Lady Orchid

Summer’s Bouquet

All life seems to flourish throughout the hot spells here in New York. As the varied trees, rose bushes and vegetable gardens grow wildly, adolescent birds flirt and chatter, hopping from stoop to stoop. They eventually flutter back into the loving limbs of a lush bush or potted public foliage. Folks linger in the streets, moving slowly. Sometimes smiles flash abundantly, despite the sweat that rests upon one’s upper lip, brow or hairline. The dogs smile too as they pit-pat down the sidewalk, steadily swaying their hips.

Ever so often, pouty clouds roll across the sky, promising a break from a long streak of multiple, fiery days. That magical moment arrives when the blue heavens are slowly masked by grey fluff. In response, the humidity spikes. As fat raindrops threaten to parachute downward, everyone looks up, then down, then around. Sans umbrella, some decide to shuffle towards a dry canopy while attempting to adjust the short skirts that inch up around their sticky, summer stems.

In anticipation of the heat breaking everyone is aware of the relentless humidity. If I happen to be at home with my love, I can often hear him mumbling about how damp everything feels. Before a complaint can escape my lips, I immediately catch myself and smile. At this point I am usually kneeling upon the braided rug on the floor, next to my orchids, waving my hygrometer in the air. Both of our cats lay flat upon the parquet, spreading their flesh as thin as possible, waiting for the sky to open up. “Baby, the humidity is only 85 percent,” I laugh uncomfortably. The excess moisture feels weird on my skin too, but I know that other beings within an arms reach are quite comfortable. This makes me happy. Flowers make me happy too.

After my orchid-rearing endeavors have continued for yet another year, watering and re-potting are quite routine. I admire the shiny green and red tips that emerge from new roots and take care not to let water rest within an orchid’s deep crown or young, emerging growths. But there are times I seem to overlook prospective flowers while caring for my green friends on a daily basis. Perhaps I occasionally prefer surprises; I am unsure.

During July, I felt fortunate to have my Dendrobium hemimelanoglossum, Maxillaria tenufolia and Cadetia taylori share their sweet bouquets with me. I carefully watched the teeny, needle-like spike develop on my Dendrobium for quite some time, but the developing buds on my Maxillaria and Cadetia went completely unnoticed until they were about to unfold.

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Above, Dendrobium hemimelanoglossum in flower. I purchased this orchid earlier this spring. When she was delivered to me via post, she was just a seedling, displaying her very first flowers. Dendrobium hemimelanoglossum‘s initial blossoms faded about a day after her arrival. I was surprised that after a few months of caring for her, she decided to blossom once again. She seems to be pretty content upon her new cork mount.

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As the blossoms on her new spike emerged, Dendrobium hemimelanoglossum decided to produce an additional spike on another smaller pseudobulb. She also gave birth to a new growth. At first I thought that her second spike was a keiki and was a little confused. As it lengthened, it became clear that more blossoms were set to arrive within the coming weeks.

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Admittedly, my camera is not fancy. This little handheld digital camera works wonderfully for capturing day-to-day moments with beautiful color and clarity, but the macro feature on this device can be a little eh eh. Many snapshots later, I usually can manage to capture the intricacy of some blooms, but these are not as clear as I has hoped for them to be. Due to the teeny nature of some flowers, my camera’s auto focus gets a little confused at times.

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While I was checking dryness of my Masevallia‘s spaghnum, I noticed the two tiny little white orbs on my Cadetia taylori. I was hardly expecting blossoms from her, particularly because she has not put out any new growth in the past year. I was also still perplexed because these buds were growing out of pseudobulbs that had previously flowered. There were two buds present at the time, but when I got around to photographing this orchid, one of the flowers had already wilted. She was in bloom for about 3 weeks.

Despite the size of Cadetia‘s flowers, they had a rather strong fragrance. I am really not well-versed in identifying mixed smells like honey lemon vanilla or peony ranch dressing and other muddled, complicated scents, so I will just say that she smelled very nice.

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As Cadetia‘s two blossoms faded, some of her leaves did too. She had shed half of her thick leaves and then her naked pseudobulbs started to turn brown. I was convinced that it was time to repot a few new acquisitions and re-examine a handful of my other orchids.

There is such a vast wealth of knowledge that can be acquired while caring for orchids, it is almost dizzying. One is constantly learning from their mistakes, primarily because growing habitats, a grower’s care and their love are so personal. No two combinations seem to be the same.

Cadetia taylori has very tiny roots and it seems that when I received her a year ago, I did not want to take the time to sort through these wriggly strands and trim this jumbled mess. Tiny roots hurt my brain, but after recently admiring Cadetia‘s precious flowers, I felt obligated to take the time to do the right thing.

That afternoon I spent over an hour curled up in a tiny ball picking dead roots off of her pseudobulbs with tweezers. I ended up finding a small dead snail and my black t-shirt was completely covered in hair-like orchid roots. Cadetia was then repotted into a small clay pot.

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Unfortunately, Maxillaria tenufolia is a bearer of tiny roots as well. Over the winter, I cautiously remounted my Maxillaria and have been babying her since this transition. I have read that Maxillarias can be a little finicky if their roots are disturbed, so I tried really hard not to fuss around with them too much. Although a Maxillaria‘s root system may appear to be dead, their mature roots can actually appear brown. After thoroughly wetting her roots, I had delicately trimmed off what appeared to be deceased.

When I had divided Maxillaria tenufolia, I also mounted a smaller portion and passed this along to my Mum. While visiting for her for Mother’s Day this spring, her Maxillaria had flowered. The color, texture and smell of the blossoms was divine. And then there was hope, a shed of light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps mine would perk up sometime soon, but I remained weary.

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While I was watering my orchids the other day, I came across these two blossoms. I had noticed that our living room smelled a little different recently, but I did not expect that it was because of this. My Maxillaria has been developing new pseudobulbs all over her mount for months, but any buds that existed kept their presence secret.

The way that Maxillaria tenufolia forms buds is quite sneaky. Due to the short singular stems on each flower, it can be difficult to spot them amongst all of the unruly fronds. Additionally, they are also nestled deep within the brown husk that flanks each pseudobulb. Upon discovering these blooms, I touched the thick, waxy petals and simultaneously filled my lungs with their coconut perfume. I hoped that these flowers would last for quite awhile.

Amidst the birth of blossoms, there have been some losses. I suppose this is the way that life works. Quite often, things just do not go as planned.

Dendrobium goldschmidtianum, Dendrobium amethystoglossum and Dendrobium tannii all appeared to be very ill earlier this summer. Their green leaves consistently developed large amounts of spots and weird discolorations. After this occurred, the leaves would turn an awful shade of black and yellow and then fall from their pseudobulbs. This happened over and over again.

I initially suspected that some sort of fungus may be present and treated all three of these orchids with a Physan 20 mist. After multiple treatments and no response, I felt weird. They were not in direct sunlight. I watered during the day, the leaves were never wet for an extended period of time. The air movement in my growing areas was great. Perhaps it was a virus? It definitely was not an insect or a mite. Regardless, I feared for the health of my other plants and threw these three giants in the trash. It was not worth the risk.

Instead of replacing these common Dendrobium species, I have decided to make space for a few different orchids. A couple of Bulbophyllums, a Habenaria, a few Sobralia and a Stelis have recently joined my leafy family. I am excited to experiment with some orchids that I was either afraid to grow or knew absolutely nothing about. This should prove to be interesting.

Happy summer!

Peek-a-Window

Oh my, a 3-day weekend. How I miss thee. After the absence of a real holiday since, well, the “holidays,” this long weekend is quite a treat. My husband is currently in Italy for work, so the lady felines and I are enjoying the sun, the breeze and taking in the solitude. Mmmmm, breathing it in…deeply. Time to catch up…and time to make sangria and write.

The weather is surely changing and the light is shifting oh-so slightly. I took some time this weekend to water and to rearrange my orchids and my cacti. My Dendrobiums needed to come out of the cool bathroom into the sunlit living room and my Phalaenopsis orchids needed to take a comfortable backseat elsewhere. My elderly, fragrant rose and lemon geraniums have also made their way into our bedroom and are currently peeking out beneath the sailcloth curtains. I will write a post soon about current updates and new acquisitions, but today I wanted to share some exciting tid-bits that have previously occurred this spring.

After the cooler weather has disappeared and the last chill has run up my spine, new growth and new roots have finally emerged. A lot of orchids are active throughout the winter and early spring, but things really do come to life once the breeze starts flowing through the windows. Taking a moment to observe the smallest growth brings the widest, wildest smile to my face. Hey, hey! You girls are finally perking up!

Wet-Orchid-1Above, Vanda coerulea‘s velamen slowly begins to absorb water after an early evening misting. I usually water and mist in the morning, but if I do mist in the evening, it has to be warm out with a slight breeze. This ensures that most of the moisture is gone once the sun goes to bed. The older root is on the left, the new root is on the right. Why does every part of an orchid look so sexy?

To elaborate slightly on velamen – when misting and watering your hanging orchids, take a a moment to moisten the velamen that covers the roots first. These tough, protective, outer cells take time to soften and absorb moisture. After doing this, the roots are ready to fully absorb the water that they need. Soak once, let them sit for a few minutes and then soak again.

Hydroton-ChocolateA little over a month ago, one of my dearest friends ventured to Europe for a very special wedding celebration. While she was gone, I spent a lot of time with her beautiful pastel tortoiseshell cat, Olive and cared for her extensive plant collection. As a thank you surprise, she thoughtfully brought me back a box of Choc Noisettes. I will admit, I am more of a savory girl, but damn…these were very special in my mouth. First thought: Wow, these look amazing and they taste incredible. Second thought: Wow, these look like Hydroton (one of my favorite orchid potting mediums!)

Unfortunately, my husband concurred with the first thought and ate twenty pieces the first morning before I awoke. I have had the remainder of them hidden ever since. That was, until I started writing this post. I just ate the rest of them and found the link to share with you.

UniOraAnd of course, with the warmth comes sharing and caring. Uni and Ora will cuddle up during the long winter and then they will have a few odd weeks of hierarchy once spring has sprung. Pecking orders come and go but once the windows are open they have to team up to swat moths. These bits of protein really do make their day.

Although we do have screen on the bottom of the windows, the top of the windows remain fully open for a few reasons. Unfortunately, my orchid light burnt out in February and it desperately needs to be replaced.  This lamp serves a dual function, ensuring rainy day orchid happiness and night-time kitten happiness. A lady has to lure those moths inside for playtime and final consumption during the evening hours.

Ora-OrchidsHere is Ora basking in the breeze. This was taken during the first weekend when the bathroom window was ajar. She spends the majority of her mornings in here now, watching the mourning doves and taking in whatever rick-rack that is being created by our Brooklyn neighbors.

Uni-Ora-2 And yes, there always has to be room for two. This normally does not last too long, unless something really interesting is going on outside that deserves two pairs of snake eyeballs to witness the encounter.

Oncidium-fuscatum-1On an orchid related note, my Oncidium fuscatum shocked me with an unexpected spike. I found the fully grown spike with mature buds one day when I was fussing around in the bathroom window.

When I originally purchased this Oncidium, I had expected to receive the alba version that was pure white with a hint of yellow streaking. Shortly after receiving it, the seller contacted me. His seedlings had just bloomed and they were not what he had anticipated. I was slightly disappointed, but I guess I had to be okay with this. The blooms are gorgeous.

Oncidium-fuscatum-2 Please mind the accordion leaves that appear amongst the foliage. Winter within our apartment can be a bit dry here. Now that I have endured my first full winter with most of my orchids, hopefully I can step up my humidity game a little more consistently in the future.

Growing beneath the Oncidium fuscatum on this mount is my NOID Dancing Lady. I am anticipating a parade of yellow blooms, but there seem to be a lot of ‘dancing ladies’ out there. It is a term that is pretty widely used for yellow Oncidiums. Only time will tell.

Originally, I had both of these orchids mounted upright on the vertical vanda baskets that I had made with my Mum during Easter of 2013. I removed the cork from the bottom of the baskets, only because they were taking up a lot of precious window space. The roots were entangled around the cork so wildly, I just added some additional sphagnum and strung them upright. Topsy-turvy, they seem to be happy.

Oncidium-fuscatum-3This first spike has since passed, but I was rewarded with a second spike full of blooms. Today, it is still blossoming. The flowers opened up a lot more on the current spike and are not as compact. There were about 4 – 6 blossoms on each spike. Her little flowers remind me of bite-sized peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Maybe with a little banana and marshmallow added for good taste.

Dendrobium-farmeri-2After raising many questions about the happiness of my Dendorbiums this winter, Dendrobium farmeri kindly responded to the care that she received. On the other hand, Dendrobium jenkinsii, Dendrobium capituliflorum, Dendrobium lindleyi, Dendrobium thyrsiflorum remained mum this past season.

I guess the visual silence should have been expected. While becoming established in their new home, plenty of roots have been trimmed and fussed with and they have been moved from baskets to mounts. Becoming comfortably acquainted will take time, especially admist our on-and-off climate.

But to my delight, I found a wonderful surprise! Dendrobium farmeri decided to launch her first set of floral fireworks. The display only originated from one pseudobulb, but it was magnificent. It was such a treat to watch this spike progress into full fruition. Initially, I found it hiding beneath a single leaf.

Dendrobium-farmeri-1All along I had expected pink blossoms. The tinge of pink on the buds held the promise of pink flowers. At first this initial appearance had me convinced that my suspicions were correct. Many photos via the internet promised this too…

Dendrobium-farmeri-5Dendrobium farmeri‘s buds matured rather quickly. They grew in both width and length, alongside the new pseudobulb that can be seen on the bottom right.

Dendrobium-farmeri-4As her buds ripened, I was so afraid that they would come tumbling off the spike. They were so delicate, both in formation and color.

Dendrobium-farmeri-3Upon opening, the blossoms were pink, like little delicate piglets. Although there was only one bunch, I was so thrilled.

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Dendrobium-farmeri-6Once Dendrobium farmeri‘s flowers fully opened, they were quite white. The pink tinge had faded away. After reading a little more, I found out that some varieties only have the pink along their backsides and that some varieties are completely pink. I am unsure if this would be considered an alba variation?

Phalaenopsis-gigantea-5During the “welcome spring” blooming ruckus, I found a Phalaenopsis gigantea seedling. Instead of paying a few hundred dollars for a large specimen, I figured that twenty dollars for a younger plant seemed a bit more reasonable.

Phalaenopsis-gigantea-4It is kind of fascinating that this little lady will take years to mature.  Eventually her leaves will grow to be a few feet long.

Wet-Cork-1Phalaenopsis gigantea was shipped to me in a plastic pot packed with bark pieces and sphagnum moss. Upon pulling her from the pot, the dead roots came loose immediately with the old medium. No trimming was needed.

After inspecting the orchid, I washed my cork mount to remove any debris that were hiding within the cracks (aka dead spiders.)

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Phalaenopsis-gigantea-3Initially,  I mounted this orchid upside down up. This position seemed organic in terms of crown drainage. I secured her to the mount with a small u-clip. I drilled two holes on each side of the bundle of roots, slipped the hook through and curled the wire on the back of the mount with my pliers.

Phalaenopsis-gigantea-2Some sphagnum was added to the mount and was then lightly secured with some fishing line.

Phalaenopsis-gigantea-1After several waterings, I began to question my mounting tactics. I had read that besides being ultra-sensitive to water gathering in her crown, Phalaenopsis gigantea also does not like water in to remain in-between her leaves either.

In comparison to your normal Phalaenopsis breeds, gigantea‘s leaves sit much closer together, almost on top of one another. I decided to flip the mount around. To do this, I just changed the position of the hanger and drilled a hole at the opposite end. With the orchid mounted upright,  I can carefully water her roots without any water draining downwards onto the plant.

Fingers crossed, happy spring!

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