November 3, 2013


Orchids at an orchid show

This weekend Joe and I attended the Massachusetts Orchid Society's annual orchid show, held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Orchid Society, it's a popular show ( as orchid shows tend to be), and it is show that we have attended many times, even thought it falls just as we are trying to pack our own greenhouse for the winter ( or fixing glass which broke during a windstorm this week!), or when we are busiest with fall garden clean up like raking leaves. That said, there is ALWAYS time to go look at orchids, and to buy new ones. I mean, mini-complex Paph's - Where have you been all of my life? 

Even though it may seem that orchids are everywhere now, the real serious orchid grower remains a rare commodity, yet I warn you novices with your ice-cube orchids - before long, you will yern for something more, and you will move onto a dyed blue orchid - and then you might try just one cattleya, and before long, you are in rehab. Don't 'Do' Orchids.  They are addictive and hard to get off of. Don't say that I didn't warn you.

It has been said that the 'orchid collector' may be the most obsessed ( i.e. crazy, as in "they will kill someone for a rare orchid - read any book on orchid collecting and see!) of all enthusiasts, perhaps only to be outdone by dog-show people ( or is it the other way around?) Either way, we are doomed. I've been trying to stay away from anything orchid related for some time now, I ignore invitations to join local chapters of the AOS ( the American Orchid Society), if I accidentally click on a link to the AOS website, or to one of the hundreds of orchid grower sites that I have bookmarked for that day when I win Megabucks ( like Santa Barbara Orchid Estate), then I just as quickly hit the back space arrow. No orchids, not for me. Not yet. Must focus, must focus, must focus and resist.

Orchid Show Display
Many autumnal orchids are featured in group displays, such as this one, where growers assemble plants from their
collections which are in peak perfection, often featuring more of their most unusual species such as this
Pleurathalis species which displays it's tiny blossoms within its leaf. Not all orchids are showy, many are odd, and may seem very-un-orchid like at all, yet most orchids are not what you think.

I admit that I grow many, MANY plants, but orchids? As some of you know. I do grow a few orchids, mostly hardier forms dendrobiums, some of the cool growing Asian Cymbidiums and the Japanese forms of Neofinetia - those tiny, fragrant summer blooming orchids. I do show great restraint with orchids, often getting board with fancier forms, and I show signs of being tempted with all but the rarest forms of many species, yet luckily, I cannot legally obtain them nor afford them (yet).

And so it goes with orchids. The height of plant geekdom. Luckily, I cannot afford the warm, humid, water-filtered, air-misted closud forest stove which many of the finest species demand, so I am left with the odd balls. Those species that can handle the cooler, and more seasonal shifting temperatures of my greenhouse, - oh yeah, and those that can handle some negligence. I am not about to buyt a $700 water filter which most collectors have. ( true). That said, I am still a plant collector....and therefore, I lust.

Orchid Display
A striking golden yellow Cattleya blooms in a growers display at the Massachusetts Orchid Society Orchid Show this past weekend at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, MA.

An orchid show, in case you have never been to one, is perhaps the best place to get a read on not only how broad the vast orchid family is, but it's were you can meet other growers and learn some quick facts.The orchid family includes far more than corsage orchids and those Phalaenopsis in celo bags at Home Depot - the Family Orchidacear has enough diversity in it to please most ever plant grower in the world ( it is the largest of the plant kingdom). You may imagine flopsy corsages and arching sprays of white orchids seen in designer show rooms, but the truth it, most orchids are unspectacularly unique if not odd with colors spanning the rainbow and earth tones and habits that range from spikes which pierce rodents, to scents which attract night flying moths. I even bought a fish scented orchid this weekend ( come on, how could I pass that up?).

Display at Tower Hill Orchid Show

Genrally, Orchid shows and exhibitions are held in spring and autumn in North America, and there is a good reason for this - in the orchid Family, there are many species that can be found in bloom most every day of the year, but it is during these transitional seasons of summer passing into winter, or winter passing into spring, when many species bloom in abundance. Spring shows might be larger, and seem like a respite after a long, cold winter, but my favorite shows are these autumn shows, maybe because my mind is getting ready for winter gardening adventures both in the greenhouse and on the windowsill. I have a long wish list of orchid species to yet master ( for I have mastered few), but Plerathalids, Dracula and many others will need to wait, until I have more time to focus on their specific needs.

Orchid Show
I might try Vanda orchids again, after seeing this incredible green one. Vanda sanderiana 'alba'
with its chartreuse and white blossoms caused traffic jams in the hallway.

I fell in love with this new 'tea cup' Paphiopedilum helenae, so I bought one, only to find out that Joe was already paying for one. At $60 for a seedling, one of us had to put one back. Now, I need to finish this post so I can research more about
these amazing, tiny ladyslippers!

Here is a good example of how tough it can be identifying orchids. This plant was labeled Odm. 'cartagena' x Odm 'Goodale Moir'.  Yet later, while researching for more information on-line, all I could find was Mtssa 'cartagena' x mtssa 'Goodale Moir'. A but confused, I assumed that Odontoglossum may be related to Miltassia, or Brassisa, and well, yes - apparently this appears to be a mericlone ( which is a meristem cell propagated clone) of a well known named Miltassia listed under the same name - or is it? I am still confused, as any photos I could find at on-line nurseries were quite different - and here is why I may never become too geeky about orchids - there are others who are far geekier than I, who can ( and will) figure this all out for me!

Pahiopedilum superbum
Gotta love all Papheopedilium super bum selections, for foliage and stature. They take me back to my first job in the 1970's
when I worked at the Stoddard Estate in MA, I used to drool over these plants in their greenhouse. Time, me thinks,
to add some more to mine.

Monnierara Millennium Magic 'Witch Craft' AM/AOS
I never got the name of this amazing black orchid ( it's Monnierara Millenium Magic ‘Witch Craft’ AM/AOS - thanks to Marc Hachadourian) , but it was on display grown by neighbors A&P Orchids in Swansea, MA, and they were kind enough to take it into the conservatory so that I could try and get a better shot of it for you.

Some growers specialized in tiny gems, which appeal to many serious collectors as they can grow them in small spaces, Wardian cases and even some large terrariums. Check out this little Dendrobium species no larger than a fifty cent piece. It's in a one inch diameter pot, for $75.

We all are familiar with Phaleonopsis ( yawn), but how about this species? Meet Phalaenopsis heiroglyphica.

So, again, Joe and I dump a few dinero on some choice plants, You know, just to test the waters a bit, as, like I said in my earlier post, we are making some room for perhaps some new species in the greenhouse......just sayin'.

It's been about ten years since I was relatively 'serious' about orchids. I placed quotes around "serious" because serious connotes something completely different in the world of orchid collectors. I would never claim to be a serious orchid grower or collector for that matter, but I think that it would be safe to say that I sit somewhere between "somewhat knowledgeable enthusiast" and "entry level orchid geek". Clearly I am not a "phalaenopsis-from-the-super-market grower" tossing in my ice cubes and shot glasses of H2O into my potted Sky Blue Phally, but yet, I am not dragging my choice 12 spiked specimen plant into an orchid society meeting on judging day - as this is where the real, serious and talented growers bring their best specimens to win awards and medals ( those acronyms found attached to those long orchid names).

A nice display of mixed, autumnal blooming orchids.

I fall in the middle, preferring to grow unusual orchids first, ones which 'speak' to me for various reasons - such as that large Dendrobium speciosum in the middle of my greenhouse growing in a 3 foot wide wood-slat basket, (maybe someday I will feel good enough about it to bring it in for judgement, but even though it produces an annual bloom in abundance, I always feel that it is inferior in some obvious way ( a bungled leaf, a spot or two), I am not that concerned with winning special orchid society ribbons at this point.

I grow species that need cold or cool conditions in the winter, so many Cymbidiums do well for me, as to many cool-growing Dendrobiums, particularly the Australian ones. Pahpiopedilums seem to do quite well, and these along with the cane-type of dendrobiums might become my new passion - but we'll see, for any orchid collection is an investment, and therein is the problem....with house repairs and the need for a new truck soon, I should really be thinking about other investments besides those of the orchid bark kind ( like that logic ever stops us!).

This species from Ecuador, where it grows on the cliffs near waterfalls interested me, so I bought one. Eriopsis biloba offers exactly what I like in many orchids - specimen plant potential, height, massiveness and horticultural interest - meaning that this is a species you are not going to find at most nurseries or garden centers. Lust! I want plants in my collection that you would find in Charles Darwin's greenhouse, or in the hidden greenhouse at a botanic garden.

So perhaps I will play with some newer orchids, for some are attracting more than I should admit, Particularly the smaller ( dwarf) phapheopediliums, the 'tea cup' paphs. So small, for tropical ladyslippers, yet with foliage more reticulated and blossoms in greater number - perfect. Only problem, most of these are bred from species that demand warmer temperatures, so a place in the house may need to be prepared for the coldest winter months.

Not the best photo, but here is my plant window with some of my new additions from this weekend (the rest are already out in in the greenhouse, ready for repotting). I also came back with some bags of orchid mix - as these shows are sometimes the best place for any of us to find orchid supplies besides on the internet.


  1. I do like the new miniatures as well. I have a nice dendrobium and paph doing well under a glass dome.

  2. Anonymous10:46 AM

    yes you are doomed. but your greenhouse will be lovely! if you're interested in species orchids, be sure to check out andy's orchids in encinitas, ca. best of luck and welcome to the club!

  3. Thought you might like to know that the Paphiopedilum helena that you mention is actually Paphiopedilum helenae a relatively recently discovered miniature species native to China and Vietnam. It is closely allied to Paphiopedilum barbigerum a species that has been in cultivation for many years. Because of international laws surrounding the trade in endangered species of which many slipper orchids are considered, this plant was a rarity in cultivation in the US until recently. It has been used in breeding to impart small size and what well known slipper orchid expert and hybridizer Dr. Harold Koopowitz has been referring to as 'Teacup Paphs'.
    Despite your mention of many orchid growers having water filtration systems ( which I believe is the rare exception rather than the norm) there is a huge and amazing diversity of plants available for the home orchid grower that willingly succumbs to their 'Orchid Madness'. A word of warning about Pleurothallids - their diversity and beauty is almost endless......give in Matt...you know you want to....:)

  4. Oh, and the name of that black orchid is Monnierara Millenium Magic ‘Witch Craft’ AM/AOS

  5. Thanks Marc, I knew that you would know the name of the black orchid! As for P. helenae ( I was simply writing what was on the label, but now realized that it is indeed, a misspelling, I am so thrilled to discover these smaller Paphs. I also bought a P barbigerum, so that makes sense - the appeal of these smaller Paphs is already rising. Oh, good 'ol Harold. Back into paphs once again. Talk about obsessions ( Clivia, Narcissus and now, again, Paphs!). I amy have to visit him again! You are pushing me to the dark side!

  6. My water filter system "only" cost 400...

  7. Well at least when you get into it, you do it with flair. Helenae? Even seasoned orchid growers don't have that little treasure. I agree with Marc - I have tried rainwater and returned to plain old tap water (with proper fertilizer) because I had fewer problems with diseases. Also..., aside from the paphs, I've found that CalMg fertilizers for some portion of the feeding regimen deliver great results on Orchids. Oh, and the Monnierara was just raised to an FCC/AOS - the top award. Can't wait to see where you go next with all this. I've been at it over 30 years and still not bored.

    John Ignacio

  8. Thanks everyone! I was told that our water here in Worcester was about as close to rainwater as possible, and that we did not need a water filtration system for orchids, so maybe I am all set, and ready to rock and roll. Now, off to order more paph's before it becomes too cold to ship! I wish I had saved all of my P. sanderianum seedlings that I was growing ten years ago - maybe they would have bloomed by now!~

  9. Glad you are starting to cave and get into orchids! they are not really that adictive..... I only have 1600, I could quit anytime.....

  10. Uh-oh! I just returned from our local Wegman's supermarket with two Phalaenopsis that 'jumped' into my carriage. I Know that they are considered the Gateway Drug for orchid addiction, but really, I am just experimenting to see what they are like...

  11. Anonymous5:18 PM

    MOS show is this weekend! Wish I could go (I'm in DC, I told my parents who live in Sudbury to go visit and buy me some paphs).
    Speaking of paphs, if folks are in to "ladyslipper orchids" (Paphs, Phrags, Cyps), come to the "Paph Forum" in DC in late February. Lots of great speakers and plants for sale: http://ncos.us/ncos/paph.htm
    (And instead of buying an expensive water filter for R/O water, collect the water from the de-humidifier and air conditioning unit).

  12. Ruh-row...I fear the fever has found its way onto my keyboard, and I am now stricken by the beauty of these orchids and the need to grow and celebrate such wonders. Thank you, Matt, uh, I think. ;-)


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