their mother present.*

LOL Mary! Best kind!

Thanks for the info Julie. I'll send you a photo of where it was and what it looks like now. I am still proud that it's grown so much and is so much happier. Oh, and I did repot it several months ago as well.

I keep saying I am going to attempt another orchid but after the last one I feel so guilty killing something so beautiful that I may just try Mary's good idea...killing silk is so much harder to do

The first flowering of the Cattleya "Yellow Bird" I have did the same thing...ready to open, it seemed, and suddenly all three buds yellowed and fell off in about 2 days! Drat and double drat! I know what it looks like from internet photos anyway.
Caroline in SD

You probably already know this but don't ever cut the stem off the oncidium as I have had one of these bloom for an entire year on the same stem...
Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Philip Estenson July 26, 2008 at 12:52 PM
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