A couple of weeks ago, the RHS celebrated its London Orchid Show in fine style, exhibiting the very best of England’s cultivars and awarding those of special merit. One of the country’s most prolific growers -The Chantelle Nursery – made quite an impact on the show with their Cattleya hybrids – a beautiful selection of vibrant colours, the most notable among these being the golden variety ‘Hsiang Yu Beauty’ and the bright pink ‘Bright Sun’.
The McBean nursery were also held in the judges’ high regard, as they introduced unorthodox cultivar ‘Jester’ which was possessed of a tri-lipped petal structure and marvellous tones of purple on white. Alongside this they were also exhibiting the unusually coloured ‘Mcbean’s Laura’, which made waves as being one of the darkest amongst the Oncidium that the nursery had ever produced.
Unsurprisingly, the Orchid Society of Great Britain also made an appearance at the show and chose Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure tale ‘Treasure Island’ as their theme, and materialised this concept with a sand, moss and cork bark cliff face, built as a living microcosm populated by several different varieties of orchid.
Ratcliffe Orchids were also on show, with a stunning collection of unusual copper sculptures of some of their most easy on the eye cultivars; they also specialised this year in slipper orchids.
The Writhlington School Orchid Project exhibit featured an example of their work in Laos, and also a brief history of the progression of some of the projects most senior specimens – some of which were over twenty years old! The project also prepared a naturalistic arrangement of their flowers in conjunction with their appearance, as the students perceived it, in their endemic environment.
There were also a selection of seminars and discussions concerning the practices of orchid culture which the nursery representatives gave throughout the afternoon and these speakers included RHS gold medalists Zoe Barnes and Zoe Parfitt, who spoke on the Saturday about the potential benefits of a greenhouse free garden, in their talk entitled ‘No Greenhouse? No Problem!’
The other gold medalists of the show included Helen and David Millner for their educational display, and the Eric Young Orchid foundation for their variety of different cultivars. The Eric Young foundation also won the award for best exhibit in the show, adding to their already impressive tally of accolades.
Of course, talking a long time about ice cream and then not getting any is a frustrating endeavour, so below we’ve listed some do’s and don’ts of caring for Orchids at home:
1. Let’s start with the basics – a common first mistake is that, in finding out that Orchids originate in tropical climes, the beginner will often drown them for fear of doing the opposite, however, your average Orchid rarely needs watering more than once a week. Water from the top and ensure that the plant is not left standing in water for long periods of time.
2. The generosity of your fertilising habits is also a thin line to toe, as over indulgence can burn the roots and inhibit flowering, while doing it too infrequently can stunt the growth of the plant. A good rule of thumb is to supplement the flower with Orchid specific food once a month and remember that every food is different, so always follow the instructions given on the product.
3. Light is a tricky one with Orchids as, with a deficiency of it they will never flower, however, over-exposure can cause the leaves to turn red and blotchy. Ideally they should stand on a window sill where sunlight will be regular, but indirect – rich, dark green foliage is a sign of healthy light exposure.
The easiest varieties to grow at home are:
Phalaenopsis (perhaps the most commonly seen in the shops), …
… and Odontoglossums,
all of which are available in a wide range of colours and patterns. Just follow the guidelines above and they should reward you with stunning blooms for weeks on end.
By Josh Ellison