Our Winter Garden Blooms

Posted January 19th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Photos

Masdevallia chaparensis, orchid species flower, pleurothallid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMasdevallia chaparensis, orchid species flower, pleurothallid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEpidendrum flowers, orchid flowers and buds, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Cymbidium flowers, orchid hybrid flowers, yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium flowers, orchid hybrid flowers, white pink yellow and red flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium flowers, orchid hybrid flowers, white pink yellow and red flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

For over 30 years, I’ve been living and gardening in California, and I’ve certainly become spoiled by the fact that we can garden year-round here. But I did grow up in New Jersey, and went to college in upstate New York, so I also remember ice cold winters when nothing was growing. Outdoors was mostly brown and gray, or a white blanket of snow. How fortunate I am to be able to enjoy this mild climate instead. In the middle of January, we’re reveling in blooms on a Masdevallia, Epidendrum, Cymbidiums, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, and Laelia.

Arpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, clusters of small purple flowers with long green leaves, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, Giant Hyacinth Orchid, clusters of small purple flowers with long green leaves, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, flower with water drops, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Laelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species flowers and bud, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Of course, we have more than orchids in the garden. The row of photos below shows Fivespots, Nemophila maculata, a California native annual. It’s been a few years since I’ve grown them. On the coast they’re easy to start from seed. The flowers are simple but striking, and boast deep purple spots. I don’t know why some of the blooms have six spots instead of five, but I suppose they can’t count. If you’re enduring a harsh winter, enjoy our winter garden, and take these flowers as a sign of better things to come.

Fivespot, Nemophila maculata, California native, annual flower species, white flowers petals with purple spots and purple veining, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaFivespot, Nemophila maculata, California native, annual flower species, white flower petals with purple spots and purple veining, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaFivespot, Nemophila maculata, California native, annual flower species, white flowers, petals with purple spots and purple veining, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Online Orchid Fever Raises Alarm in Southeast Asia

Posted January 12th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Malaysian researchers are exposing the illegal plant trade on social media. Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar have thousands of native orchid species, many sought out by collectors. There has always been an orchid trade, but online sellers have a wider reach than ever before. Sites like Facebook and eBay are too vast to monitor, and take little action to block illegal sales. This has led to a rapid decline in biodiversity, as plants are irresponsibly stripped from the wild and sold to ignorant or unscrupulous buyers.

To counter the trend, Malaysian orchid lovers have created a new book, Orchids of Penang Hill. Their goal is to inspire locals to protect the area. They’ve also applied for the Penang Hill nature park to be a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Across Southeast Asia, orchids are best protected in national or state parks. The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society has been working with Myanmar’s Forest Department to help save wild plants from the human malady of orchid fever.

The Streaked Rock Orchid: A Tough Mini from Down Under

Posted January 6th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Fertilizing, Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Mini Orchids, Photos

Dendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin red leaves, flower with water drops, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

The Streaked Rock Orchid is a wonderful Australian native. Its strange flowers resemble elaborate birds in flight. Its little, pencil-like leaves turn purplish-red in the sun, making it look like a pointy, colorful hedgehog. In the wild, Dendrobium striolatum lives attached to rocky cliffs in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Our orchid is happily growing outdoors on the Northern California coast.

Dendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flowers, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin red leaves, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin red and green leaves, flower with water drops, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Dendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin red leaves, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flowers with thin red leaves, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin green leaves, flower with spider webs, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

This plant stubbornly refused to flower for the first six years I had it, but has since become a very reliable bloomer. It responds well to doses of compost or worm castings, and receives regular water, good humidity, and strong air movement. Full sun turns its thin leaves a deep purplish-red, ensuring that it’s always a colorful garden denizen, even when not in bloom. This species doesn’t seem to need repotting like most orchids. I rarely repot it unless its unruly mass overflows the flowerpot. In the wild, it’s a lithophyte, growing with its roots clinging to rocks. The species’ name was changed from Dockrillia striolata to Dendrobium striolatum. Fortunately, the common name, Streaked Rock Orchid, remains the same.

Dendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin green and red leaves, flower side view, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with water drops, flower side view, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower with thin green and red leaves, flower viewed from behind, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Dendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flowers and buds, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flowers and buds, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium striolatum, AKA Dockrillia striolata, Australian orchid species flower, Streaked Rock Orchid, miniature orchid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

January Orchid Event

Posted January 1st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

Happy new year! Kudos to New Zealand for smartly managing the pandemic. That’s why I’m listing their show. Please check directly with the phone number on their webpage for the latest updates. I’ve found links for a few other events this month, but they don’t have clear COVID19 precautions, and they’re in areas that don’t have the virus under control, so I’m not listing them.

January 8 – 10
Taranaki Orchid Society 50th Anniversary Show, Highlands School Hall, Coronation Ave., New Plymouth, New Zealand

The Ugliest Orchid in the World

Posted December 27th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the discovery of the ugliest orchid in the world has been big news. The newly identified Madagascan Gastrodia agnicellus has small, brown blooms that look like little pieces of rotting fruit. Like other members of the Gastrodia genus, this species is leafless, and takes its energy from fungi in the forest floor. With their fleshy roots, they’ve earned the nickname “Potato Orchids.”

This homely orchid has received considerably more media attention than many plant discoveries, but the stories failed to report that it was found during a tour sponsored by the Orchid Conservation Alliance (OCA.) The OCA is a wonderful conservation group that deserves your support. Their trips to orchid hot spots like Madagascar have been an important source of their income, but COVID19 has forced them to postpone tours and forego those funds. You can help the OCA by making a donation or becoming a member.

Another Pandemic Solstice

Posted December 21st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos

Renanthera orchid flower, red flower, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensArundina graminifolia, Bamboo Orchid, orchid species flower, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensDendrobium Lucian Pink, orchid hybrid flowers and plants surrounded by other lush green plants, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic Gardens

Papilionanda Andrea Bocelli, Vanda orchid hybrid flower, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensDendrobium orchid hybrid flowers, Den-phals, purple and white flowers, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensArachnis Maggie Oei 'Yellow Ribbon', orchid hybrid flower, HortPark-the Gardening Hub, horticulture park, Singapore

This year’s winter solstice arrives with darkness, cold, and a raging pandemic. I’m certainly ready to be rid of all three. The days will start lengthening tomorrow; if only there were such definite dates for the pandemic. Fortunately, vaccinations are starting. However many months we need to wait for ours, we will gladly get them when they’re available. In the meantime, these magical orchids are a great remedy for the winter blues. Most of these photos are from Dave’s trip to Singapore last year, when he saw Singapore’s National Orchid Garden and HortPark. The final three pictures are from our own California garden. Happy solstice and happy holidays, too.

Papilionanda Ernest Chew, Vanda orchid hybrid flowers, purple flowers, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensDendrobium Stefanie Sun, orchid hybrid flowers, Den-phals, white flowers, Singapore National Orchid Garden located in Singapore Botanic GardensAranthera Anne Black, orchid hybrid flowers, red flowers, , HortPark-the Gardening Hub, horticulture park, Singapore

Cymbidium flowers buds and leaves, orchid hybrid, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium x delicatum, orchid hybrid flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMasdevallia coccinea var. xanthina 'M Wayne Miller' AM/AOS, orchid species flowers, yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Saving Orchids Could Help Keep the Peace in Colombia

Posted December 16th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

The orchid-laden nation of Colombia has suffered a violent past. Colombian scientist Tatiana Arias hopes to use the country’s orchids to help keep the peace. In the last few years, a fragile peace treaty has ended six decades of violence between drug cartels and the government. Now, many rural areas need a reliable source of income. With over 4200 native orchid species, more than any other country, Colombians are rightly proud of their floral heritage. In fact, the national flower is Cattleya trianae. Arias, who earned her doctorate at the University of Missouri, wants to catalog and cultivate orchids to improve peoples’ lives. By turning to ecotourism and horticulture, she hopes to offer a stable economic future. It’s a massive endeavor, and will take years of work by her and many other scientists. Arias has support from the Colombian Orchid Society, and is making progress towards her grand goals.

Secret Garden: Unearthing the Mysteries of Orchids

Posted December 11th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News, Videos

The Nature Conservancy is working with groups like the North American Orchid Conservation Center to better understand and save endangered orchids. They’re studying orchids, their natural environments, their pollinators, their fungal partners, and the threats they face. With over 25,000 orchid species around the world, it’s a formidable task. In fact, there are more orchid species than there are mammal, bird, and reptile species combined. In addition to fascinating orchid tales, the article is adorned with wonderful orchid art. There’s also a great video profile of botanical artist Nirupa Rao, who is based in Bangalore, India. Check out the video below.

The Cultural and Ecological Implications of the Salep Orchid Trade

Posted December 5th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

In Defense of Plants’ podcast explores the salep orchid trade. I’ve blogged before about salep, a traditional drink or dessert made with orchid tubers. It’s popular in Turkey, Greece, around the eastern Mediterranean, and other parts of the Middle East. Orchid tubers are made into flour, which is then turned into hot drinks, cold drinks, and even ice cream. Over 35 kinds of orchids are collected for the flour, including Orchis, Dactylorhiza, and Anacamptis species. Traditional harvesting practices have been sustainable for centuries, but increased commercial production has quickly become unsustainable. To get 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of flour, 2500 wild plants must be dug up. That’s about 13 plants in every cup of salep. As with all complicated problems, the solutions are complex, too. Scientists need to do studies of affected species, and educate the public about collecting wild plants. Existing conservation laws need better enforcement. Fortunately, there’s progress in the artificial cultivation of these orchids to start to take pressure off wild populations.

A Beautiful Laelia Orchid Species

Posted November 29th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Fragrant Orchids, Photos, Problems

Laelia gouldiana, orchid species flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, orchid species flowers, Mexican native orchid, purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, orchid species flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

I love this gorgeous Mexican species, Laelia gouldiana, but our garden pests annoyingly love it, too. The first row of photos above shows happy, uneaten flowers from recent years. In contrast, the three rows of photos below show damaged flowers, the worst from this year, and some milder damage in 2016 and 2018. Whatever chomped through this year’s blooms did so while they were still buds, so they opened looking like Swiss cheese.

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flowers, bug-eaten flowers, Mexican native orchid, purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower bud, bug-eaten flower bud, Mexican native orchid, purple flower bud, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, close up of flower lip, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Generally, my natural pest remedies are remarkably effective at limiting damage. Our garden is a healthy ecosystem full of birds, spiders, raccoons, lizards, and other predators. I use non-toxic chemicals when necessary. However, these flowers seem to get munched more than most. This year, the bugs, or slugs, really did a number on them.

This species is native to the Mexican state of Hidalgo, but sadly is extinct in the wild. Fortunately it survives in cultivation. It’s considered as easy to grow as its close relative Laelia anceps. This cool grower can handle low humidity better than many orchid varieties. Like other members of the Cattleya family, Laelia gouldiana needs to dry out well between waterings, and wants morning sun to grow well. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to keep its blooms intact.

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, close up of flower lip, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California