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!