Friday, January 21, 2011

Eastern Province Orchid Society

The EPOS logo
I've just returned from a dash down to Port Elizabeth and back for the first meeting this year of the Eastern Province Orchid Society (EPOS), which we signed up for last week.

This month's talk was by Chris Randlehoff, an accredited SAOC judge and clearly quiet a major orchid grower too - he even won the South African Orchid Council's Orchid of the Year award in 2009. Chris traveled from Eshowe in KZN to talk about the genus Lycaste and its hybrids and some closely related genera (Ida, Anguloa) with many, many picture, noting what made "good" plants in a judge's eye and also culture requirements. It's quite amazing to see the vast variety of orchid hybrids that have been made from just a few original species in this group. He noted that fertilising most orchids with additional Calcium and Magnesium had generally made his plants much stronger, so we might just have to try that! I also noted that all the plants that weren't strict species didn't have italicised names (not even the genus) - so I've got some editing to do...!

After the talk and tea, Chris went through each of the plants members had brought with them, commenting on their appearance and culture, sometimes suggesting things members might do to improve them; with several plants, he noted that they were "The Best XYZ he's seen in South Africa" - so the EPOS members evidently know what they're doing!

The society is very friendly, and many of the members brought along some spectacular specimens from their collections. I think the most spectacular were a bowl filled with the same species of Phragmipedium I bought, some fantastic Vanda hybrids, a large Mokara and an incredibly deep purple Dendrobium phalaenopsis hybrid - but it was pretty hard to choose what was best!  "What orchids do you grow?" is evidently the preferred opening question at orchid clubs (quite understandable!) - I almost felt I should have had a species list with me, but as much as I think we might be going a bit mad in our "balcony rainforest", we're not only rank amateurs, but scarcely have any plants compared to many of the members. So if anyone wants a list, well, here's my blog, and there's a plant list in the Orchids tab at the top - which I now need to update! :) The members are also generally keen to not only talk orchids, but pass on tips and experience, which is a pleasure. Unfortunately I can't quite remember all the names of the people I spoke to, but I did have a chat with a guy called Stan Wedge, who was recently made an Honorary Life Member of the society. He started growing orchids in 1978 - the same year I was born. He's also no stranger to national awards, winning an orchid of the year for his Dendrobium kingianum "Stan' in 1999, and species of the year in 1993.He also said that he had "about 600" flasks of various things around one of his growing rooms, and makes his own flasking medium out of a fairly long list on ingredients. If he has 600 flasks, I can only imagine how many actual orchids he must have... Hopefully, we'll have something worthy of talking along to the next meeting! I had considered taking some plants along, but I was in a bit of a rush to get there, and some of the orchids (the paphs, Zygopetalum and the Ascocentum) are a little past their best - or not quite there yet (the Slc. Kagaribi Dawn 'Red Star'); I also didn't feel happy taking one of "our" plants when it was just me attending!

I bought two orchids, a Phragmipedium caudatum and an aptly named Lycaste aromatica. I've wanted a Phragmipedium for a while, and the idea of having one of the species covered in the talk appealed - as did its intriguing cinnamon scent!

I asked the club's chairman if he might be able to bring me a few items from the EPOS Shop to the meeting, which opens twice a month on Sundays; as we're going to a wedding in Cape Town this weekend, we couldn't really make the next open day (this Sunday), and they sell some quite useful stuff which we need (like an acaricide for adult red spider mite, and some other fungicides I can't find here), which he kindly did.

On my way out, the chairman (Abraham Marais) asked if I might like the Oncidium he had brought for the show table - I said I would rather, and asked him how much he wanted for it, but he point blank refused to let me pay him for it - so many, many thanks Abraham! He noted that he had "quite a few" - and by "quite a few" he meant about 100! My brain has forgotten the exact species, but I'll find out [Edit: sphacelatum]! Apparently it got relegated to the garden in a shady spot under a tree; this particular specimen has quite amazing sprays of yellow and brown flowers - seemingly hundreds of them - it's a stunning specimen that pretty much filled the back seat of the car. 

No pictures just yet, but I'll post some early next week.