Red Beard Orchid

What is funny-looking orchid! This is one of the reasons I love orchids – there are plenty of bizarre ones out there, and their appearances have something to do with their survival/pollination.

Found on Mr. Honorio Sarmiento’s Facebook page.

“Calochilus paludosus, the Red Beard Orchid or Red Beardie is a small Australian orchid found. Not a particularly common species, but it may be seen in swampy heathland, as well as dry ridges in mountain country. Flowering occurs in early spring. The specific epithet paludosus refers to marshy ground. However, this plant also is seen in well drained soils.”

Calochilus paludosus the Red Beard Orchid or Red Beardie

Aerangis splendida

I expect a very orchidful house this year. Several weeks ago the temperature dropped unseasonally. Although the temperature returns to normal, my orchids already got the signal – it’s time to send out some spikes. It’s going to be a month or even two before some of them become flowers. In the meantime, I do have a small blooming orchid that’s worth some mention.

This little guy sent out a spike 3, 4 months ago, and yes, that’s how long it takes for the flower to fully develop. This is another orchid species, Aerangis splendida. Although this year the plant decides to only give me one flower out of the spike, but I still appreciate it. I am guessing next year it will be better. I know it has potential (Aerangis splendida can produce as many as 5 or 6 flowers on one spike).

Aerangis splendida

Aerangis splendida

As with many other white orchids, Aerangis splendida is fragrant at night. To give you some sense of scale, that spur is about 6 inches long. The cool thing is that I can see about half of it is filled with nectar. Seeing the pollinator trying to get to the nectar would be an amazing scene. Unfortunately, the suitor is in Africa, thousands miles away from my home.

Fascination of Orchids

The Fascination of Orchids show is a twice-a-year event in Santa Ana, CA. It used to be only once a year inside the oh-so-fabulous South Coast Plaza. It was huge and extremely crowded with the center orchid display going up to 30-, 40- foot high. Although I never counted, I think it might have close to a hundred vendors selling at the show. But for some reason, Fascination of Orchids changed location. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fire department recommended the relocation due to the fact that it was just immpossibly crowded.

Since the relocation, the show became a meager event, relatively speaking. It is still a good show with maybe 15 or 20 vendors, which is all I need to see anyway. It doesn’t excited me too much to see the same type of plant twenty times at different vendors.

I bought this free-flowering orchid Encyclia garciana from Andy’s Orchids. It had a flower and 3 more new growths. I can’t wait till I see another spike.

Encyclia garciana - photo curtesy of Andy's Orchids

Encyclia garciana – photo curtesy of Andy’s Orchids

I also got some potting medium called Orchiata. According to, “Orchiata is a sustainable orchid growing substrate produced from the finest quality, 100% pure New Zealand Pinus radiata bark. Pinus radiata is sourced from renewable, man made forests ensuring availability into the future.” Besides the green effect, my orchid plants seem to like it quite a bit. Some people mix it with other material, like perlite, since it can get a bit expensive if you just use it straight.

Back to the show, there were about 10 displays in the show area. There weren’t any 30, 40-foot display, but the orchids were beautiful nonetheless.

I was fascinated by an orchid vendor from Japan who sold just Neofinetia falcata. While I don’t understand why some of them are sold for $250 when not in flowers, I still appreciate their beauty. I was told that there are some that go up to $2500. That, I will never understand. But I suppose it’s supply and demand – when someone is willing to part with that amount, then there will be a vendor who will supply it at that price. I also admire the gorgeous pots that Neofinetia falcata is grown in.

Orchid Greenhouse and Garden Tour

While it’s good to learn about orchid growing by talking with fellow orchid lovers, but it’s even better if I can observe their growing areas in action. Things such as how they set up their fan and ventilation, how they manage their humidity, how they position their shade cloth and how they maximize their growing space, would be better understood if I have a visual.  Thanks to Newport Harbor Orchid Society, I had the opportunity to go to three experienced orchid growers’ homes and enjoy their tremendous hospitality during the Orchid Greenhouse and Garden Tour of 2011.

Here are some pictures of some gorgeous orchids.

Here are a couple of things I learned:

1. I can probably be a little more heavy-handed on fertilizer on some of the orchid genera. I tend to be ultra cautious when it comes to fertilizing my orchids, hence not maximizing these plants potential.

2. To provide all-day humidifing, I can connect a large container (such as a trash can size container) with the tray of the humidifier by performing a DIY surgery. The extra water stored in the container will just automatically feed into the humidifier.

3. I really like attached greenhouse. I wouldn’t even need to get out of the house to see my vast (hopefully in the future) orchid collection. Attached greenhouse is not on my wish list for husband to build :-).

4. I can never have too many orchids! 🙂

Newport Harbor Orchid Society

Last week was certainly a very orchidful week. Tuesday was the monthly Newport Harbor Orchid Society meeting. Then the society also had a special annual orchid greenhouse and garden tour, where several members graciously opened up their home and growing areas for other members. Then there was the Fascination of Orchids show in the area during the weekend as well.

With so much to talk about, let’s look at the orchid society meeting first. I haven’t been to many other orchid societies, but this one, Newport Harbor Orchid Society, has to be one of the best. Usually a culture class is offered before the general meeting, with topics variably suitable for novice or experienced growers. But the most outstanding portion of the meeting, at least in my opinion, is the show table. Some of these growers are winners of many orchid awards. There is no short supply of drop-dead gorgeous orchids in every meeting. Here are some of the breathtaking specimens of the September gathering.

In this meeting, we were also fortunate enough to have Tom Biggart, the owner and head grower of Granite Hills Orchids in El Cajon, CA, as our speaker. Tom talked about and showed us some Brazillian orchids. He also supplied some orchids for the raffle table. Unfortunately, I didn’t win any. I supposed I already won my fair share of orchids in the last several meetings (I think I got 7 in 2 months!).

If you have an orchid society close by, I encourage you to check it out. What not to love about gathering with like-minded people, learning about and admiring orchids, and then eating and drinking?


Orchid names

Occasionally I received questions from readers about identifying orchids or making sense out of nonsensical tags. Yesterday I received another such question, which I think would be helpful for some beginner orchid growers.

The reader bought a plant with a tag that says “(Caurantica x Bro Sanuinea)Red”.

Let’s break down the different parts:

“Caurantica” should actually be “C. aurantiaca”. C. is a short form of Cattleya. Cattleya aurantiaca is a species.

“Bro Sanuinea” should actually be “Bro. sanguinea”. Bro. is a short form of Brougtonia. Broughtonia sanguinea is a species.

Notice that I use all lower case for the species names (aurantiaca and sanguinea). That’s the correct way to represent a species.

C. aurantiaca x Bro. sanguinea is an established cross. The name of this cross is Cattleytonia Why Not (notice Why Not is capitalized; that’s the correct way to represent a hybrid).

I think Red at the end of the name is just the vendor’s way to say that the flowers should be red. There’s also a chance that ‘Red’ is a cultivar name. Some growers give their superior orchids a cultivar name to distinguish it from other plants of the same cross. If I were to cross C. aurantiaca and Bro. sanguinea again on my own, my plant’s cultivar would be different from your plant’s. However, the proper way to write cultivar name is within single quotes (as in ‘Red’), and I don’t know of any famous Cattleytonia Why Not with a cultivar of ‘Red’, so I am guessing it’s just the vendor’s way to note that the flowers should be red.

X Cattleytonia Why Not Melinda

Cattleytonia Why Not – Photo curtesy of dogtooth77.

Isn’t orchid naming fun?

Orchid Territory

In August’s meeting at the Newport Habor Orchid Society, we were fortunate to have Dr. Martin Motes and his wife Mary Motes of Motes Orchids as speakers. Dr. Martin Motes is a renowed grower and hybridizer of vanda orchids. So naturally, Motes Orchids in Florida, sells mostly vanda alliance orchids.

Before every orchid society meeting each month, I was always excited about procuring additional orchids, but in August, I actually did not “invest” in orchids. Instead, I bought a novel by Mary Motes, Orchid Territory. Mary spoke a little to introduce her book, and I thought she was so funny that I had to buy the book. If you appreciate dry British humor (or humour) and the “orchid scene”, you would love this book.

Orchid Territory

Orchid Territory

Not to reveal too much, the story is about an established but wheel-chair bouned orchid grower, Charlotte, who invited her nephew, Mark, from England to help out the orchid operations in Florida for a few months. The comedy starts when Charlotte announced to the community that Mark is an orchid expert from Kew in England, even though Mark doesn’t speak a lick of Orchids. And what’s a good novel without a little bit of love story, elbowing and car chase?(actually minus the car chase part.) I hope I am not spilling the beans too much.

Anyway, it’s a light-hearted, easy and funny read. Highly recommended.

Just a side note, Mary Motes is holding the honor of having the most Vanda orchid hybrids named after her.

Brassavola cucullata

I did a rough count of my orchids the other day and found that I have about a 50/50 species to hybrid ratio. For some reason, the species are the ones that are blooming for me recently.

This species, a  Brassavola cucullata orchid, is sending me some love currently. This one is more or less a rescue. I think it had been sitting in the dark (relatively speaking) for a long while, so it barely had any leaves. Then I put it in such an extremely strong and toasty sun that I would personally get 2nd degree burn myself, but the orchid is thriving.

Brassavola cucullata

The solo Brassavola cucullata

Doesn’t it look like an old man with long and flowy beard? I found it interesting that the white lip extends out and becomes yellow, just like the other parts. Like other white/green/pale yellow orchids, Brassavola cucullata is a night-pollinated orchid, and it also sends its fragrance at night. I think it smells somewhat similar to Brassavola nodosa, but maybe not as strong.

Brassavola cucullata close-up

Brassavola nodosa

Brassovola nodosa - Lady of the Night

Brassovola nodosa – Lady of the Night

Since I put it in this current location in my balcony, my little Brassavol nodosa orchid has been blooming non-stop. Aptly nicknamed, the flowers of “Lady of the Night” perfume the air at night to attract pollinators. Quite frankly, its fragrance reminds me of strong chemical cleanser. But I am not its target, the moths are, so my opinion doesn’t really count.

Brassavola nodosa - Lady of the Night close-up

Brassavola nodosa – Lady of the Night close-up

Phalaenopsis bellina

Several orchids jumped into my car at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Fair this year. The event was hosted by Santa Barbara Orchid Estate, but it’s not just an open house. Many vendors from around the world brought orchids with them and sold at this event.

Two of the orchids that followed me home were Phalaenopsis bellina and Phalaenopsis violacea. I have always been attracted to their dreamy colors and divine fragrances. For me, they are not as easy as other Phalaenopsis and I am guilty of killing several of them over the years. But those tragedies certainly didn’t deter me from trying again, especially I believe I finally have the right environment for these “sisters” in the window box at my new place this time.

And I am right, so far everything is good and they are sending out new roots. The violacea is far from blooming size, but the bellina had 4 spikes (yes, count them, 4!) with 3 buds.  However, in my heart I knew that not all the buds would survive. Think about it, if someone yanks me out of my home and puts me in a pitch dark box, flying from Taiwan to California, it wouldn’t be too surprising that I lose a few hair and some spirit. But the cool thing about bellina (and also violacea) is that it blooms from the same spike, so even after all the buds are gone, as long as the spikes are still viable, buds will reemerge. Sure enough, this little guy came out a month later (with another bud following closely).

Phalaenopsis bellina

Phalaenopsis bellina

Since then one of the four spikes turned brown, but hopefully the other two spikes will survive.