Singapore’s Supertrees Take Gardening to Great Heights

Posted May 7th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos, Warm Growers

Vanda hybrid orchid flowers blooming on a Supertree, vertical gardens, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeSupertrees, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest glasshouses, lush green growth, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeSupertrees in foreground and Marina Bays Sands Hotel in background, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, Singapore

Supertrees and raised pedestrian Skyway, Supertree Grove, vertical gardens, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeRenanthera orchids with red flowers, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, Supertree, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeGrammatophyllum orchid flowers, vertical gardens, Supertree, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, Singapore

When Dave visited Singapore last year, he found lots of green spaces filled with lush, tropical beauty. The nature park at Gardens by the Bay was one extraordinary example, with plants on the ground, and also up in the air on Supertrees. As epiphytes, or air plants, orchids are well-suited for living up high. Many hang in these vertical gardens.

Vanda orchid flowers growing with bromeliads on a Supertree, vertical gardens, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeLarge blooming Vanda orchids growing at base of a Supertree, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeLarge blooming Vanda orchids growing at base of a Supertree, bromeliads, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, Marina Bay Sands Hotel in background, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, Singapore

Orchids and bromeliads and other epiphytes growing on Supertrees, 3 supertrees viewed from below, vertical gardens, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeLarge blooming Vanda orchids growing at base of a Supertree, bromeliads, artificial tree, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, Marina Bay Sands Hotel in background, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeOrchids and bromeliads ferns and other epiphytes growing on Supertree, supertree viewed from below, artificial tree, vertical gardens, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, Singapore

Located within Gardens by the Bay, the Supertrees are human-made tree replicas, and they exemplify how dazzling orchids can be in vertical gardens. Of course, it helps to have a tropical climate like Singapore, with warm temps, plentiful rainfall, and strong light. These trees are full of sun-lovers like Vanda, Cattleya, Grammatophyllum, and Renanthera orchids. But even temperate climates can have vertical gardens which include intermediate growers or cool growers. In more shaded conditions, Moth Orchids and Lady Slippers can thrive on vertical displays. Their exotic blooms delight, and contribute a rainbow of colors to green walls. As the vertical garden trend continues to grow, expect to see more orchids hanging around, like they do in Singapore.

Renanthera orchids with red flowers, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, Supertree, artificial tree, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeLarge blooming Vanda orchids growing at base of a Supertree, bromeliads, artificial tree, vertical gardens, lush green tropical growth, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, SingaporeOrchids bromeliads ferns and other epiphytes growing on Supertrees, artificial trees, vertical gardens, Skyway, elevated walkway, City in a Garden, Gardens by the Bay Nature Park, Singapore

Still No Orchid Shows

Posted May 1st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc

As we begin May, I’ll repeat that if any orchid shows are still happening, you shouldn’t go. I don’t know when big public events will be safe, but it’s still too soon. COVID19 is not contained, and the risks are too great. Orchid shows can wait.

So what to do in the meantime? There’s certainly plenty online. AboutOrchids.com has years of blog posts with helpful info and fantastic photos, and there are countless other sites to explore. Do you want to connect with other orchid lovers? Join your local orchid society. Most have regular newsletters. Their in-person meetings are being replaced by virtual ones, for now. How about a little shopping? Many orchid vendors are suffering financially, since shows represent a large portion of their business. Order plants online, or give them a call. They will appreciate your support, and you’ll appreciate your new orchids. Do you belong to the American Orchid Society? Even if you’re not a member, they offer substantial online resources. Joining entitles you to even more, including their superb monthly Orchids magazine. Be well, and enjoy the flowers.

Our Spring Garden

Posted April 27th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, General Gardening, Photos

Zygopetalum BG White 'Stonehurst', Zygo, orchid hybrid flowers, fragrant flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaSarcochilus hartmanii, Large Boulder Orchid, Cliff Orchid, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium tracyanum, orchid species flowers, fragrant flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Our spring garden is racing along and full of flowers. The winter rains were light, but it was apparently enough to make things burst into growth. The photos begin with a few outdoor orchids in the first row. There’s my favorite fragrant Zygo, a vigorous Australian Sarcochilus, and a stunning Cymbidium species, all thriving in our back garden.

The next two rows of photos are all native plants. California Poppies offer a brilliant orange counterpoint to the blooms of Blue-Eyed Grass, yellow and white Tidy Tips, rich blue Ceanothus, and little white Erigeron.

Eschscholzia californica, California poppy, orange flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaSisyrinchium 'Quaint and Queer', Blue Eyed Grass, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaTidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, yellow and white flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, yellow and white flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCeanothus, California Lilac, blue flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaErigeron daisy, Fleabane, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Our front yard is mostly succulents and other low water plants. Many have elegant, geometric leaf shapes. Their colorful flowers make them even more striking. Certainly the bees and hummingbirds love it all, and we’ve received lots of compliments from our neighbors. Now that Dave and I have lived in Pacifica for six years, our gardens have matured, and provide homes for a lot of life.

Calandrinia spectabilis, Rock Purslane, succulent species flower, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaAloe plicatilis, succulent plant in bloom, aloe species that grows in fan shape, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaSpanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Ajuga, Bugleweed, pink flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaVariegated succulent with flower buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaViola plant with flowers, pansy, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Paul Sterry Finds Rare, Fragile Ghost Orchids

Posted April 21st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Cool Growers, In the News

Photographer and conservationist Paul Sterry saw a Ghost Orchid in 1986. Thirty-three years later, in 2019, he found another. His remarkable photos reveal a flower that very few people see in real life: the Ghost Orchid, or Epipogium aphyllum. (Even though it shares a common name, it’s different than the famous Florida Ghost Orchid in the bestseller The Orchid Thief.)

Native to a large range throughout Europe and northern Asia, this phantasm of temperate forests is rare and endangered. Ghost Orchids lack chlorophyll, and feed off fungi. They grow underground except for infrequent and unpredictable flowers. Some enthusiasts spend their whole lives looking, but never find one.  The 2019 sighting took place in a remote Romanian forest, where Sterry was able to photograph Ghost Orchids. He’s learned how they need undisturbed, untrampled leaf litter to survive. The very act of searching for them may destroy these rare phantoms, although Sterry and his Romanian botanist guide were careful not to do so.

For more, check out this National Geographic article, “The Rarest Plant in Britain Makes a Ghostly Appearance.”

Lovely Orchid Lips

Posted April 16th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc, Photos

Paraphalaenopsis labukensis, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Orchids in the Park 2019, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCyrtochilum macranthum, AKA Oncidium macranthum, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaDracula vampira 'Walter' x sib, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Phragmipedium flower, Phrag, Lady Slipper orchid, close up of flower lip, labellum, pouch, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaRhyncholaelia digbyana, AKA Brassavola digbyana, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, fringed flower lip, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaEpidendrum pseudepidendrum, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, green pink and yellow flower, grown indoors in San Francisco, California

Orchids have lovely lips. The lip, or labellum, is one of the defining parts of an orchid flower. This modified petal can be the most elaborate part of the bloom. It may be a landing pad, or even a temporary trap, for pollinating insects. It’s usually at the bottom of the flower, but since orchids like to break rules, it’s sometimes at the top, as in certain varieties of Epidendrum, Encyclia, and Cycnoches.

Cattleya orchid hybrid flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, purple flower with yellow lip, Pacific Orchid Expo 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhalaenopsis orchid hybrid flower, Phal, Moth Orchid, close up of flower lip, labellum, purple flower with yellow lip, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UKCoelogyne orchid flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Orchids in the Park 2019, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Stanhopea orchid flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UKCycnoches barthiorum, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaTrichopilia suavis, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

It’s not possible to illustrate the ridiculous diversity of orchid lips with only 15 photos, but I’ve tried to capture a wide range. Some not included here feature striking colors, like Miltoniopsis, or bizarre forms, like Bulbophyllums. All these structures may be fascinating to us, but they’re meant for insect or avian pollinators. Each lip is part of an ingenious lure that’s evolved to attract a specific bug or bird with colors, patterns, shapes, and fragrances. The fact that orchid lips have also drawn in lots of humans has been a happy accident.

Encyclia orchid, close up of flower lip, labellum, striped flower lip, Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, MexicoPaphiopedilum orchid, Paph, Lady Slipper, close up of flower lip, labellum, pouch, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaHabenaria medusa, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, labellum, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

The Orchid Paintings of Glasnevin

Posted April 10th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Misc, QuickPost

Even if you can’t visit Ireland to see the remarkable orchid paintings of Glasnevin, you can still enjoy some of them online. Located in Dublin, the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin holds over 2,500 orchid works. Most depict the garden’s own orchids, and were done by two skilled botanical artists, Lydia Shackleton and Alice Jacob. Contact the garden to see more of the collection than is shown in the online exhibition.

Happy 150th Birthday to Golden Gate Park

Posted April 4th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, In the News, Misc, Photos

Bulbophyllum flowers, orchid flowers, unusual flowers, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaFlower clock and Conservatory of Flowers, palm trees, Victorian glasshouse, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDahlia flower, pom-pom dahlia, purple and white flower, Dahlia Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

x Chiranthomontodendron lenzii, Hybrid monkey's hand tree, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPrickly Pear cactus with lots of fruit, Opuntia, Succulent Garden, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBromeliad in bloom, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
Happy birthday, Golden Gate Park! It’s one of the most famous parks in the world, and it’s turning 150 years old. Formerly barren sand dunes, it’s now full of plants, animals, museums, statues, hiking trails, lakes, and meadows. It’s one of our favorite destinations. (Of course, much of it is shut down because of the COVID19 pandemic, so the birthday celebrations have turned virtual.) The annual Pacific Orchid Expo and Orchids in the Park events occur at the Hall of Flowers in Strybing Arboretum, all within the park. There are orchids to be found year-round in the wondrous Conservatory of Flowers, and also in the rainforest exhibit at the esteemed California Academy of Sciences. They’re all part of 1,017 green acres (412 hectares) that stretch from the middle of San Francisco to the waves of the Pacific.

Blue Morpho Butterfly, rainforest exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaStrawberry poison dart-frog, Oophaga pumilio, bright red and blue frog, blue jeans color morph, rainforest exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMurphy Windmill, San Francisco Designated Landmark, western edge of Golden Gate Park near the ocean, San Francisco, California

Leucospermum Scarlet Ribbon, pincushion flower, large flower, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaRed-shouldered Hawk bathing in pond, Buteo lineatus, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTree Fern Dell, multiple tree ferns, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

There’s so much to the park than it’s only possible to list big highlights, like the de Young Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, antique carousel, Stow Lake paddleboats, Buffalo Paddock, Rose Garden, Fuchsia Dell, Dahlia Garden, Redwood Grove, AIDS Memorial Grove, and so much more. Whether it’s poison-dart frogs or Dutch windmills, the park has them. (Don’t worry, the poison-dart frogs live indoors at the California Academy of Sciences rainforest exhibit.)

Pond surrounded by trees and other plants, red Japanese maple, Japanese stone lanterns, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, yellow and white flowers, California native species, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaAloe polyphylla, Spiral Aloe, Succulent Garden, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Below is a list of my past posts regarding the park. This doesn’t include any of the orchid shows, and I’m sure I’ve accidentally missed some others, but there’s plenty here to enjoy a virtual tour. Also check out this fascinating article by Curbed SF with “150 things you didn’t know about Golden Gate Park for its 150th anniversary.”

April Orchid Events Are Cancelled

Posted April 1st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events, Videos

For many years, I’ve done my best each month to assemble listings for orchid events around the world. This month, sadly, I need to say that if there are any shows, auctions, or conferences still happening, you shouldn’t go. Shelter at home to help stop the spread of COVID19. Use the time to care for your plants and connect virtually with other orchid lovers. Visit AboutOrchids.com for pretty pictures and as a break from bad news. I don’t know when we’ll be able to revel in the magic of orchid shows again, but right now the priority is to protect lives. There are already many orchid resources, and people are creating ideas for orchid lovers to connect virtually. For example, there’s a call to make April 4th a “Global Virtual Orchid Show” with the hashtag #GVOS2020. Everybody can post a photo of one of their orchids in bloom across all social media. I’ve also seen the hashtag #VirtualOrchidShow being used.

And for a lovely slice of paradise, enjoy this guided video tour of the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show. Unfortunately, this exhibit had to shut down early, but you can safely immerse yourself in glasshouses full of amazing orchids in the video below.

The Delights of Orchids Indoors

Posted March 29th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Intermediate Growers, Mini Orchids, Photos, Warm Growers

Mexicoa ghiesbreghtiana, AKA Oncidium ghiesbreghtianum, orchid species flower, bright yellow and reddish-brown flower, fragrant flower, Mexican orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMexicoa ghiesbreghtiana, AKA Oncidium ghiesbreghtianum, orchid species flower, bright yellow and reddish-brown flower, fragrant flower, Mexican orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMexicoa ghiesbreghtiana, AKA Oncidium ghiesbreghtianum, orchid species flower, bright yellow and reddish-brown flower, fragrant flower, Mexican orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

As we continue to shelter at home, it really helps to be surrounded by our indoor orchids. A few of my plants have been putting on great spring shows. The Mexicoa species in the first row of photos above has already been blooming for two months. Now, it’s put out five new spikes of brilliant yellow flowers. They have a great lemony scent.

Maxillaria tenuifolia, Coconut Orchid, orchid species flower, fragrant flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMaxillaria tenuifolia, Coconut Orchid, orchid species flower, fragrant flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMaxillaria tenuifolia, Coconut Orchid, orchid species flower, fragrant flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

The Coconut Orchid, in the row of photos above, smells like coconut cream pie. I’ve had this same plant since 2003. This year, it’s sporting dozens of flowers. It’s a delightfully easy grower and reliable bloomer.

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, Brazilian orchid, miniature orchid, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, Brazilian orchid, miniature orchid, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers, Brazilian orchid, miniature orchid, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

The Leptotes species in the third row of photos is not like the other orchids in this post. It’s a mini, it’s not fragrant, and it needs warmer temps than the rest, which are intermediate growers. I just bought it in bud at the recent Pacific Orchid Expo, and kept it happy enough that it bloomed a couple weeks later.

Brassia orchid, orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid, orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBrassia orchid, orchid hybrid flowers, Spider Orchid, large flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

In the final row of photos, this aptly named Spider Orchid is a prolific bloomer. These big flowers, as tall as 15 inches (38 cm,) have a spicy fragrance. This hybrid was a great buy at a local grocery store a few years ago. It puts out enormous, long-lasting blossoms twice a year. They’re truly a joy.

A Brief History of China’s Wild Cymbidium Trade

Posted March 24th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

The IUCN Orchid Specialist Group reports on the history, cultural importance, and trade of China’s Cymbidiums. Recent studies focus on Sichuan Province in southwest China, one of the world’s botanical hotspots. It’s home to many orchids, including Cymbidiums. They’ve been important in Chinese culture for thousands of years, and ornamental varieties have been cultivated for a millenium. They were once so common in Sichuan that their sweet fragrances filled the mountain air. However, over the last few decades, increased harvesting of wild plants has threatened them with extinction. Fortunately, many buyers are turning to orchids grown in greenhouses rather than wild plants. It is hoped that China’s traditional reverence for Cymbidiums will help save these endangered species.