Sunday, February 27, 2011

Repotting Oncidium sphacelatum

Our Oncidium sphacelatum was getting a bit too big for its old 20cm pot, so I decided to try my hand at re-potting. I've done a few Phalaenopsis before, but they have nice, big, chunky manageable roots. Oncidiums have rather thinner roots!
Oncidium sphacelatum
Too big! Note new shoot and roots.

Testing to see if 25cm is just about big enough!
I got hold of a 25cm pot, put about 2-3cm of fairly coarse gravel at the bottom (drainage and weight) and a thin layer of bark-based orchid medium.We found a 30cm pot last weekend, but I deemed it far too large to pot on an orchid, which in the experience of most growers prefer to be a bit "pot bound".

Then it was time to see what the roots looked like after sliding it out of the pot.
Wow, that's some serious root system!
I was initially thinking of just "potting on" - i.e. putting the existing root ball into a bigger pot and cramming some medium down the sides. However, when I lifted the root ball upright, stones and old potting medium started falling out the bottom, so I decided to do it properly, and remove as much of the old medium as I could along with any obviously dead or dying roots. Interestingly, the crazy root growth was mainly just around the outside of the pot, with the central part of the pot more or less empty of roots. I rinsed the roots with my normal RO orchid-watering water - you should have seen the colour of the water in the sink after that (black!) - guess the medium was starting to degrade somewhat. 
Old medium plucked out, still masses of roots!
In its new pot.
Note old medium and roots underneath

Top down view. 

Turned out quite well, I think, and it seems very stable too. Hopefully, this plant will enjoy it's new home. There were quite a few new, active looking roots coming out of the pseudobulbs and new shoots, so hopefully, it won't sulk too much. There seem to be quite a lot of new pseudobulbs and shoots, so hopefully sometime next year we should see a nice display of flowers! Unfortunately, that light green ceramic pot no longer fits this one inside, so it's back to plain boring fake terracotta!

This plant was previously featured in these two posts: Pests: Black Fly, where it lost all its sprays of flowers to black fly and New Plant: Oncidium, where you can see it in pre-black fly blooming glory!

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Plants: Outeniqua Orchids.

I was sorely tempted by and (perhaps predictably) succumbed to the temptation of the Outeniqua Orchids price list which I received through email after requesting a copy a little while back. So far, I've resisted those of Inhle and Serendipity Orchids. I sort of passed on the Inhle list with Xs next to things to my girlfriend, because she kept asking about birthday presents for me... Serendipity has gone and put it's address as about 2 highway exits away from my girlfriend's parent's house. So I suspect we'll end up there sooner rather than later.

Outeniqua (formerly Stellenkloof) Orchids are the African agents for Carter and Holmes orchids, so if you're after something from there and live down this way, Else Hall will do her best to get it for you in the next shipment. They will also happily snail-mail you Carter and Holmes catalogues just to really get you excited. I got two the other day... (Fortunately?), It's mostly Cattleyas, which I find a bit over-hyped. They're flowers that are trying far too hard, I somehow feel. OOAB HQ is rather full at the moment, so these guys will keep me company in the office for now - it's nice and cool (which the Masdevallia will like, maybe not the Paphiopedilum though), but with the aircon, I imagine the humidity is low (which they won't), but I wonder if there will be enough variation in temperature to prompt things like flowering...

The order arrived overnight after being shipped overnight from George. I opened the box to be greeted by some nicely wrapped plants:
Complete with handy packing list, just in case you forgot...

It looks like the C&H packing ethos has rubbed off! The tissue paper was slightly damp, which is probably a good thing in transit.
Top layer removed...
Each orchid individually wrapped in tissue paper.
First out the box:
Neofinetia falcata

Handy shredded plastic stuff for protection
Unfortunately, much of the compost fell out in transit. :(
N. falcata unpacked. Note jumbled mix.
I dumped it all out and redid the potting last night.
Roots look a bit dodgy, but there is a new root about to grow,
so it should be OK!
 Neofinetia falcata has a long history of being grown in Japan, where apparently it was a favourite of the ruling classes. Seems to like being cultured like a cool growing Vanda. I suspect they'd just about live in the garden outside all year round here. Apparently, they generally need more than one "fan" before they bloom, so I guess we'll be waiting for this one. Patient like a Samurai!

Next up: Masdevallia Snowbird
(M. majiana x M. tovarensis)

Looks like it just finished flowering :(

I've kind of decided that Pleurothallids are generally awesome. I want more :)

Paphiopedilum Pinocchio.
Released from its bonds!
Small plant; I guess it'll be a while before it blooms.
Paph. Pinocchio is Paph. primulinum x Paph. glaucophyllum.

This hybrid is apparently often recommended to newbie Paph growers (and noobs with orchids generally) as it's supposed to be fairly tough, and being a sequential bloomer, pretty rewarding to boot.

Masdevallia tovarensis 'Puffin'
There's some new shoots in there, yay!

And finally:

Masdevallia 'Tangerine Dragon'
M. Tangerine Dragon is M. veitchiana x M. mendozae)
I also bought some "Superthrive®" which has marketing like Verimark or Glomail on crack. I mean, seriously. This stuff must be snake oil! I'll give it a go at some stage though, particularly if anything looks really sad with life.  

Here's the little collection: 
New Plants. Joy! :D
 All pictures from my newly upgraded phone. The camera on the Nokia E72 is *much* better than the one on the E71! I still need to figure out how to force autofocus; on the E71, you press T; apparently on this one - so Google tells me - you hold down the main navi key until you're happy and then let go. Apologies for all the head-twisting orientations; I uploaded these all before realising that the E72 doesn't stick a "not the right way up/This Way Up" tag into the EXIM data, so Picasaweb doesn't autorotate them. And it's being stubborn and greying out the rotation option in my collection online :(

Monday, February 21, 2011

De-Flasking 2.0

On Friday, I decided it was high time to de-flask some orchids I got from Stephward Estate, both are unregisted grex, as far as I know (if you've ever wondered what u.g. in a plant catalogue is, that's it).
  1. Potinara/Rhyncholaeliocattleya(?) (A18 Blc. Three Sun 'Sun #16' x Pot. Shin Shiang Diamond)
  2. Brassolaeliocattleya/Rhyncholaeliocattleya (Blc. A17 Blc. Chian-Tzy Salmon x Blc. Shinfong Luoyang 'Gold')
Some of the leaves were starting to turn variously yellow/brown/black, and despite being in a theoretically sterile environment, having dead things lying around in there just seemed like a recipe for disaster. They were also pretty crammed in there, and had even started pushing the plug of agar away from the bottom with their roots, and were last reflasked in about June 2010, so they may have been running out of nutrients. I opened the flasks up and poured in some RO water, and left them for about 24 hours.

A18 Blc. Three Sun 'Sun #16'
x Pot. Shin Shiang Diamond

Blc. A17 Blc. Chian-Tzy Salmon
x Blc. Shinfong Luoyang 'Gold'

Flats with gravel
I prepared some "flats" with a layer of coarse gravel at the bottom, then a layer of generic bark-based orchid mix; I then thought I'd top this with a mix of Disa mix (Sphagnum, quartz grit and osmocote), mixed with some vermiculite and perlite (what I hoped would be a fairly open, but moisture retaining mix). In hindsight, the bark-based orchid mix was a fairly bad idea as it's far too coarse for small plants, in fact, with the second flask, I omitted it (apart from a very thin layer at the bottom).

It was then time to open the flasks and work the little plants out of the growth medium.

Blc. A17 Blc. Chian-Tzy Salmon x Blc. Shinfong Luoyang 'Gold'
Notice some big leaves and roots!
The agar jelly slid out very easily,
leaving this neat "plug" of plants.
Notice the healthy roots
and the dead/dying leaves
The black stuff is the nutrient agar jelly;
notice how little is left relative to roots!
I then set about trying to separate each and every little plantlet - a pretty tough job it turned out to be. A lot of the roots had somehow grown together and were pretty tricky to separate, some being almost "glued" to each other. I used a pressure sprayer bottle to blast the gel clear of the roots, and then gentle persuasion with my fingers to get the plants apart. And my years of de-tangling fishing line experience...

A bowl of seedlings, mostly cleaned of agar sitting in RO water.
The plantlets were left in a bowl of RO water (apparently they don't like drying out) and then planted one by one. I mixed the top sphagnum mix up with the bottom orchid mix; in the end, I ended up pulling lots of bits of bark out! There was quite a variation in sizes, and even some very weird looking plantlets that hadn't quite worked out where they were supposed to be growing roots and leaves. As far as I could, I planted them all. Each plantlet was inspected, trimmed of anything dead or dying (tricky and fiddly) and then nestled into the mix.
Finished "flat"
Note the sparse bark chunks
Closeup of seedlings
Then it was time to tackle the other flask.

A18 Blc. Three Sun 'Sun #16'
x Pot. Shin Shiang Diamond
The plants in this one seemed generally a bit bigger and fewer; they were certainly a lot easier to pry apart.When planting these out, I used a slightly different method. In this one, the seedling tray is put into another water-tight tray, which is filled with water up to the top of the seedling tray. This creates a "soup" of potting mix, which is much easier to push the seedlings into, and probably ensures a much better contact between root and medium after you pull it out of the water and let it drain.

More nice roots!
But also dead/dying leaves :(

Both flats, about 24 hours later.
First flat on the left, second on the right.
The seedlings are currently sitting on the couch right next to the humidifier; I'm trying to keep the humidity fairly high whilst they get used to the idea of being out in the open and not living in a soup of lovely nutrients! I didn't use any fungicide as people seemed pretty split on whether it was a good idea or not - it's probably enough of a shock to get pulled out of your comfy bed and stuffed into rough potting soil without also having a cocktail of moderately toxic chemicals poured all over you! I've ordered a thermostatically controlled Garland Big Three propagator, which I hope will help out, but this won't be here until late in the week. Certainly, I imagine the nice warm root bed will keep them happy through the OOAB winter, which will be here quite soon (despite some reaaaaally hot days lately).

Fingers crossed they thrive!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

EPOS Meeting, February 2011

On Thursday, we both went to the EPOS meeting in Port Elizabeth, which had moved venues as the previous one had become unavailable. Unfortunately, the directions in the newsletter weren't quite accurate, so a bit of driving around was required before we found it; not being denizens of PE, out grasp of the place outside of a few shopping malls and the like is limited!

It was time for the Annual General Meeting - being such new members, we felt a little out of our depth, but the proceedings went by quite quickly, with most of the current committee re-elected. The finances also look very healthy!

After that, we had a slide show by Hendrelien Peters who is based somewhere near Durban. Her talk was entitled "Orchids Down Under" and was filled with pictures of orchids that an acquaintance (a South African emigre) had sent her of how things are done in Australia. I didn't make a list of all the different plants therein, but people seemed most impressed with the Cymbidiums and how well they were being grown. My girlfriend often whispered which ones she liked in my ear; "We can have one of those" are always pleasing words. She's not into naming things, so it's my job to keep track of such details...!

We entered the monthly raffle (which gives you a chance of winning a plant) - Sharli's number came up first, so she had to choose between one of two Cymbidiums or a Phaius; the Phaius has flower spikes about 2.5m tall (apparently) so that wasn't a good fit for OOAB! The other club members suggested a Cymbidium, so we now add Cymbidium 2478 (Mighty Sensation x Golden Tiger 'Easter Emerald' 4n) to our little collection!

Cymbidium 2478
(Mighty Sensation x Golden Tiger 'Easter Emerald' 4n)
Part of the monthly meetings is the "Plant Table", where club-members bring any along plants they wish to for judging (and admiration by fellow orchid-maniacs!); after much discussion between taking the red Cattleya and the albino Maudiae Paph, we decided to take along our Paphiopedilum Onyx, which has recently opened a flower and has another one on its way and has very attractive mottled leaves.We were quite heavily laden on our way in, as I had volunteered to supply some treats for tea-time at the previous meeting - orchid in one hand, cakes in the other!
Paphiopedilum Onyx
This is actually two plants in two half-moon pots.

Paphiopedilum Onyx
Close-up of new flower
Paphiopedilum Onyx
You can't see it in this picture,
but there is another flower developing behind this one.
Multifloral Paphs, FTW!
We didn't win any prizes for it (not surprising!), but we got some useful tips about potting it on and so on; these plants have an annoying habit of growing so that the new growths are staggered upwards from the old ones, getting further and further from the potting mix, apparently an adaptation to growing up the bottom of tree stumps and rocky slopes and the like. The visiting judge wasn't too impressed with the wonky stem (and I imagine my cable-tied stake extension using a kebab skewer wasn't much admired either). We're thinking about creating a sloping pot to keep it in! The prize-winners were all Cattleyas, if memory serves. I find many Cattleyas a little bit too "showy" - almost as if they're trying too hard and have too much make-up on! There weren't quite as many plants on display this month as there were last month, but there were some gems. With the other stuff in tow, I didn't feel like also lugging all my camera gear down, so I'm afraid there are no photos. If you want to see pictures of last month's winners, they're available on the last page of the EPOS February Newsletter. Another useful tip we picked up was to only attempt staking and flower manipulations in the middle of the day, when the stems and stalks are apparently at their most flexible. Good to know!

We came away (unsurprisingly) wanting more plants; on display were two lovely little Pleurothallids, a deep pink Stelis argentata (syn. vulcanica) and a Restrepia falkenbergii, which are officially sanctioned for entry into the OOAB collection, as are Antelope-group Dendrobiums. Interestingly, you can grow "cuttings" of most Restrepia just like you would an African Violet - gently pull a leaf off the plant (with as long a petiole as you can manage), pop the petiole in some damp river sand with the leaf poking up, and you'll soon have more plants; they often frequently grow keikis from there naturally; this specimen had a few, which someone suggested the owner should keep an eye on, just in case they went walking...! One of the joys of Pleurothallids is they're mostly quite small; a bonus if your growing area is small. I hoped this permission/recognition of planty greatness meant immediate acquisition, but my partner pointed out that it was long-term "when we actually have space those are quite nice" rather than "get thee on the internet and make the purchase forthwith" permission!

We now await next month's meeting...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Macro fun for V-Day

Our Ceropegia woodii (string-of-hearts vine) is currently flowering. This somewhat succulent creeper has very unusual looking flowers. It's a rather amusing coincidence that the string of hearts is blooming for V-Day...!
Hairy Ceropegia woodii flower
Click for larger image
Creepy Hairs!
The flowers are unusual tubular structures, topped with hairy spires. It's experienced a surge in growth lately, mainly due, I think, to being loved a lot more (i.e. getting more regular waterings). Just to add to the V-Day theme, this plant is being trained around a wire heart...

Not forgetting this is Orchids on a Balcony, here's a close up of a flower from our Zygopetalum James Strauss:
Zygopetalum James Strauss 1:1 macro

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Slc. Kagaribi Dawn 'Red Star' - Back from the Dead!

A few posts back, I mentioned a bit of a disaster I had with this plant. What I didn't see was that there was another cluster of 4 buds emerging in amongst the foliage on another part of the plant. On Friday, I happened to notice the bright red of an opening flower whilst misting - much joy! Unfortunately, they're on a rather poorly placed stem, and I'm under strict instructions not to touch, so there will be no attempt to mess around with them to bring them into a better viewing position! The first two flowers to come out some time ago died during the week, so now we're down to these new flowers. Of course, if I hadn't snapped off the other 4 buds, we'd currently have 8 glorious blooms! 
New flowers, yay!

Phalaenopsis NOID

A little while back I mentioned a "Mystery Orchid" - a double stemmed Phalaenopsis - which landed in my office with no note; the mystery was solved and I noted that I'd post some close up pictures when I got a chance. As I went around watering/fertilising everything today, it was a perfect chance. So...

Thanks again Helen :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Plants: Plantae

Nice Wrapping work!
The order from Plantae was quite a bit larger, with me basically choosing almost everything on the list that was under R100 and had nifty looking flowers, plus a few other things I fancied...!

I was really impressed with the way the order was wrapped, with each plant separately wrapped in paper, with more delicate plants also getting a layer of polyester wool under the paper. Only one of the plants was sent bare root (other than those which were mounted, obviously), which I quite like - saves potting up, and I think the plants might get less stressed; the potting mix was held in place with newspaper and packing tape.

Extra polyester fibre protection.
Delicate cargo.
With that, on to the plants!
Aerangis fastuosa
Aerangis modesta
I accidentally ordered one from each of the two suppliers. Oh well :)
We ended up with quite a lot of Dendrobiums:

Dendrobium harveyanum
Dendrobium hercoglossum
Dendrobium loddigesii
Dendrobium moschatum
Dendrobium nobile
Dendrobium tannii
This plant was a generous replacement for a Masdevallia which was unavailable at the time I placed my order -
apparently, they were badly affected by scale,
and Tinus didn't want to send me infected plants -
which I'm more than happy about!
Oerstedella centradenia
A rather lovely plant name, somehow.
(I forgot to photograph this one; will rectify soon - done!)
This was the only plant that wasn't mounted or in a pot,
and looks like it was a recent cutting off a larger plant.
Schoenorchis fragrans
A very cute, minute little orchid; you almost need a magnifying glass to see it!
The leaves have a very cool sculptured texture.
Tetramicra canaliculata
Hard to forget the name of this one; reminds me of a seaweed whose specific epithet
was quite amusing in undergrad (Pelvetia canaliculata [can-I-lick-you-later...]
- hey, we're all young once).
As it was quite small, it was thrown in as a "freebie" - many thanks!
Tolumnia Jairak Rainbow
I don't remember ordering this - will find out how it ended up in this order. :)
Edit: Tinus confirmed this was indeed a bonus - yay! Thanks :D
Tolumnia pirinochila
Tolumnia pulchella
Tolumnia urophylla
With that, the OOAB growing areas are certainly starting to look a little tight. We've even had to relegate a few plants to the windowsill behind the main plant rack! Fortunately, a lot of the plants are quite small and are mounted on bits of wood, so they don't take up too much room. I really like the look of all the hanging (mounted) plants - and being naturally epiphytic, this probably suits them quite well. You just have to water them more regularly than potted plants, which suits me fine!