Giant Hyacinth Orchid

Posted November 26th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Dormancy, Fertilizing, Growing, Photos, Watering

With dense clusters of little purple blooms, this looks like a hyacinth. On closer inspection, however, each flower reveals itself as a tiny, perfect orchid. Known as the Giant Hyacinth Orchid, this has been a very reliable bloomer in our garden, opening in late autumn and continuing for several months into winter.

Arpophyllum giganteum, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

This year’s incredible bloom consists of 30 spikes, each with many dozens of small flowers spiraling upward. I keep this plant outdoors all year. Since our move from San Francisco to Pacifica last winter, it lives in windier and more exposed conditions, but it seems to have adapted pretty well. It did suffer some sunburned leaves during a few hot days in October, when I should have moved it into shade. Despite the damaged leaves, it’s still putting on this great show.

Arpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Giant Hyacinth Orchids are native to cloud forests from southern Mexico through Central America, and down into Venezuela and Colombia. To grow them, give some full sun, regular water, fertilizer, high humidity, and winter dormancy. They can tolerate a wide range of temps, but need cool nights to bloom. Our local Anna’s Hummingbirds love the flowers, and pollinate many of them. The Giant Hyacinth Orchid offers spectacular color for our winter garden.

Close up photo of Arpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaClose up of Arpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, orchid species with small purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Rainforest Alliance

Posted November 21st, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation

The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity, encourage sustainability, halt deforestation, and stop environmental destruction.  With programs in over 100 countries, the Rainforest Alliance takes the approach “that the health of the land is inextricably connected to the wellbeing of those who depend on it for their livelihoods.” To these ends, the group fights climate change, promotes responsible eco-tourism, trains farmers in sustainable practices, and much more. Founded in 1987, and based in New York City, the group may be best known for “Rainforest Alliance Certified” products. These items feature their familiar green frog logo to show they have been harvested in a way to protect biodiversity, and also to protect the rights of local peoples.

By championing rainforests, the group saves the orchids growing within them. To help the Rainforest Alliance in their work, join their community, or make a donation. As a non-profit organization, donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Ghost Orchid Time-Lapse

Posted November 15th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Videos, Warm Growers

Enjoy these two short, time-lapse videos featuring the blooms of rare Ghost Orchids. It’s easy to see why these flowers inspire so much fascination and intrigue.  In the first video, a small flower spike emerges from the roots of this bizarre, leafless orchid species. The growing spike unfurls a perfect Ghost Orchid flower, revealed in full profile. The second video shows a different flower unfurl over 2½ days. Both of these clips are courtesy of Jay Staton Photography.

More Orchids from Foster Botanical Garden

Posted November 10th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Photos, Warm Growers

I’ve already sung the praises of Honolulu’s Foster Botanical Garden on this blog. In addition to posts about Foster’s orchids, including the biggest orchid in the world, and giant Grammatophyllums, here’s another post with more of Dave’s great photos. For readers who are already feeling winter’s chill, I hope these tropical beauties in sunny Hawaii will inspire warm thoughts.

 Miltonia flower, yellow with white and purple flower lip, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiCymbidium flowers hanging on pendant flower spike, red, white, and yellow flowers, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiOncidium hybrid, light yellow, white, and reddish brown flowers, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

These warm growing orchids come in a huge variety of bright colors and fantastic shapes. Many have sweet scents, but unfortunately, no photo can convey those.

Cattleya orchid, purple flowers, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiProsthechea orchid, white flower with purple spots and purple flower lip, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiVanda orchid, close up of purple flower showing flower lip and column with yellow pollen, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Whether it’s Leopard Orchids with spots like a jungle cat, or Philippine Ground Orchids with vibrant hues, these floral jewels are the embodiment of tropical beauty. It’s always worth a visit to Foster Botanical Garden, even if it’s only a virtual one.

Grammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid close up showing flower lip, greenish yellow flower with reddish brown spots and stripes, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiSpathoglottis orchid, white flower with light purple and yellow, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiSpathoglottis orchid, yellow and pink flower, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Dracula Orchid Reserve

Posted November 4th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Cool Growers, In the News

Dracula orchids may have a haunting side, but these fascinating Masdevallia relatives need your help. Newly discovered Dracula species in Ecuador are threatened by deforestation. Conservation groups are attempting to create a new nature sanctuary in northwestern Ecuador, to be named the Dracula Orchid Reserve. Rainforest Trust and Fundación EcoMinga want to save part of the Chocó region, whose coastal rainforest is considered to be one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. “The Chocó is the richest area,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman. “It’s possible that this small reserve of just 650 acres [263 hectares] could hold five percent of all the orchids on Earth.” Many other rare plants, birds, and endangered creatures like the Spectacled Bear also make their homes in this incredible jungle.

You can help Rainforest Trust with donations, which are tax deductible as allowed by law. They even accept Bitcoin donations. Read more about the proposed Dracula Orchid Reserve at the Epoch Times.

November Orchid Shows

Posted October 31st, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

Orchid shows abound in every corner of the planet. All of these events offer great opportunities to enjoy wonderful blooms, take pictures, talk to experts, and buy plants for your orchid collection.

November 1
Orchid Society of Great Britain Autumn Show, Wraysbury Village Hall, The Green, Wraysbury, Staines, UK
November 1
Jamaica Orchid Society Meeting & Awards Judging, Jamaica Horticultural Society Building, JHS Showgrounds, Gibson Dr., Hope Pastures, Kingston 6, Jamaica
November 1 – 2
Santa Cruz Orchid Society Show & Sale, Soquel High School, 401 Old San Jose Rd., Soquel, California
November 1 – 2
Kansas Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale, Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, 701 Amidon St., Wichita, Kansas
November 1 – 2
Utah Orchid Society Fall Show, Red Butte Gardens, 303 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah
November 1 – 2
Essex County Orchid Society Show & Sale, Colasanti’s Tropical Gardens, 1550 Road 3 E. Ruthven, Kingsville, Ontario, Canada
November 1 – 2
North Shore Orchid Society Show, St. Anne’s Hall, Beach & Glencoe Rds., Browns Bay, New Zealand
November 1 – 2
North Moreton Queensland Orchid Council Show, Brisbane Botanic Gardens Auditorium, Mt. Coot-Tha Rd., Toowong, Queensland, Australia
November 1 – 2
Stawell Orchid Society Summer Show, Centenary Hall, Main St., Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia
November 1 – 2
Tweed District Orchid Society Show, Tweed Diamond Jubilee Spectacular, Brett St., Tweed Heads South, NSW, Australia

Read the rest of this post »

Haunting Orchids

Posted October 27th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Misc, Photos

Boo! There are orchids for every occasion, even Halloween. Here are some spooky orchids to haunt you, if you’re not too scared to go further…

Ghost Orchids (first photo)
The famous stars of The Orchid Thief earn a phantasmic name from their weird white blooms. Since these strange plants are leafless, the flowers seem to emerge from nowhere, and hover in the air like bizarre, ghostly apparitions.

Dracula Orchids (second photo)
These orchids hang upside down like bats, wear monkey masks, and smell like musty fungus. In the photo below, the black flower of Dracula vampira leaves a biting impression.

Spider Orchids (third photo)
Spider Orchids, or Brassias, don’t have eight legs, but their long petals help make them great arachnid mimics. They’re good enough to convince spider-hunting wasps to attack. It’s a freaky, sneaky way of tricking the wasps into pollinating them.

Ghost Orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, shown at Orchid Society of NW Pennsylvania Show, Erie, PA, Spring 2010Dracula vampira ‘Walter’ x sib, orchid species with black flowers, Orchids in the Park, San Francisco, 2013Brassia flower, Spider Orchid, at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Big Island, 2012

Bulbophyllums (fourth and fifth photos)
Some Bulbophyllum flowers stink like rotting meat. Others foul the air with a scent which smells like something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe. They’re beautiful blooms with foul fragrances.

Laelia anceps (sixth photo)
This native Mexican species traditionally decorates graves on the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. Would you like these haunting orchids on your tombstone?

Bulbophyllum echinolabium (‘Golden Gate’ x self), orchid species, shown at Orchids in the Park 2011, San FranciscoBulbophyllum graveolens, orchid species, shown at Orchid Society of NW Pennsylvania Show, Erie, PA, Spring 2010Laelia anceps, orchid species, grown outdoors in San Francisco, California, traditonally placed on graves on the Day of the Dead in Mexico

Find more spooky orchids at Smithsonian Gardens. Happy Halloween!

Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Posted October 22nd, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, General Gardening, Photos

Would you visit a garden in a volcanic crater?  We did!  Koko Crater Botanical Garden in Honolulu is a remarkable desert paradise. It sits in an extinct volcanic crater on the southeast corner of Oahu, near its larger, more famous neighbor, Diamond Head. It’s too dry for orchids at Koko, but there’s plenty of tropical desert beauty. These tough plants feature architectural shapes, brilliant flower colors, and pointed defenses. A few spiky cactus photos start this Koko tour.

Golden Barrel Cactus and other cacti, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiTall White Cactus, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiContorted Cactus, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

This blooming crater is part of Honolulu Botanical Gardens. It’s a public park with free admission, open daily from sunrise to sunset. Visitors can hike a 2 mile (3.2 km) loop trail through 60 acres (24 hectares) of desert plants (bring water for the walk!) The hot, dry regions of Africa, Madagascar, the Americas, and, of course, Hawaii are featured in different sections. Other collections include Koko’s huge plumeria trees, which sport more colors of of these flowers than I’ve ever seen.

Pink and yellow Plumeria hybrid, Frangipani, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiPink Plumeria, Frangipani, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiPink, white, and yellow Plumeria, Frangipani, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Many of the garden’s plants are rare and facing extinction, like two endangered Hawaiian species in the next row of photos: a red hibiscus from Kauai, and a fascinating wiliwili tree in bloom. The endangered Dragon’s Blood Tree in the third photo is native to a few islands in the Indian Ocean.

Hibiscus newhousei native to Kauai, Hawaiian endemic, Koki'o 'ula, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiWiliwili flowers, Erythrina sandwicensis, Hawaiian native endemic, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiDragon's Blood Tree, Dracaena cinnabari, native to the Socotra archipelago in the Indian Ocean, growing at the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Koko is a great showcase for interesting, low-water garden options. Of course, many of these tough desert plants need more sun and warmer temps than we can provide on the Northern California coast, but others are hardy enough to survive outside the tropics. There are always lots of gardening options, even in California’s current drought emergency. Just look to Koko Crater Botanical Garden for inspiration.

Cactus flower, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiYellow flower of Uncarina peltata, native to Madagascar, growing at Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiStapelia, Carrion Flower, African Starfish Flower, Koko Crater Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

New Orchid Named for Jane Goodall

Posted October 15th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books, Conservation, Fragrant Orchids, In the News

A newly discovered Dendrobium species has been named to honor Jane Goodall. In recognition of her extraordinary contributions to nature conservation and animal welfare, Dutch scientists dubbed the new orchid Dendrobium goodallianum. The new species is native to New Guinea. Its flowers last only one day, and they smell like coconut.

New orchid species are discovered often, and the discoverer gets naming rights. This isn’t the first time Dame Goodall has been honored with an orchid. In 2004, a Spathoglottis hybrid was named in her honor as Spathoglottis Jane Goodall. She is a leading naturalist, author, and the world’s top expert on chimpanzees. In her new book, Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants, Goodall explores the glories of plants, and explains why healthy trees and plants are essential for the planet’s health.

Grammatophyllum Orchids

Posted October 9th, 2014 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Photos, Warm Growers

Grammatophyllum orchids make a big impression. These large beauties are native to hot, steamy jungles in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Dave and I have seen them in Hawaii before, but never in bloom until our recent visit to Foster Botanical Garden in Honolulu. We not saw only one, but three different Grammatophyllum varieties flowering at Foster. I’ve already blogged about the first one, the Tiger Orchid, which is the largest orchid in the world. Here are the other two we saw — not as big, but no less splendid in their tropical grandeur. The first one is the Leopard Orchid, Grammatophyllum scriptum, named for its spotted flowers.

Grammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species, in flower at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species, flower close up at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species flowers at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Grammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species flower with water drops at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species flowers at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum, Leopard Orchid, orchid species, flower close up at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Leopard Orchids are smaller than their Tiger Orchid relatives, but they can still take lots of space, especially with their tall flower spikes. The photos for the second variety below show the same species as above, but this cultivar has greenish yellow blossoms instead. If you look closely, you can see the faint outlines of the leopard spot patterns. For good measure, there’s one more photo of the Tiger Orchid at the end, so all three types are in the same post.

To grow Grammatophyllums, give them lots of full sun, warm temps, regular waterings, regular fertilizer, and high humidity. Besides being known for the size, Grammatophyllums are also known for their stubbornness. Most bloom only once every two or three years. So, if you have lots of space and patience, Grammatophyllums may be the orchids for you.

Grammatophyllum scriptum ‘Hihimanu’, Leopard Orchid, orchid species with greenish yellow flowers, in bloom at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum ‘Hihimanu’, Leopard Orchid, orchid species with greenish yellow flowers, in bloom at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum ‘Hihimanu’, Leopard Orchid, side view of flower, orchid species with greenish yellow flowers, in bloom at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

Grammatophyllum scriptum ‘Hihimanu’, Leopard Orchid, orchid species with greenish yellow flowers, in bloom at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum scriptum ‘Hihimanu’, Leopard Orchid, orchid species seedpod with old flower attached, at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiGrammatophyllum speciosum, Tiger Orchid, orchid species, in flower at Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii