New Species of Vanilla Discovered

Posted November 26th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, In the News, Warm Growers

A new species of vanilla orchid has been discovered in the Amazon. Vanilla denshikoira appears to be closely related to the Vanilla planifolia we all love to eat. The new species was recently found in the northwest Amazon in Colombia, within the Guyana Shield, one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. Only two plants are known to exist, so it’s listed as critically endangered. Since vanilla is such an important crop, this find may be a helpful source of genetic diversity to add to the existing stock.

The Sweet Scent of Brassavola Orchids

Posted November 21st, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Dormancy, Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Photos, Warm Growers, Watering

Brassavola nodosa, orchid species flowers, fragrant white flowers, Lady-of-the-night orchid, Orquídea dama de noche, Orchids in the Park 2010, San Francisco, CaliforniaBrassavola nodosa 'Susan Fuchs' FCC/AOS, orchid species flower, fragrant white flower, Lady-of-the-night orchid, Orquídea dama de noche, Orchids in the Park 2017, San Francisco, CaliforniaBrassavola nodosa, orchid species flowers, fragrant white flowers, Lady-of-the-night orchid, Orquídea dama de noche, Pacific Orchid Expo 2006, San Francisco, California

Brassavola orchids feature showy, durable, fragrant flowers. These Cattleya relatives have white or greenish-yellow blooms which emit a strong, sweet fragrance at night. The most popular in cultivation is Brassavola nodosa, shown in the first row of photos above. It’s an easy species to grow. Native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, its nocturnal perfume inspires the Spanish nickname orquídea dama de noche, or lady of the night orchid.

Brassavola cucullata, daddy long-legs orchid, orchid species flower, fragrant white flower, Orchids in the Park 2017, San Francisco, CaliforniaRhyncholaelia digbyana, AKA Brassavola digbyana, orchid species flower, fragrant flower with fringed flower lip, national flower of Honduras, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, CaliforniaBrassavola perrinii, orchid species flowers, fragrant white and yellow flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

Brassavolas can handle warm, dry conditions better than many orchids. They need standard Cattleya care, with some full sun, good humidity and air movement, time to dry out between waterings, and winter dormancy. Their terete, or pencil-shaped, leaves are efficient at storing water, and can handle bright light. They are often grown on mounts, or in clay pots with large bark, to allow them to dry quickly.

Brassavola acaulis, orchid species flowers and leaves, terete or pencil-shaped leaves, fragrant white flowers, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaBrassavola acaulis, orchid species flowers, fragrant white flowers, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaBrassavola David Sander, orchid hybrid flower, fragrant white and pink flower with fringed flower lip, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Brassavolas are part of the lineage of many Cattleya hybrids. They have contributed their toughness, fragrance, elaborate fringed lips, or long, narrow petals to their descendants. Plants with names like Brassolaeliocattleya (abbreviated Blc.) and Brassocattleya (abbreviated Bc.) owe the “Brasso-” to this genus. A couple of these species used to be Brassavolas until they were renamed as Rhyncholaelias, but old appellations often persist in hybrid names.

Rhyncholaelia glauca, AKA Brassavola glauca, orchid species flower, fragrant white flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2013, San Francisco, CaliforniaBrassavola leaves growing on tree trunk at Foster Botanical Garden, terete or pencil-shaped leaves, epiphyte or air plant, Honolulu, Oahu, HawaiiBrassavola orchid growing on underside of tree branch on Pacific Ocean beach, leaves and roots, terete or pencil-shaped leaves, epiphyte or air plant, Quepos, Costa Rica

The final photo in this post shows just how tough these plants are. It’s a Brassavola growing on the underside of a tree branch on a beach in Costa Rica, only a few yards (a few meters) from the Pacific’s waves. In brutal tropical heat, and doused with salt spray, there were many other Brassavolas nearby, obviously happy despite the tough conditions.

Smoky Orchids

Posted November 15th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Growing Orchids in San Francisco, In the News, Misc, Problems

Bad wildfires have brought terribly smoky conditions to the San Francisco Bay Area for the past week. Of course, this is nothing compared to the suffering of those who have lost homes and loved ones in the fires, which are over 150 miles (241 km) away. However, it is causing bad air problems. Our daily pollution readings are in the red and purple hazardous zones, which is a big change from our typically good air quality. I’ve lived here for almost 30 years, and endured smoky days before, but this is the worst I can remember.

How does the smoke affect my orchids? It probably won’t kill any of the plants, but it may harm them. Mostly, it’s a battle with dry air resulting from the same offshore wind flow which carries the pollution here. At a time when many orchids are entering winter dormancy, I need to keep spraying them to increase humidity. Bad air quality may cause growth or flowering problems. Some orchids like Cattleyas can suffer “bud blast” from smoke. That’s when flower buds start to form, but then wilt before blooming. I do have a Laelia living outside which has some sad looking buds, so that could be from the smoke. Other problems, like low flower counts or weak leaf growth, may take weeks or months to appear. There’s not much I can do but try to mitigate any damage with clean water and good humidity. For myself, I’m wearing an N95 face mask for fine particulate matter whenever I’m outdoors in my garden. And I’m waiting for the winds to change, and the fires to be put out, so we can breathe again.

Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens

Posted November 8th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, General Gardening, Photos

Shureimon, Patio de los Recuerdos, red gate, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaKoi, large goldfish swimming in Koi pond, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaCherry blossoms, sakura, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, Argentina

Buenos Aires is home to an extraordinary Japanese garden. El Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires is one of the largest Japanese gardens outside Japan. It’s located within walking distance of Buenos Aires Botanical Garden. During our visit, the venue was busy with tourists, locals, and groups of school children. It is obviously a much-loved green space in the city.

Cormorant flapping wings while standing on rock in koi pond, bird, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaRed Tori gate on island, koi lagoon, curved bridge, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaRose flowers, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, Argentina

Rhododendron flowers, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaView of stone lantern, koi lagoon, trees and bridges, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaPurple iris flowers planted near koi lagoon, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, Argentina

The gardens include many traditional elements, with Japanese gates and bridges, a large koi lagoon, sculpted trees, stone lanterns, and an elegant tea house. While we were there, we enjoyed lots of colorful spring blooms, including cherry blossoms. We didn’t see any orchids on the grounds, but we did find Moth Orchids for sale in the nursery, along with bonsai, succulents, and garden plants.

Callistemon, Bottle Brush Tree flowers, red flowers, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaSculpted trees and their shadows, pruned trees, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, ArgentinaMoth Orchid flowers in gift shop, Phalaenopsis, Phal, Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens, Jardín Japonés de Buenos Aires, Parque Tres de Febrero, Palermo neighborhood, Argentina

The gardens also serve as a center of Japanese culture in Argentina, and feature events with martial arts, flower arranging, origami, manga, anime, and more. Find additional info at the Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens website (in Spanish.) And don’t miss this wonderful site if you’re in Buenos Aires.

November Orchid Shows

Posted November 1st, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

Orchid shows are great chances to enjoy incredible flowers, connect with your local orchid society, talk to experts, and buy plants. Don’t miss these valuable opportunities.

November 1 – 4
Exposition et Vente d’Orchidées, Chateau de Vascoeuil, 8 rue Jules Michelet, Vascoeuil, France
November 2 – 3
Sapphire Coast Orchid Club Native Show, Twyford Hall, Market St., Merimbula, NSW, Australia
November 2 – 3
Nambour Orchid Society Species Show, Uniting Church Hall, Coronation Ave., Nambour, Queensland, Australia
November 2 – 4
Massachusetts Orchid Society Show & Sale, Sons of Italy, 117 Swanton Rd., Winchester, Massachusetts
November 2 – 4
British Orchid Show and Congress, Writhlington School, Knobsbury Ln., Radstock, UK
November 2 – 4
Expo-Vente Internationale d’Orchidées, Grande Halle de L’Union, Rue du Somport, L’Union, France
November 3
Hawke’s Bay Orchid Society Sarcochilus Show, Taradale Town Hall, 8 Meeanee Rd., Napier, New Zealand
November 3 – 4
Northwest Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale, Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. NW, Seattle, Washington
November 3 – 4
Utah Orchid Society Show, Red Butte Gardens, 303 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah
November 3 – 4
Kansas Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale, Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, 701 Amidon St., Wichita, Kansas

Read the rest of this post »

Buenos Aires Botanical Garden

Posted October 28th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, General Gardening, Photos

Glasshouse, invernáculo, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaAlbizia flowers, Silk Tree, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaIris pseudacorus, yellow flower, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Recently, Dave had a work trip to Buenos Aires, and I was able to come along. Of course, the Buenos Aires Botanical Garden was quickly put on our itinerary. The garden’s full name in Spanish is Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.

Water lily pond, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaStrelitzia reginae, Bird of Paradise flower, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaBrunfelsia australis, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, Paraguay Jasmine, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Caesalpinia gilliesii, barba de chivo, bird of paradise bush, desert bird of paradise, bird of paradise shrub, Erythrostemon gilliesii, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaIndicador Meteorológico, Meteorological column, Columna Meteorológica, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaEdificio Central, building with Argentine flag, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Founded in 1898, it covers 21 acres (7 hectares) in the bustling city’s Palermo neighborhood. There are sections in Roman and French styles, and areas for plants indigenous to Argentina, and each of the continents. Five greenhouses and lots of statues, sculptures, streams, and waterfalls mean there’s plenty to find around every pathway.

Glasshouse, invernáculo, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaGlasshouse interior, invernáculo, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaGlasshouse, invernáculo, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Unfortunately, the glasshouses were closed on the day we visited. We didn’t see orchids inside the tropical plant house, but there were many other tropical wonders (photo tip: you can often take nice pictures of plants inside by putting your camera up to the glass.) If you’re lucky enough to be in beautiful Buenos Aires, don’t miss Buenos Aires Botanical Garden. Check back soon for more photos from Argentina, including a wonderful Japanese garden.

Join the American Orchid Society

Posted October 22nd, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Misc

Orchid lovers have more reasons than ever to join the American Orchid Society (AOS.) Of course, there’s the great monthly Orchids magazine with gorgeous photos and superb care advice that comes with membership. But now, the AOS has also greatly expanded their online resources. All of their old magazines, going back to 1932, are now online and searchable. In addition to this wealth of information, there are monthly orchid care webinars run by experts to answer your questions. Plus, your membership means that you’ll be supporting the AOS’ many essential orchid conservation measures. Find all this and much more when you join the AOS.

Orchids Are in Peril

Posted October 16th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Check out a colorful infographic explaining how taking plants from the wild endangers orchid survival. Many rare species are openly sold online despite conservation laws. But with limited resources, almost no money is spent to stop it. That same topic is being addressed in light of a recent London conference on the illegal wildlife trade, which didn’t even have endangered plants on its agenda. With so many urgent conservation priorities, even the prettiest orchid can’t compete with a cute panda or koala. Researchers need to study the illegal trade to best understand how to combat it. Convincing people to take plants more seriously will have to be part of the process.

A Great, Big Spider Orchid

Posted October 13th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Intermediate Growers, Photos

I don’t mind having a big spider in our home, as long as it’s a Spider Orchid. Also known as a Brassia, this Spider Orchid has very large flowers, over 14 inches (36 cm) tall! Its long petals certainly create a spidery impression.

Brassia hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia hybrid flower, Spider Orchid, close-up of large flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

This plant was a great buy at a local grocery store a couple years ago for about $12. At first, its flowers were about 11 inches (28 cm) tall. Over successive blooms, they’ve grown slightly larger each time. It’s reliably flowered twice a year, and it stays in bloom for two months or more. It has a sweet, spicy scent.

Brassia hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid hybrid flower, Spider Orchid, close-up of large flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Brassia orchid hybrid flower, Spider Orchid, close-up of large flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Brassias mimic spiders to attract pollinators. In the wild, spider-hunting wasps are taken in by the ruse, and attack the flowers. In the process of their assault, they pick up or drop off pollen. It’s certainly one of the strangest pollination strategies I’ve ever heard of. To learn more about these fascinating plants, check out my previous post about Brassias.

The Century-Long Scientific Journey of the Affordable Grocery Store Orchid

Posted October 6th, 2018 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Atlas Obscura delves into a century of scientific advances which brought tropical orchids to your local grocery store. At the start of the 1900’s, growers began to unravel the secrets of how to germinate orchid seed, such as the essential role of fungi. Biologists started to clone orchids in the 1950’s, which would transform the industry in coming years. By the 1970’s, Dutch and American researchers were discovering that Moth Orchids made the perfect houseplants. Decades of continuing progress in hybridizing and science have helped bring down prices, and made Moth Orchids the most popular potted plants in the USA.