Colombia’s Orchids for Peace

Posted June 26th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Colombia is a land of orchids, home to over 4000 native species. Cattleya trianae is the beloved national flower. Sadly, the country has suffered decades of violence and political instability. A fragile peace accord has started to heal the nation. Now, Colombians like María Luisa Hincapié and her family are hoping that orchids can help to keep the peace. They’ve been growing a “Forest of Orchids,” restoring part of a denuded tropical jungle.

When María Luisa’s family bought the land in 2001, it had been scraped clean of any vegetation. The was soil dry and impoverished due to overgrazing. Since then, her family has done the work of restoring the native vegetation of the mountainside by planting a native orchid reserve—part of their shared vision to change the story of Colombia from one of violence and destruction to one of restoration and healing. With orchids.

As they’ve replanted the forest, the area has regenerated. Insects and animals have returned. The family has propagated native orchid varieties, and returned them to the wild. Many of these orchids are endangered, facing the perils of habitat destruction, illegal trafficking, shrinking numbers of pollinators, and climate change. The Hincapiés have already saved some orchids from extinction, and discovered new species. For this family of orchid addicts, it’s a labor of love to save these magnificent flowers, and to save their country, too. As I’ve blogged about before, there are others in Colombia working towards the same goals. The hashtag #orquideasparalapaz (orchids for peace) is being used to help promote their cause.

The Splendid Beauty of San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

Posted June 20th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc, Photos

South Gate, large traditional Japanese garden gateway, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPlants reflected in pond with water lilies, topiary, cloud pruning, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCamellia flower, red white and pink flower, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Celebrate today’s summer solstice with photos from San Francisco’s exquisite Japanese Tea Garden. It’s the oldest public Japanese garden in the country, and one of many wonders of Golden Gate Park. Dave and I went there recently after we were fully vaccinated. We hadn’t been in years, and we really enjoyed visiting again. It features lots of greenery, lanterns, pagodas, winding paths, ponds, a Zen garden, and a tea house. There are numerous Japanese native plants, but I didn’t spot any orchids.

Drum Bridge with children, semicircular wooden bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaLarge koi goldfish in pond with child's hand pointing at it, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTall stone lantern in foreground with colorful plants, pond, large stones, and waterfall in background, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, close up of new green leaves, conifer, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBronze Buddha statue, cast in 1790 in Tajima Japan, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBamboo, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Wandering through the garden, there’s so much to discover. The elegant design provides alluring sights around every curve. Exquisitely maintained plants are each a work of art, with beauty in both their large forms and their small details. Somehow the old, large koi don’t get eaten by the park’s many raccoons or herons. The Drum Bridge, with its semi-circular arch, is fun to climb for kids and adults alike. Immersed in the garden’s charms, visitors may forget that the busy city is nearby.

Hydrangea flowers and leaves, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDrum Bridge viewed behind tree, semicircular wooden bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTop of Temple Gate, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Stone path between trees bushes and grasses in dappled shade, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaIris flower, partially open flower, purple yellow and white flower, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaOriginal fortune cookie presses on display inside the gift shop, circa 1914, Makoto Hagiwara inventor of modern version of fortune cookie, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

There’s plenty of fascinating history to the Japanese Tea Garden. It began in 1894 as an exhibit in an international fair. Afterwards, it was made permanent and expanded to about 5 acres (2 hectares.) Landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and his family were its caretakers for decades, and they lived on the grounds. Sadly, they lost their home and were interned with other Japanese Americans during World War II. Fortunately, their beloved garden continues to thrive, and is one of the park’s most popular attractions. Besides the garden, Mr. Hagiwara is famous as one of the inventors of the modern fortune cookie. The first fortune cookie presses are on display inside the gift shop (shown in the final photo.)

Rare Orchids Found on London Rooftop Garden

Posted June 17th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Eleven stories above London, the Small Flowered Tongue Orchid, Serapias parviflora, has found a home on the roof of a bank. Fifteen of the plants have bloomed on the green rooftop, which boasts 159 plant species living alongside solar panels. This is the first time that the Small Flowered Tongue Orchid has been seen in the UK since 1989. It’s more common to the south around the Mediterranean. Orchid seeds are tiny, and travel far with the wind, so they may have blown in from overseas. London’s green roofs are offering new habitats for continental arrivals.

Fake Orchid Pollen Isn’t All That Bad

Posted June 13th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Some orchids are tricksters. They fool pollinators into thinking they offer rewards like food, or even a mate. But not all their tricks are so devious. Cypripedium wardii, a Lady Slipper native to China and Tibet, tempts bees and hoverflies with fake pollen. This pseudopollen entices insects into visiting the blooms, where they also pick up the flowers’ real pollen. However, scientists have discovered that the pseudopollen is nutritious, and the insects eat it. Since they’re receiving benefits for their work, it’s not a ruse. It’s another one of the cunning pollination strategies in the orchid family.

A Lovely Little Leptotes

Posted June 7th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Mini Orchids, Photos, Warm Growers

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

My indoor orchid shelves don’t have much room to spare, so if I buy a warm grower, it’s got to be a miniature. At the 2020 Pacific Orchid Expo, I spotted this little charmer for sale. Leptotes pohlitinocoi has a name that I can’t pronounce, but this small Cattleya relative is definitely worth the shelf space.

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and bud with broken leaf, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

This species is native to Brazil. Its pink and lavender flowers have a light, spicy fragrance. The skinny, pencil-like leaves indicate that it wants very bright conditions, including some full sun. Let it dry well between waterings. Despite our foggy, chilly spring, mine received enough warmth and light to bloom this year. So far, its seven flowers have lasted over six weeks.
Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaLeptotes bicolor, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple and white flowers, Brazilian native species, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, California

It would be nice if mine eventually grew as large as the plant in the second to last photo, which is from Pacific Orchid Expo 2009. The final photo shows a closely related species, Leptotes bicolor, which has white petals and sepals. If you have room in your collection for a little Leptotes, they’re delightful and easy to grow.

June Orchid Events

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

June brings a few online and in-person events. For SF Bay Area residents, don’t miss this month’s SF Orchid Society Sale. There was a great selection of plants at last year’s sale.

June 5
Curso Básico Virtual de Cultivo de Orquídeas, presented by the Sociedad Colombiana de Orquideología; online class in Spanish; $50 or $100 Colombian Pesos ($14 or $27 US Dollars) to register
June 5 – 6
Orchid Council of New Zealand National Judging Seminar, Pakuranga Bowling Club, 451 Pakuranga Rd., Pakuranga, Auckland, New Zealand
June 11 – 23
San Francisco Orchid Society (SFOS) Members’ Plant Sale, order plants online; SFOS members-only access begins on June 9th; purchases must be picked up on Sunday, June 27th at Shelldance Orchid Gardens, 2000 California Highway 1, Pacifica, California
June 22 – 23
Orchid Conservation Symposium, free online talks by experts from Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, UK, and Germany; 12:30 pm – 5:15 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time both days
June 26 – 27
North Shore Orchid Society Winter Show, Albany Village Hall, Albany Hwy. & Library Ln., Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

An Introduction to East Asian Cymbidiums

Posted May 27th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Videos

Check out the video below for an expert introduction to East Asian Cymbidiums. These orchids grow differently than most others in their genus. Although they’ve been cultivated in China for thousands of years, there’s little care info available in English. The video covers their historical significance in East Asia, variations in flowers and leaves that are treasured by many growers, and cultivation needs, with calendars showing seasonal care.

Wildflowers by the Ocean at Mori Point

Posted May 21st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: General Gardening, Misc, Photos

Cliffs at Mori Point covered in native wildflowers, including Lupines, Tidy Tips, and California Goldfields, Layia platyglossa, Lasthenia californica, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Pacific Ocean, Northern CaliforniaView of ocean waves, Sharp Park beach and Pacifica Pier from Mori Point, covered in native wildflowers, including Lupines, Tidy Tips, and California Goldfields, Layia platyglossa, Lasthenia californica, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Pacific Ocean, Northern CaliforniaCheckerblooms, native California wildflowers, Sidalcea malviflora, Mori Point, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California

Tidy Tips in bloom at Mori Point, Layia platyglossa, yellow and white flowers, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Pacific Ocean, Northern CaliforniaPeople walking down a trail to the end of Mori Point, native wildflowers, including Lupines, Tidy Tips, and California Goldfields, Layia platyglossa, Lasthenia californica, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Pacific Ocean, Northern CaliforniaBlue and white Lupine flowers, native California wildflowers, Mori Point, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California

Revel in spring blooms with these native wildflowers growing by the ocean near San Francisco. Mori Point is a 32 acre (13 hectare) park in Pacifica, California with stunning coastal views. It’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which encompasses much of Pacific coastline outside the Golden Gate. Dave and I recently took a walk at Mori Point, and despite the chilly ocean winds, there were fields of flowers to enjoy.

Blue Eyed Grass flowers, Sisyrinchium, native California wildflowers, Mori Point, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern CaliforniaSharp Park beach and Pacifica Pier viewed from Mori Point trail, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern CaliforniaIndian Paintbrush flower, orange flower, native California wildflower, Mori Point, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California

Sharp Park beach and Pacifica Pier viewed from Mori Point trail, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California, Pacific OceanView from Mori Point trail, ocean waves on beach, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California, Pacific OceanCalifornia Goldfields, Lasthenia californica, native California wildflowers, Pacifica, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, GGNRA, Northern California

The windy conditions result in few trees, and short, scrubby growth. There’s little rain, but lots of moisture from fog. Over the last few years, there have been great efforts to remove invasive plants and restore natives, and the results are spectacular. These photos all show native Northern California species, including Checkerbloom, Tidy Tips, Lupines, Blue Eyed Grass, Indian Paintbrush, and California Goldfields. Many of these are available at our local garden nurseries, and easy to grow from seed on the coast. Check out Mori Point’s hiking trails and its wonderful vistas if you’re in the area.

Virtual Orchid Judging

Posted May 14th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc

VirtualOrchids.org is judging orchids online. It’s not quite the same as in-person judging, but it’s proving to be very worthwhile. While much of the orchid world has moved online in the past year, orchid judges must examine plants in person to give awards. With most shows still cancelled, online contests are a good alternative. No real awards are given, but there are lots of beautiful flowers and great educational opportunities. Growers submit detailed photos, videos, and measurements of their plants, and online participants assess and comment. Many are real orchid judges who have gone through years of training to hone their expertise. Anyone can enter an orchid. Everyone can learn how experts examine orchids, what qualities they look for, what resources they use, and what makes a prize-winning plant.

What to Do with a Mother’s Day Orchid

Posted May 9th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos

Phalaenopsis flower, Phal, Moth Orchid hybrid, Orchids in the Park 2017, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhalaenopsis flowers with water drops, Phal, Moth Orchid hybrid, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UKPhalaenopsis, Phal, Moth Orchid hybrids in different colors and sizes, Cloud Forest Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, Singapore

Mother’s Day is a day for moms, and also a day for orchids. If you’re gazing at a new orchid gift, and wondering what to do with it, don’t worry. Most orchids don’t deserve their finicky reputations, and aren’t tough to grow. The most commonly sold types are Moth Orchids, like those in the row of photos above. They enjoy typical household temperatures, bright light but not full sun, and good humidity.

Paphiopedilum Pinocchio, Paph hybrid orchid flower, Lady Slipper flower, Cloud Forest Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporePaphiopedilum Maudiae, Paph hybrid orchid flower, Lady Slipper flower, green and white flower, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UKPaphiopedilum, Paph orchid flower, Lady Slipper flower, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UK

Lady Slippers, illustrated in the three pictures above, are also popular. Most varieties need care similar to Moth Orchids, but some prefer slightly cooler temperatures.

Oncidium Alosuka 'Claire', orchid hybrid flowers, Dancing Lady Orchids, yellow and reddish brown flowers, Orchids in the Park 2019, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CaliforniaOncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance', Dancing Lady Orchid flower, chocolate scented flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaOncidium orchid flowers, Dancing Lady Orchid, yellow brown and white flower, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK

Dancing Lady Orchids feature masses of small blooms. Many hybrids are available, including the chocolate-scented Oncidium Sharry Baby, shown in the middle photo above. These plants want some direct sun to grow well. For more basic orchid care info, check these tips.