February 27, 2012

Giants of the Orchid World

A large tub of the awesomely large Australian naive Dendrobium speciosum, blooms next to a smaller, and more common cousin, Dendrobium kingianum. Both are relatively easy to grow in a cool, sunny greenhouse.
Any visit to a spring flower show will feature orchids of all sorts, if not on displays sponsored by your regional orchid society, most certainly at the retail tables where Phaleonopsis and slipper-orchids can be found for around $20-$35 dollars. Although these might be cost-of-entry for any orchid collector, once you explore this amazing familiy of plants ( one of the world's largest), you will soon discover hundreds of names which you will not recognize. With mass-produced Orchids today as common as geraniums, being found at most florists, supermarkets and even at the hard ware store, the selection is still limited to a few sturdier forms. So those $9.99 toss-away dendrobiums may not be able to compete with some of the gems of the genus. Here are a few late winter - spring bloomers that are in bloom this weekend in the greenhouse. Most happen to be Australian orchids, for that continent has some of the most magnificently large and impressive species in the genus dendrobium than any other Pacific country.

I've been wanting one of these larger dendrobiums ever since seeing a large specimen plant at the Tokyo World Grand Prix a few years ago. A mature plant can be 12 feet in diameter! This plant is still young, so I have a few years to wait, still, with 5 spikes this year extending 5 feet out from the pot, I a looking for a large, teak basket in which I can pot-up this giant. Also, at $250 a division, cultivating one of these beauties is very much like growing a sofa, it requires care, and investment in you want good results. (But I don;t have the crazy orchid collector gene, really.....I don't have it.). ( but I did finally add another rare dendrobium to the collection this weekend.....d. hancockii - another species seen in Tokyo 5 years ago that grows branchy, looking more like a Forsythia). See a mature one here. I do love things big!

Dendrobium speciosum is available from Santa Barbara Orchid Estates, a fine orchid grower in Santa Barbara, CA. I like to check out thier site daily, since they also offer daily specials in-bloom or in-season. My plant came to my home beautifully packed (in New England) in a box larger than a kitchen chair, and the plat was already well established in a 2 gallon container. SBOE specializes in Cymbidiums though, so make sure you check those out if you have a cool room or a cold greenhouse.

There are hundreds of Dendrobium species to try, and I think that I could just collect all dendrobiums and never run out of new ones to try. This complex cross is also one made from two Australian types.  Dendrobium  Butter Star 'Pale Moon'  is a grex between the cross of D. 'Star of Riverdene and D. gracillimum. These plants are more manageable, with an overall height of 12 inches.

Cymbidiums are in season too. This green-flowered plant is un-named, a supermarket purchase a few years ago at Christmas because it had 6 spikes! Every year, it sends up a few spikes after spending the summer outdoors, and these, we just cut and bring into the house. I adore green cymbidiums, but as you can tell by the damaged blossoms, I don't fuss over there.

I am attracted to brown and tan cymbidiums, and this giant has been a fine bloomer. Lost the tag, but I think it was names "Bay State' or something like that. Each year, I try to add one new Cymbidium to the collection, there are just so many now to choose from. I prefer March bloomers for nostalgic reasons. The cut arched spiked brought into the home on grey, now squally days, are synonymous with March, to me.


  1. Love the variety and exotic colors of the all the orchid varieties and you have captured some great ones with these pics.

  2. Love the orchid images. The cymbidiums especially were attractive. I've tried growing orchids over here in the UK with some success. Todmoden is relatively cold, so found I need to warm the greenhouse as well.


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