Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cym. Eastern Bunny 'Oborozuki'

The weekend rain has finally stopped, and the sun is shining, so I went out to check on the Cyms and found this little surprise regarding Cym. Eastern Bunny 'Oborozuki' that I recently acquired from George Hatfield of Hatfield Orchids.

Here's a pic (obtained from Hatfield Orchids' website: of the flowers.

I'm both thrilled and surprised at the vigorous growth of this clone. The left pseudobulb is sending up four new growths, and the right pseudobulb is sending up five new growths!

The flowers are nicely fragrant and long-lasting. With this degree of vigor, next Spring's flower yield should be great.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Water Quality Meter

Around two months ago, George Hatfield of Hatfield Orchids strongly suggested to the participants of the International Cymbidium Alliance, an online discussion forum, the purchase of a water quality meter that measures pH and total dissolved solids (TDS), for reasons of achieving better control over the pH of the fertilizing solution to maximize uptake from the orchid roots, as well as to avoid using media that has excessive salt content, e.g. coconut chips that still have significant salt content after washing and leaching.

I didn't run out to buy a meter at that point in time. But, I did observe during the weekend I was "led astray" that other serious orchid growers also used water quality meters as part of their orchid husbandry practice. The sum of these observations and suggestions motivated me enough to finally buy one (see below).

Here are the probe pH and TDS values for the calibration solutions.

Here are the pH and TDS values for distilled water.

Here are the pH and TDS values for my rainwater that I use to water my orchids. I expect the rainwater values will change according to the seasons, e.g. pollen content in Spring.

While I'm now ready to use the water meter when I make up my fertilizers, I also need to re-evaluate the advice of different orchid growers regarding the amount of "growth" and "bloom" fertilizers when the N, P or K values are given in ppm units. I've been accustomed to tsp/gal units, not ppm/gal units. I don't expect the results for using the water meter will be available for some time, but I'll be keeping notes...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Greenhouse tours

I was away this weekend taking a tour of some personal and commercial orchid greenhouses. Along with another NCOS member (Joe) whose goal was to "lead me astray", I drove to North Carolina to stay at the home of another NCOS member (Charlie) who had recently moved away from the DC metro area. Charlie gave us a tour of his greenhouse--which is almost as large as the square footage of my house--and the mechanics thereof. Charlie runs a really nice operation (potting, watering, humidity, light and temperature, and pest control), has the plants well-spaced, and healthy looking orchids--in bloom, recently out of bloom, seedlings, etc... One of the best role models I've seen for a personal greenhouse.

The three of us also drove down to Newberry, South Carolina to take a tour of Carter and Holmes Orchid nursery, stopping along the way to visit Seagrove Orchids in Seagrove, NC. Seagrove Orchids provides a show display and sales booth in the NCOS annual Show and Sale (October), so it was nice to see how their facilities are set up and reinforce the NCOS relationship with Seagrove.

Carter and Holmes is a larger operation than Seagrove, and has the advantage of an in-house breeding program and laboratory, so the orchid stock is not the same as Seagrove's. However, I appreciated comparing/contrasting greenhouse construction, maintenance and plant husbandry for these commercial growers.

Thankfully, our visit was, by-and-large out-of-season. That most orchids were not in bloom helped to mitigate the purchases. I know all too well the challenges of visiting an orchid nursery when in full bloom season. These little ones are either Laelias, Cattleyas, or Laelia/Cattleya (Lc) hybrids. So, in the end, Joe was able to "lead me astray" per design, and initiate a serious challenge to the "Primarily Cymbidiums".

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Immature Seed Pods

Another one of this year's experiments is to try flasking cymbidium seeds, germinating them, and growing the seedlings to blooming stage. The major information source to guide me is "Asymbiotic Technique of Orchid Seed Germination" by Aaron J. Hicks of The Orchid Seedbank Project ( Occasionally, Aaron offers some orchid species seedlings on eBay. I recently purchased seedlings from a flask of Cym. erythrostylum. We'll see if they survive and grow up...

I have two Cymbidium species with pods (fruits) maturing. The first is a selfing of Cymbidium insigne var. album, the plant being purchase
d from Santa Barbara Orchid Estates. Here's a pic of a flower shortly after pollination, where you can see the column having flattened/broadening out in response to the pollination.

One of the two pods from Cym. insigne fell off prematurely because the inflorescence was beginning to dry up. Advice from Cymbidium colleagues suggest that the seeds of this pod would be too immature for flasking, so I went ahead and dissected the pod for educational purposes. I didn't know what to expect.

The second is a cross between
Cym. sinense 'Geyserland' (pod parent) x Cym. sinense 'Oak Hill' (pollen parent).

Pod parent: Cym. sinense 'Geyserland'

Pollen parent: Cym. sinense 'Oak Hill'

Here is a pic of the maturing fruits.

The fruits are still doing well. According to the calendar, they may be ready for flasking as early as December 10, 2008 (nine months, earliest).

I'm curious to see what anthocyanic nuclear genome influence from the pollen parent 'Oak Hill' has on the non-anthocyanic 'alba' pod parent 'Geyserland', assuming the only contribution of the pollen parent to the offspring will be nuclear genome, and not any plastid genome, e.g. mitochondria or chloroplast. I'm not a botanist, so my understanding of plant genetics may be lacking. (Though, I'll make up a good story upon insistance.) Perhaps the pollen does, in fact, contribute plastids to the progeny. I need to look into that... I'm also thinking to have some seed sent off to Gallup & Stribling for treatment with Oryzalin to promote the conversion of diploids into tetraploids.

Present/forcasted weather for this week: mid 80's during the day, mid 60's during the night, a nice 20 degree differential. With Fall approaching, I'm getting ready to shift the orchids from "growing" fertilizer to "blooming" fertilizer.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Shade Frame

For this Summer's growing season, I decided to set up a shade frame for the orchids. Last Summer, I put the plants underneath the canopy line of one of our trees. But, I could tell that the plants were not getting enough light because the leaves remained a green to dark green color.

I acquired the shade frame materials from Grower's Supply via web/mail order, choosing 40% aluminet as the cloth. The aluminet is reputed to be cooler than standard black shadecloth, ( which is important for those orchids that are not heat-tolerant, but rather cool-growing.

The orchids are sitting on single palets to raise them off the ground. We've saved palets from other home projects, and I've also scavanged some from neighbors who set out theirs for trash. If you don't have access to palets, check out Casa de Las Orchuideas's website for helpful tips (

George Hatfield of Hatfield Orchids, visiting at the time as a guest speaker for NCOS, suggested that I raise the plants higher off the ground so that more air can circulate around the roots, keeping the roots cooler. The higher elevation should also provide additional challenges to pests such as ants and slugs. I'll follow this advice for next Summer's season.

Each orchid is placed in its own tray. The idea is that the plants will suck up the remaining water, keeping moisture around the roots, as necessary. In dry spells, such as last Summer's drought, this was especially important. Whereas some plants last year produced accordian-shaped leaves (an indicator of less-than-optimal watering) on new growths, I haven't seen any accordian leaves this year. I do make a point of draining the trays each week to keep the mosquito population down, and I've never seen any larvae in the trays.

All in all, I'm pleased with the shade frame. Some plants got a little sunburnt moving them from my basement lights to the outdoors, so next year I'll add another layer of shade cloth for the first week or two to help the plants acclimate. I also place those species and hybrids that can take more sun in the places that get the most sun exposure. Presently, the leaves are a nice light green color. Of course, an important benchmark will be the yield and quality of flowering orchids come late Fall through early Spring. Stay tuned...