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Species Orchids: True Love

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Much as I love the hybrids, the man-made orchids, I am hugely attracted to the ones that look just like they do in the wild. A lot of orchid fanciers go over to what they call the "species" orchids, and never go back to hybrids. At this point, I'm happy somewhere in between.

At the New England Flower Show in Boston in 2006, I spied a terrific looking specimen of Dendrobium kingianum. This is a very common species in Australia, called the pink rock orchid.  But I'd never seen it, and you don't see it much in cultivation.

It was a huge plant, covered in tiny pink flowers that were intensely fragrant. Oh, I wanted a little bitty piece of it so badly. I couldn't bring the entire plant back home on the plane, even if I could have afforded it. I eyed the plant, and finally asked the exhibitor if she would consider selling me a little cutting of it.

She eyed me right back. She could see the lust. "I don't know," she said. "You feeling lucky today?"

I laughed. "Where orchids are concerned, I'm always feeling lucky," I answered. 
"Take one," she said. "No charge."  She knew what it was to really want a plant.

I was so delighted! I chose an inconspicuous bulblet on the enormous plant, twisted it off, and stuck it down my shirt.

And now, five years later, the Little King is on its gangbustin' way, stinkin' up the whole room with a few little flowers. It will only get better as the years go by. That's what I love about orchids. That, and propagating teeny pieces into wonderful plants.

Getting better as years go by...another cutting I took in 2006, of a magnificent Guatemalan specimen of Encyclia cordigera, is in full, glorious bloom right now, emanating a honeysuckle fragrance when the eastern sun shines on it. It's the purple one in this photo.

The thing I notice about both these species orchids is their incredible vigor and hardiness. 

Every spring it throws a couple more bulbules, and makes a few more flower spikes. It is a true delight.

Oh, for Smellovision.

It's getting really big. I honestly wonder what's going to happen when these things reach their full bushel-basket size. Probably time to repot...

If I had to pick a favorite in my small collection, it would come down to Encyclia cordigera and the insanely satisfying Psychopsis Mendenhall "Hildos." Well, come to think of it, that one's a species orchid too, waving its dancing red and yellow kabuki lobster men in the Trinidadian understory. What do you know.

 You talkin' to me? Yes, you, Hildos, you gorgeous  species orchid. I mean, how cool is this flower? No improving on that!

Who knows. Over time, I may just go over to the species side. One could do worse than be a lover of  orchids, pure and wild.


Beautiful post and pics. Just beautiful. You would love the ladyslippers that grow wild in the woods here in Vermont. Perhaps you are already acquainted with them?

Lovely, Lovely, Lovely!! You have such a fun and exciting collection!

Did you know that orchids are the official 28th wedding anniversary gift? Remarkably, I found this out just last week, after I'd bought myself a bunch from the cut flower section at Whole Foods. Reason for my splurge: my sweetie was 12 time zones away on our anniversary day. Later on I googled anniversary gifts, just to give him a nudge and remind him of the date, and was delighted to discover that I'd already filled the bill. Who knew?


Posted by Anonymous June 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM

I always seem to enjoy the plants I've raised the most. Great story to go with your magnificent plant!

I'm starting to think your wild success with orchids hinges on stuffing them into your shirt. "Before placing cutting in potting medium, place it in bra cup, preferably occupied..." There's definitely a theme here.

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