Showing posts with label Orchids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orchids. Show all posts

March 17, 2008

Japanese Native Orchids - Shogunbutsu

Dendrobium moniliforme

Dendrobium moniliforme

Cymbidium goerengii

Cymbidium goeringii

Neofinetia falcata'

As many of you know, I grow few orchids, but what I do collect and grow are the species native to Japan which it seems the Japanese only grow, and very few westerners. These include the genus Neofinetia, the species Dendrobium moniliforme, and the species Cymbidium goringii. Orchis graminifolia, Calanthe species and Liparis round out the more common Japanese orchids grown by the Japanese who have grown these species for hundreds of years, and who, over time, have evolve the art and cultivation for each of these species to include elaborate techniques involving pottery, sphagnum potting material style and display. Without going into tremendous detail, these species are worth seeking out and researching, since their history and culture is absolutely amazing and practically unknown in the west.

It amazed me that here in Japan, one can walk through rows and rows of two inch pots of Dendrobium moniliforme, and see most every balcony contain the tiny pots with clean globes of perfectly white sphagnum moss, all topped off with a perfect tiny neofinetia 'wind orchid'.

Just when you think you've seen it all, there is an entirely new world of plants and culture to discover. These orchids all have a deep history to the Japanese, one that involves the Samurai, the Edo period and the fact that these are some of the first potted plants ever cultivated by man. As my friend said, as she toured the displays " I can;t beleive they filled a stadium up with dead plants for people to take pictures of!", But these are orchids that are cool or cold growing, and they bloom often before thier new foliage comes out, so take the time to learn more about them, and if you are interested in getting any, there are a few sources in the US who carry them such as Barry Yinger's Asiatica.com

Tokyo Orchid Show Recap

Just as any orchid show, half the floor is dedicated to retailers selling everything from plants, to fertilizer.

....and 'mouse pad eramu'

An award winning Dendrochilum species

Jet lag from the Orient is a nasty thing to recover from, but I did want to recap my trip with some images of the best orchids which I viewed wile visiting the International Orchid Grand Prix in Tokyo.
Even though I was on a business trip which was non-plant related, I was fortunate to be able to squeeze in a Saturday afternoon at this largest of orchid shows. This was my second Grand Prix in Tokyo, and although it felt smaller, it still motivated me to go buy some orchids. Here are some of the highlights...

A Cattleya with lots of blooms. This is a show, where the specimens have an incredible number of blossoms.

A Dracula species that I did not happen to get the name of.

Amazing Cat's

This is a show where the whirr and buzz of digital cameras and cell phones add to the experience.

First on my wish list, the Australian, Dendrobium speciosum.

Second on my wish list, Dendrobium hancockii, a branchy, deciduous Dendro that was massive in width. I HAVE to get this one!

Lycaste are perhaps the most impressive at this show. I think the cool winters in Japan provide the perfect conditions for this orchid.

Lycaste 'Spring Bouquet"

March 2, 2008

Japan's Orchid Grand Prix

A courtesy guide attempts to control the crowds at the worlds' largest orchid show.

Perhaps my collegue, Jessica summed it up best, " I wish I had a hobby that could fill a stadium". I felt bad for her, after spending long hours working, attending focus groups with screaming kids, walking and walking and walking for hours and shopping for trends during our stay in Tokyo, I then convinced her to spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon at what is essentially the Orchid world Olympics for orchid enthusiasts - the Japan Orchid Grand Prix International Orchid show, held annually in the Tokyo Dome Baseball stadium.

Imagine, baseball during the summer, and in February, orchids.

This is my second business trip to Tokyo that happened to coincide with the Grand Prix, so I was incredibly lucky, for the show is amazingly enourmous, and there are things to be seen at this show that are not seen at any other orchid show around the world, mainly the native Japanese orchids the Calanthe, Neofinetia and dendrobium moniliforme, that should be familiar to anyone who reads this blog, since I happen to have some remnant of a Japanese gene in me, that makes me pine for these tiny unpretentious orchids which Jess said, looked like dead plants. I will show more of these in the next posting, since there were far too many to incude here.

This massive 6 foot or more wide specimen of Coelogyne crista fma. hololeuca 'Pure White' is  a plant that I have seen here three times. This year, it is larger than ever. I must try to remember to try growing one like this - on a portable shingled roof section.

Coelogyne cristata fma. hololeuca 'Pure White'
Growing on a very interesting and somewhat rustic wooden structure which looks a bit like a piece of a roof, this massive Coelogyne cristata, reportedly an easy-to-bloom species for a cold greenhouse, reminded me that mine has never yet bloomed. this plant, however, what about 6 feet in diameter and
literally covered in fowers. I do know that I must let the plant become cold, near freezing in the winter, and allow it to dry out for the winter, but although it is full and lush, I never get any flowers. So if anyone out there has any advice, please let me know. Perhaps it is a fertilizer issue?

Only Japan could host such as show, since no where else is there such a passion for specific plants. As flower shows around the world (and especially in the United States) experience lower attendance numbers, this flower show fills the largest stadium in the worlds' largest city, and keeps it packed for an entire week and with long que lines, makes a clear statement of the level of horticultural passion that exists in this amazing country. Plant enthusiasts are everywhere in Japan, but it seems no one is as enthusiastic as the orchid enthusiasts are. As Jess said, "after flying halfway around the world without hassle, it took an orchid show guard to search and frisk me. I mean, come on, this is just a flower show! What we're they thinking..that I was going to smuggle in my purse? A vial of aphids or a bomb?"

Orchid cookies for sale.

Imagine seeing these Phalaenopsis at your local Home store! I could not get over the length of the stems and the bumber of flowers. The Japanese have a specific way in which they train their phalaenopsis.I could have done without the foil though.

Incredible Dendrobiums, which remind me of when I lived in Hawaii and we grew them on our clothes line, of course, they never loked like these. New hyrbids, grex's and crosses are selections that look nothing like their parents.

An award winning dendrochillum species specimen plant which I forgot to identify. Spectacular.

August 19, 2007

Samurai Orchid

Neofinetia falcata, or the Samurai Orchid, is a tiny, fragrant, and highly collectable orchid from Japan, where it has many fans, and clubs organized around this culurally meaningful orchid. In Japan, we visited tiny exclusive nurseries dedicated to growing this plant, as well as a few other collectable Japanese Orchids like Dendrobium moniliforme.

Although, selling for near $100. in the US, many rare forms and mutations in Japan sell for well over $100,000., but most in the $300 - $1500. range. Hence, elaborate pots are designed, and sold at Toyko orchid shows, and special growing techniques are exchanged at club meetings throughout Japan. The name comes from the legend that Samurai would wear these tiny orchids on thier belts, to symbolize thier strength and endurance, since these tiny jems bloom and grow on the outer islands of Japan. Neofinetia we're some of the earliest orchids grown by humans, where in Japan, during the Edo period in the 1600's, the present day culture began.

Today, you can grow these, for they are quire easy if you have a cool porch that doesn't freeze, or certainly a cold greenhouse. These are cold weather orchids, that don't go dormant, but that like to grow epiphytically, on the surface of fresh sphagnum, or a ball of sphagnum, and prefer to go dry and near freezing in the winter, and then warm and moist in the summer. This suits me fine, since I an keep a collection of Neofinetia in the greenhouse, virtually forgotten in the winter, on a high shelf near the glass where it stays cold, and then bring the plants out onto the deck in the summer, on wire racks, where the summer storms can drench them with rainwater.

April 16, 2007


This Yew hedge is 100 feet long, 9 feet high and 12 feet wide. A freight train and taxus, and with two driveways passing through it, it was becoming a risky venture. So after nearly a hundred years of growth, this weekend, my brother Bruce, his son Taylor and Joe and I, removed it, in prep for a new fence which will hopefully go in this summer.

But if you think this hedge is big, you should see the hedge as it rund in the other direction.

Look far beyond the yew, and you can see the 16 foot tall hemlock hedge, which runs along the funn 218 feet of the property.

Since this hedge is suffering from the dreaded wooly algied, we are having a fence installed along it in four weeks. and then even this hedge will have to be removed Likely a task fro the tree folks, but I am dreading the cost!.

In Dan Hinkley's book entitled The Explorers Garden. he mentions that Cardamine heptaphylla can only be dug a divided via root scales during the month of March or in late winter. Yesterday, I remembered this task, and ran out back to dig up where the label was. Not sure if this was it, especially since these root sections really don;t look like 'scales on a rhyzome' but whatever it was, I separated it. There we;re two questionable plants, which I divided, so clearly, April is the month to divide what ever needs dividing! Stay tuned to see what this was, if in fact it wasn;t Cardamine heptaphylla. ID not, I will have to wait another year to divide it!

Am I finally succeeding with Plieone orchids? These terrestrial orchids grow from bulbs that are traditionally planted in shallow bulb pans, in a fast draining bark type mix. After six years of killing many species, I think I have the trick. I pat the bulbs in a mixture of snipped tree fern bark, along with hornbeam leaves that have been composted, some gravel, and a little pro mix.l Then I fertilize with half strength 10 10 10 all summer long, where the plants are placed ont he shady side of the greenhouse, and kept moist. These four bulbs went dormant right on schedule in the autumn, and we're then kept cold, near freezing, on the foundation wall in the greenhouse near the glass. Not only is this the first time that I have been able to rebloom these tiny bulbs, they divided and where last year I had three blossoms, this year I have 11. Wow.
Now, I wish I could find more to try, but they are so hard to find in the USA. A Canadian firm sells them, Frasiers Thimble Farms, and they have a wide selection, but even though I never had any problems ordering from them, they are just too difficult to get alhold of since they only check thier email once or twice a week, and don;t take orders or anser quesions through email or on line. IT is too late I think to bother writing them, and they won't accept phone calls. Too bad, since thier selection is so nice.

September 19, 2006

Fall = Orchids not Mums

You all know how I feel about bushel basket mums the size of dairy cows, all hormoned-up and perfectly perfect in every way. These Mary Poppin's of the Chrysanthemum world are unfortunately ubiquituos at farm stands and North American nurseries this time of year. But what did gardeners do before these beasts come along?

Well, first, we did grow Crysanthemums, of course, but not these mounds we know now as "garden mums'. I will write this weekend and show the mums that I am growing, but that are now sadly not only difficult to find, but are only carried by a few, if not two, plant suppliers. My trips to Japan have converted me to many Japanese techniques that have never been completely understood in the West, and the art of Chrysanthemum culture has been another passion that I have bee trying to perfect here in the states. The are still budding up, so I will show my Asian mum collection, later. Besides, they don't really bloom until late October, and have just had thier last pinching. These include cascading mums, tall standard spiders and many fancy anemone types. But more later....because this is also the season for many orchids, especially these rare Pahiopedilus species from Borneo like P. rothchildianum, P. sanderianum and other Paph species (not the plastic hybrids that one sees more commonly) but these, some of the rarest and most sought-after orchids in the world.

Most Paphs with these long tepals grow only on the Island of Borneo, on Mount Kinabalu. Of course, Pahhs grow all over South East Asia, but I am only showing the Paphs from this particualr cloud forest since they have a type of blossom and character that I, as a designer and botanist, find most appealing and fascinating. Here, I jsut combined them with some unusual species begonia plants, as well as a tropical shrub with equally similar blossoms, for a cover photo-comp for a book idea that I have of rare plants.

In the greenhosue, a laeliacatleya explodes into bloom with 23 blossoms. Not fragrant, but certainly delightful, this plant actually surprised me, and I suppose, if I was an 'orchid freak", which I am not, I would bother to take it to a local orchid show to get points awarded to it (something that the American ORchid Society does, in order to rank species and crosses - those are the letters one sees after an orchid name in some catalogs, like AAS, or Catleys Blah blah blah CCP, Certificate of Cultural Perfection, or whatever -sorry orchid fans.... whatever).

Chores pervail. Washing pots is something that I HATE!. Especially with my busy work schedule. SInce I am not a gardener by trade, but a creative director for a corporation, I really only get about a few hours a week to garden.....so washing pots is not something that I look froward to. Making pots? yeah, I look forward to anytime I can get a the wheel in my pottery studio, which too, is rare, but washing them, no. But it needs to be done, and the warm weather this week allows me to take many of the pots not being used and scrub them in a 10% bleach solution and air-dry them in the sun. Now they are ready to be used in the greenhouse with the upcoming rush of relocating the collections in for the winter.

July 17, 2006

The orchid days of summer

Rhyncholaelia digbyana displaying its finest fimbriation on a hot and humid evening in July

Perhaps more suited to this hot and humid, near 100 percent humidity weather than I, the cattleya relative Rhyncholaelia digbyana also surprises us with the fact that it also can handle the near freezing temperatures that the glass house presents it with in January. It's home, is on a slab of tree fern bark, hung against the trunk of a large Acacia dealbata tree near the back of the glass house, where it occaisionally gets a splash of water and maybe fertilzer, when I think of it. I don;t tend to fuss with orchids, so those that do well, do well, and those that wish to die, never come back./

I did go through an orchid collecting phase, but found it difficult to join our local orchid society in Massachusetts couldn't find thier websiote, they no longer cooperate with our local botanical garden, something over a squable or something, and so, I moved on. No need for that I say...We raise dogs, and it is well known that the only ones crazier than Dog Breeders are orchid growers, so I moved on for now.

I do collect many Japanese orchids, neofinetia and Dendrobium moniliforme, as well as many cultivars of Chinese cymbidiums, but these are not generally respected as much as showier (I have tried to strike up conversation with local members at shows here at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden about how I could join the ORchid Society, but they didn;t seem that interested in helping me with even where I might get a membership, or lead me to thier website,so I joined the National groups, the AOS, but have since dropped out since I have foudn them strangely unfriendly to newbies. So unfortunate since most plant groups are starving for younger collectors to join and become active, I must assume that the Orchid Society is doing quite well! I have found the British groups such as the RHS muchmore cooperative both with accepting manuscripts and with encouragement.

_Off Soapbox_ and back to the greenhouse!

March 28, 2006

Pleione Orchids

Pleione bulb flower

Pleione orchids are a precious small orchid from western China that grow from bulbs, like a paperwhite. They are challenging to find, but are completely growable, and are as easy as paperwhites to bloom too, the first season after planting. The real skill will be getting them to bloom again, since they are terribly expensive and you won't want to throw them out. With careful cultural care and attention, success is achievable and encouraged since they are so unique and no one has them anymore, and they can get better with age and multiply.
Pots of Pleione in the greenhouse

As for finding bulbs to buy, few if any catalogs in North America sell them, and I only know of one Canadian nursery carrying them at the moment. If you do find some, they are rarely the choice new crosses that one finds in England, such as from Plione expert Ian Butterfield or Pottertons, but more likely they are species forms, and one too must be careful that they were not collected from the wild. In Europe, there are spectacular crosses and grex's available, as well as many species. The British bulb retailers carry some nice crosses, but you must order them while they are dormant, around late November until January, since by Valentines day many have started to show buds, and they will not ship them. Everything has a season, especially uncommon plants, that is why you don't see them at American retailers. Short shelf life, and you can't sell them in bloom. It's a real problem with American Garden Centers, as a reason why every one's garden looks the same, in late May, since that is the only time people go to the garden center to buy plants, and they only carry plants that are in full bloom at that season. But we hortiphiles are informed gardeners, and won't be affected by such things.

Pot of Pleione orchids

In my cold greenhouse, a few grex's as well as some species, these I received from a friend in the UK, and we're well budded when I planted them. Culturally, they require a full growing season from the first sign of blooms, until October. They prefer cooler conditions year round, which is tough in New England, since the summers are hot. Just remember that they grow at higher elevations, in cloud forests usually on mossy branches, or moss covered rocks. Cool, damp and misty as well as buoyant air, it critical.

Pleione orchid blossoms

The Plieone year: Purchase bulbs around Christmas, plant in January, in a fast draining mix of fresh sphagnum moss, some woods chips, old beach leaves and charcoal bits to keep the mix fresh. Keep cool to cold, even near freezing. Buds start to appear in late February, when you can start watering. After blooming, it is safe to place them outside on the north side of the house, or under a tree well after frost. Make sure that they don't dry out, and fertilize with a week solution of fertilizer each time that you water, rainwater is by far the best, they are sensitive to Chlorine and chemicals. Basically, I just keep them outside until the first frost, when the leaves yellow, and die back, and the pots are brought in to the Greenhouse and kept dry until buds show again.