Saturday, December 5, 2009

Plant P0rn

Some of you may have already guessed this, but I love growing things from seed. This is why it is a natural progression for me to have advanced to growing orchids from seed. This is also why I covet seed catalogs. Full of beautiful photographs of obscure or heirloom varieties and ripe with possibilities, they captivate my imagination every winter. I know many other plant geeks out there can relate to this, and it was a fellow plant geek that coined the term "plant porn" for plant catalogs, seed or perennials. It also helped that she kept all her catalogs in the bathroom.

The flood of seed catalogs has begun for me. I got these three recently and I expect several more over the next 6 weeks. Every year I know a new set of gardeners will be looking to get started or advance beyond hardware store offerings. Below you'll find links to some of my favorite companies.

Seed Savers Exchange
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Territorial Seed
Vermont Bean Seed Company
Amishland Heirloom Seeds (*online only, small, woman-owned business)
Johnny's Seeds
Totally Tomatoes

There are many other seed companies, small and large. Explore and have fun with it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Photos of the Nursery

I've been keeping busy lately, making lots of crosses and flasking. The photo at the top here shows a shelf full of jars housing the 'infants'. Some of these are crosses I made, some are species grown from purchased seed.

Here's a little secret for you - most crosses fail in some way or another. Out of 26 hybridization attempts in the past two years, twenty failed to produce seed. Mainly this happens by just not making a mature pod, failing very early, but there were a couple that carried a reasonable looking seed pod for months only for me to split it and find it was empty later. Of the 6 remaining, one failed to germinate, two were contaminated (@$#! fungal spores in dry seed), and three grew nicely.

Among these three that grew nicely is Paph. (Pucks Apple x gardineri). There are 8 pots of these among the group of flasks recently potted out to community pots. This cross has been growing so fast. If they continue to do well, I'll begin making seedlings available in the spring, though I may make a small flask available before then. I'm hoping they continue to be speedy, so that we can see them bloom in a couple years.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This is a peek inside a flask of phalaenopsis seedlings, just before deflasking to community pot. These plants are living in a quart size mason jar (size of a standard spaghetti sauce jar).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shipping Plants

One of the most common questions I get, after "how do I grow this" of course, is about how I ship plants. I've been shipping and receiving plants through the mail for so long, I forget that there are many people out there for which this is a new concept. But its actually rather straightforward.

The first step in hot weather is to water the plant, generally the night before packing, to reduce stress during transit. In winter when it is cold I usually prefer to ship the plant dry, to avoid clammy, cold roots. Spring/autumn can go either way. Exception: in winter when it will be below 30F both here and at the destination I generally do not ship. Some growers do ship during such conditions with either the aid of a 60hr heat pack or overnight shipping.

Next is to arrange some newsprint or glossy ads on top of the pot and tape or rubber band it down. This will keep the media and plant secure in the pot.

Then the plant is wrapped in newspaper. I usually use two sheets or one sheet folded in half for smaller plants, and set the plant on the diagonal. The sheet is wrapped securely around the pot, and then the upper portion of the plant makes a stiff, triangular package the protect the foliage.

Finally the plant is set into the box and secured with packing peanuts (and before anyone gets unhappy about my use of packing peanuts, they're always reused ones from other packages!) or more newspaper. The plant is shipped by priority mail, clearly marked as perishable.

Other details to consider: Certain plants cannot be shipped to certain states due to USDA regulations aimed toward protecting local agricultural cash crops and/or protecting the local ecosystem from invasive species. Your local USDA extension office should be able to provide you with a list of restricted items. Shipping plants outside of the USA also entails extra paperwork, I believe, so I don't do it.

Other types of plants may require other packing systems, and plants in bloom may require more creative stabilization to protect the flowering stem.I've seen African Violets, for example, shipped nicely by dropping the plant into a plastic drinking cup (after securing the plant in the pot of course) and sticking one or two short bamboo skewers through one edge of the cup to keep the plant inside. This prevents crushing of the foliage, which can be a big problem with mature African violets. Be creative, but avoid packing so securely that the recipient gets trapped by a tape octopus trying to get the plant back out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

That's Not Lint

Orchid Seed and Seed PodFriday I lingered at work, quietly making use of the tissue culture hood for some clandestine seed sowing. (makes it sound spicy, doesn't it, like James Bond was involved) In actuality, I'm almost always there late, and doing my seed sowing late on Friday means I'm neither in anyone's way nor taking up valuable time I could be using to dissect genomes.

Today I split open and sowed Paph (Hsinying Alien x wardii), a cross I made mostly for awesome foliage. The seeds were a lovely dark brown and rather large on the orchid seed scale. There were a good number that looked viable. Hopefully they'll germinate.

While struggling to get them out of the pod and into a tube for sterilization, I once again had that realization that they look like dust or lint. They act like it, too. They fly every which way, get stuck on paper, stick to the inside of the tubes by static. This, combined with losses stuck to tubes, pipettes, and lost in washes during sterilization can result in loss of what seems like a third to a half of the seed. In actuality, I'm not going to count and find out, even if I should by some miracle catch them all.

The photo attached is of a set of seeds which were sown late spring/early summer (Lc. Green Veil 'Dressy' x Sc. June Bug 'Venice Sunshine'). This bunch was actually rather well behaved, perhaps because I split the pod when it was still green. The little pile of seeds in the bottom left were sown on three plates, one of which was contaminated. The remaining two are now covered with protocorms. The rest of the seed is in storage.

Also today I split open a pod from a Nobile dendrobium x Dend tetragonum, made for "what ifs". The pod had developed very nicely. Unfortunately, it produced no seed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

USBG Visit

Platycerium willinckiiLast week my plant cruising buddy, The Larry, and I went downtown to the US Botanical Gardens. A lovely place to visit if you are ever in the area. I go there at least once per year with Larry, and we ogle all our favorites and whatever is new, and engage in nerdy plant discussions.

Every time I'm there I lust after their staghorn ferns. I do the same thing at Longwood Gardens. The fine, imposing specimen here is Platycerium willinckii. I absolutely love staghorn ferns, but though I can keep them alive they have never flourished for me. In all likelihood I don't water enough.

Zelenkoa onustumWe also admired their nicely grown specimen of Zelenkoa onustum, a.k.a. Oncidium onustum. Yes, that's right, its mounted on a live cactus. This is a species I like to mention to people who are convinced all orchids live in the tropical rain forests. The fact is, there are orchid species from all kinds of environments - warm to cold, wet to dry, temperate to tropical. As you might guess, this one comes from the deserts of Ecuador and Peru, where it grows in full, blazing sun. If you ever get one, make sure you respect that or it will rot clean away!

Sinningia eumorphaSinningia lineataThey always have a little corner with Gesneriads, as well. These are Sinningia eumorpha (top) and lineata (bottom). You may be more familiar with the family through the 'florist' gloxinia and African Violets, but the more obscure species are also quite rewarding to grow. For more information on Sinningias and other Gesneriads, you can get started with this site.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

In Bloom: Dendrobium rigidum, again

Dend. rigidum

I know I already posted a closeup photo of Dend. rigidum flowers, but I realized today that I should have also posted a photo of the very unique foliage. So since the plants are in bloom again (which they do intermittently throughout the year it seems) I took a few new shap shots. Here it is in all its pebbly, succulent glory.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Bloom: Orange Things

Ok, these aren't actually in bloom right now, but instead bloomed earlier this summer and I didn't post them then. But both are very neat species I think you'll like. First is Ascocentrum miniatum. This is a compact growing Asctm, with shockingly orange flowers densely packed on usually multiple inflorescences. They're equally at home in a basket or pot, but we prefer to grow them in an aggregate (hydrocorrels or "cocoa puffs", as Al calls them). For a Vandaceous thing they're very easy to grow. (For this & some newly added Civias, please check out my shop!) :)

Dendrobium unicumThis second species is Dend. unicum. This is something that was all over the place several years ago, to the extent that I actually overlooked its charms initially. Only recently did I learn that it is fantastically fragrant! It smells somewhat like peaches or other fruity substance. flowers are borne singly or in small clusters along the leafless canes. The plant tends to go semi or fully dormant in winter and will look rather shabby until spring, when it starts to grow and send up buds. Then suddenly it looks smashing again. Plant has a slightly sprawling habit for me, with the canes sticking every-which-way.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In Bloom: Dendrobium wassellii

Dendrobium or Dockrilla wasselliiHi folks! Yes, I'm still alive, its just been a tough summer for me. But we're not here to talk about that. No, we're going to have some orchids! yay!

This is Dendrobium wassellii, also known as Dockrillia wassellii. A really awesome species with thick terete leaves approximately 4 inches long and, as you can see, a really high flower count. The flowers are somewhat fragrant. Inflorescences arise rather suddenly and develop quickly. Like most terete leaved species, it likes rather high light.

(Remember, you can click on the photo for a larger version of the image. Take a peek at those nifty flowers!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to dispose of cauliflower greens

Option 1: Chickens.

The girls had a good time tearing up these leftover greens from our cauliflower plants. When they were done, I moved to-

Option 2: Horses.

That was a speedy step. Didn't take any photos.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Market Day this Sunday!

July 12 is our next market day! Come out and hang with the plants from 10AM to 1PM at the Clarksburg Farmer's Market! While you're there, you can get some veggies, coffee, crepes, and maybe some crab cakes, crafts, and BBQ!!! How awesome is that?

In addition to some interesting plants, I'm planning on also bringing some potting mixes and will bring a couple plants for potting demonstrations.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A variety plaque

Like container plantings with all their variety? Interested in plants other than orchids? Interested in something sure to be a conversation starter in your living room window? Why not setup a little community plaque with a variety of interesting little plants?

This is an example I just started recently, so the plants are not established yet. We have a bromeliad (Cryptanthus bahianus), a Dischidia ovata cutting, and the runts of the litter for both Phalaenopsis (lindenii x pulcherrima) and Dendrobium Maiden Charlotte (all other plants I have of those are more mature). The trick is matching up a variety of plants with similar requirements for light, water, and temperature. I've also selected for this plaque four plants that will stay relatively compact and not overwhelm each other, although that dischidia could one day have many vines, but they're easy to pull off things and send off in another direction.

I'd really like to make another community with a Dend. tetragonum, but can't decide what would work well with it. Dend. tetragonum is a semi pendant species. I wouldn't want it to get visually lost among its companions. Perhaps something squat like Sophronitis cernua would work, but their water requirements are a little different. They might adjust though. I'll have to think on it.

If you make one, please send me a photo!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

In Bloom: Two Miniature Species

Neobathiea filicornuDendrobium rigidumGrowing miniature orchids is a very worthwhile adventure. Not only are there so many to choose from, each with their own unique features, you can fit so many more into a small window. You can also sneak them in here and there around and on top of your larger plants if your space is getting slim. Today I'll showcase two cuties for which I have a couple plants available to share.

The first is Neobathiea filicornu, an angraecoid species with a leaf span of around three inches topped by a cute white flower with a long nectary and nice large lip. This is a rarely seen species for all you angraecoid enthusiasts out there. I keep this plant in our cool to intermediate basement under fluorescent light year round. Blooming seems to coincide with humidity peaks (i.e. foggy windows) in our basement, but I don't know if such a humidity spike is required to induce blooming.

The second is Dendrobium rigidum, or at least that's how I know it. If you lookup rigidum online you'll find some other images. But these plants came to me as rigidum, and I have a friend who has been growing a few plants of this for several years also with the name rigidum. So we're sticking with rigidum for now. Anyway, the species has the neatest succulent foliage. Leaves are 1 to 4 inches tall, and very thick with a rough texture. These are adorned occasionally with slightly fragrant cream flowers with red markings. The plants are fairly easy to grow in an East or West facing window and make great mounted specimens.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diagnosis: Root Rot

Recently someone came to me with a problem. Their orchid lost its buds soon after purchase, and hasn't bloomed or really done anything since. Since there are many many reasons for bud drop, we started discussing what might be happening. Fortunately, the owner sent me this photo of her plant. Immediately I could tell the plant has root rot, which is ultimately the cause for its listlessness.

Photo provided by Tatyana.

Root rot is one of the most common diseases with orchids. Pretty much everyone has had to deal with it at some point or another. The most sad part is that new orchid growers, who are often not even at fault, mistakenly believe they "can't grow orchids" because they have simply purchased a hardware store plant that already has root rot without knowing. Today I am going to teach you how to diagnose, treat, and prevent root rot.


* Floppy, listless leaves. Although phalaenopsis leaves can be healthy and still bend or flop over in order to take the most advantage of the light, they should still be pretty tough and thick. These leaves, if touched, would feel withered and soft. Notice also the wrinkles on the leaf top-most in the photo. This plant has not been able to absorb enough water into its little body.

* Exposed roots, while healthy, are also withered and possibly brittle. Exposed roots are normal with phalaenopsis plants. However, they should be plump and active. (its OK to have some that are shutting down, since getting rid of old parts is normal for plants). This plant has been sacrificing water and sugars in the roots and other parts of the plant to live.

* Many to all in the media will be black and squishy - dead and rotting. This is the defining characteristic of the disease.


* Media appears to be a normal potting soil, which with a few exceptions is not really an appropriate potting mix for orchids. Exceptions include true terrestrial orchids (e.g. "jewel" orchids like Ludisia discolor), and people with experience using a media like this. There are some top growers who use a chunky coarse peat-based mix with great success, but for most people it stays too wet. It also requires regular repotting, since as it breaks down it will hold even more water. Staying wet too long leads to root rot, just like walking around with your feet wet might lead to foot fungus. Note also that this type of media has been popular with large nurseries growing plants for the "pot plant" trade, where plants are expected to be purchased just for the flowers and then tossed.

* In some cases, media may also just be a very degraded typical orchid mix. As noted above, rotting media starts to hold more and more water, increasing the risk for root rot if adjustments in the watering regeme are not made or the plant is not repotted.


* Pull the plant out of the pot immediately, removing all old media and dead roots. Dead roots will be squishy or papery and black. Leave any firm, healthy roots. Hose off plant.

* Cut or break away the base of the stem if it appears to be infected. Dust cut surfaces with cinnamon or sulfur.

* Optional: Spray plant with fungicide. > I generally do not do this for root rot as fixing potting problems are generally all that is needed to stop the spread of the problem.

* Leave to dry overnight.

* Optional: Soak entire plant in a warm solution containing a low concentration of sugar, a few drops of Superthrive (B vitimin / NAA coctail), and a low concentration of chemical fertilizer. > I have only tried this approach a few times. I cannot say if this actually confers an increase in survival rate, but am providing it for completeness.

* Repot plant into appropriate media. For rehabilitation of difficult cases I suggest using sphagnum moss, which has mild antibacterial properties. Prewet it and pack only loosely around the roots. Wetting any existing thoroughly will help them be more flexible. In this case, the only remaining roots were the surface roots. These were placed in the media so that they can better serve the plant during its recovery.


Plants with root rot can survive. Minor cases generally always survive. A case such as this will, not surprisingly, have a lower survival rate. Expect the more severe cases to take a year or more to recover fully.


* Repot your plants regularly to keep the media fresh. This will be approximately every 1-3 years depending on plant type, media type, and your watering habits. Repotting means removing old media and replacing with new. It does not always mean moving up in pot size. In some cases it can even mean a reduction in pot size.

* Know what is an appropriate watering regimen for your plant. This will depend on what type it is. If it is something unfamiliar to you, ask the grower you're getting it from. Also, hang on to your plant labels in case you have more questions down the road. Being able to tell other growers exactly what you have will make it easier for them to help you. Note that watering amount is not the issue. Watering frequency is. When it is time to water, water heavily and let it drain well. Letting a plant sit in water is generally not a good idea.

* If you buy from a non-orchid grower (such as from a perennial specialist) or hardware store, repot it immediately or as soon as possible. If it comes in "dirt", repot immediately even if the plant is in bloom. At the very least it is a good idea to pull a plant out of the pot and look at the roots and condition of the media when you get home with any plant.


* Watering too little can give the plant the same appearance. Definitive diagnosis here lies in the condition of the roots. Watering too little will of course not cause rot.

* High salt buildup can also cause a similar appearance, again minus the root rot. This essentially would be a dessication case. Salt buildup rarely reaches critical levels, however. You can identify it by a peculiar appearance of the media, including crusty deposits. This can generally be fixed by repotting, then prevented by watering occasionally with rainwater or RO water if fertilizer (or by fertilizing less!), or occasionally with Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulfate) solution if the cause is hard water.

Other helpful articles on this blog you may find helpful-
Basic Phalaenopsis Culture
Reasons for Plant Collapse in Phalaenopsis
How to repot a Paph Orchid

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In Bloom: Smelly Things!

Enc alata x bractescensMaxillaria tenufoliaMany orchids are fragrant, but a few really stand out. Right now on our back porch we have two that are absolutely yummy. The top photo shows Epidendrum (alatum x bractescens), also known as Encyclia (alata x bractescens), has a strong but very pleasing sweet rose-like fragrance most noticeable in our environment midday. Simply step out on the porch after lunch and inhale, and you'll smell the plant 4 feet away. Like most Encyclias, the plant has a high flower count and fat, round pseudobulbs.

The second photo shows Maxillaria tenufolia. This species always shows up whenever there is a fragrance class at a show or meeting, since it has an unmistakable and irresistibly yummy coconut fragrance. The plant likes medium to high light and is something of a climber, so is a great plant to grow mounted. You can also grow it to a nice specimen size in pots or just divide it every few years to share. I've recently divided up one plant and as soon as they seem happy in their new pots I'll be listing them on Etsy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In Bloom: Paph. acmodontum and a Yellow Brachy

Paph. acmodontumThe top photo shows Paph. acmodontum, a very nice species with bright coloring and a vigorous style. Foliage is green-on-green variegated with a lot of gloss.

Paph. S. Gratrix x BiplaneThe second photo shows a selectively bred yellow Paphiopedilum from the brachypetalum section. This striking individual is Paph. (S. Gratrix 'Luna Amarillo' x Biplane 'Canary'). There are a few top notch breeders out there who are selecting for stronger color in brachypetalum hybrids, which all tend toward white. Al has a few seedlings of these breeding lines in his greenhouse and I just couldn't pass this one up. (There was another I snatched for me, but the flower was on the way out and I didn't photograph it.) This one has good size, its pretty flat, a clean pouch, pale sunshine yellow color. But the neatest feature is a little white spot on the top center of the dorsal sepal - its difficult to see in the photo. Hope it shows up again in future flowerings.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Featured Artist: A.W.E Shop

Hey fellow plant nerds.

We did the
Clarksburg Farmer's market this past weekend. It was an enjoyable market - food, veggies, herbies, crafts, live music, and more. We'll be there again selling orchids on 7/12/09, 8/9/09, 9/20/09, 10/11/09, and 11/1/09. The market is there every Sunday, but events vary. I really liked the music, wish that more of our days co-insided with live bands. Maybe they'll schedule some more to fill in the gaps.

Anyway, while we had plenty of plants to be shopped, what we lacked was a tent. Not for lack of ordering one though... Without the generosity of Deb at
AWEshop we and the plants would have fried! That's right, crispy, crispy critters. Deb saved the day by lending us her tent. THANK YOU DEB!!

Deb is primarily a jewelry designer, with some very nice work. She has a number of wire/metal work pieces that have a sleek and powerful, yet very feminine aire. I always admire the wire work because, having tried it, I know it is much harder than it looks. Overall style is organic, fluid, honest. Let me show you some of my favorites from her shop. Just click on the images for more information.

To see more about Deb and her work, check out her Etsy shop and blog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Bloom: Clivia nobilis

Clivia nobilis
I have been quite pleased lately with a flush of blooms from my resident blooming size clivias recently. Among these was this first bloom Clivia nobilis, which was a gift a while back from my favorite plant cruising sidekick, The Larry. I remember it well. He said, "Do you want this?" To which I replied, ::SNATCH:: "Yes, thanks."

The plant is a little different from other clivias in terms of leaf texture - darker green, sturdier, more strap-like, with a hint of serration like texture on the margin, and very orderly and upright. It is quite attractive. The inflorescence is stout and bears a good number of tightly arranged flowers. And what's better? It is now sending up a second inflorescence.

We also recently had a vising black snake. Well, he was black, and he was a snake. I assume therefore, a "black snake". Quite an attractive young fellow. Lucky too. He narrowly missed being stomped by one of the horses. We hope he eats lots of field mice.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dendrobium species culture

Hi folks, just ran across this page giving an overview of Dendrobium species culture based on group, and wanted to share. There are a lot of cool Dendrob's out there, but they can vary greatly. This might give you a good starting point, from which you can research more individual species and groups. The one thing it says that I'm not sure I agree with is "medium to high light" for Latoria species. Even here on the East coast I've seen latoria hybrids burn in higher light. I keep them in phalaenopsis level light with no problems. Latorias are great by the way! :) The photo above is one I currently have available in my shop. (There will be more soon if they don't all sell at market!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 SEPOS Show, Fantastic Dendrobiums

Dend. lindleyiIn line with my increasing fascinating with Dendrobiums, I spent a good deal of time examining the selections at the SEPOS show this year. There were many interesting and well grown plants, what follows is just a selection of highlights. We'll start with this beautiful specimen of Dend. lindleyi. This is a fairly compact growing species, but as you can see, does increase in overall size dramatically at flowering time.

Dend. Oliver Jack
Another densely flowered specimen was this Dendrobium (a.k.a. Dockarilla) Oliver Jack "Gerard". A very attractive tuft of a plant.

Den. Tie Dye
A very adorable Den. Tie Dye.

Dendrobium discolor
Dendrobium discolor, a rather tall species with very unusual twisty, ruffled, rusty-color flowers on long sprays.

Dendrobium harveyanum
Dendrobium harveyanum, with very cool fimbriate flowers.

Dend. Julie SkillicornThis Dendrobium Julie Skillicorn was quite fascinating. It was hung in a spot where I suspect it might be overlooked by some, but it is something certainly worth admiring and probably growing if you get a chance. I'd like to get one! It was in a rather small basket that was overflowing with long, needle like leaves arranged in a chain fashion, with a generous seasoning of upside-down flowers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Bloom: Two Dischidia Species

Dischidia hirsuta 'Red Leaf'Dischidia nummulariaTop: Dischidia hirsuta 'Red Leaf'.
No fragrance that I can detect, but it only has one open flower right now.
Bottom: Dischidia nummularia (variegated).
Flowers on this one smell like a cut rose that is past it's peak.
Flowers on both are approximately 1/4 inch.

Dischidias are generally easy, rewarding species to grow, and may be kept easily among your orchids in low to medium light. These plants have been kept among the phalaenopsis seedlings under fluorescent light (2 bulbs, approx 8 inches from plant). They are epiphytic vines which are easily rooted in pots of sphagnum or frequently watered mounts. Most of them are also very quick growers, twining around all kinds of things, but the variegated nummularia above has been a little slower for me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 SEPOS Show, Paph Installment

Last weekend I went to the South East Pennsylvania Orchid Society Show at Longwood Gardens. I came away with hundreds of pictures and two dead camera batteries. I still haven't finished weeding through them (though, admittedly I've procrastinated a bit) and don't know how to pare it down to a few highlights for the blog. Thought I'd do a few installments of highlights instead, so you can see more photos! Today we'll be starting with some paphs, focusing on species, although there were also plenty of hybrids of interest.

Paph. sangii 'Suzanne' HCC/AOS
Paph. sangii 'Suzanne' HCC/AOS
Sangii is a rather rare species in cultivation, and a fantastic flower, so deserves top billing.

Paph. villosum 'Lloyds' AM/AOS
Paph. villosum '#1'
Top: Paph. villosum 'Lloyds' AM/AOS
Bottom: Paph. villosum '#1'

Paph. hirsutissimum 'Buffy Lynn' HCC/AOS
Paph. hirsutissimum
Top: Paph. hirsutissimum 'Buffy Lynn' HCC/AOS
Bottom: A different Paph. hirsutissimum

Paph. bulleniamum var. tortipetalum
Paph. bulleniamum var. tortipetalum

Paph. lowii 'MacLean' AM/AOS
Paph. lowii 'MacLean' AM/AOS - a rather nice and unusual lowii due to the dark color, especially on the dorsal.

Next time: Exciting Dendrobiums

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How To: Detach Sticky Roots

Phal. schilleriana 'Pink Butterfly'Once in a while you come across an orchid that seems to be able to attach itself to anything, especially things you'd rather it didn't. Some actually have a special talent for this. Phalaenopsis schilleriana and philippinensis are two excellent examples. Recently I wanted to photograph a Phal. schilleriana (left) from a tray containing a few plants of each of the mentioned species plus a few other plants. To do this, I had to extract it first.

Most of the plants came out easily, leaving me with a firmly attached handful of plants. The three you see in the image were the worst. Now obviously you can just grab and pull at this stage, but that results in several torn roots. While there are times when there isn't much choice, I like to avoid that if I can, especially on youngsters like the two on the left. So what to do? Well, the first step is to wet the roots. Wet roots are more pliable, less brittle, making it easier for you to manipulate them. (This is also a great trick when repotting!)

Next, simply use your thumbnail or other smooth, flat object to pry the roots loose. Starting at an already loose spot (usually at the end closest to the plant), push your thumb under the root and gently wiggle forward under and along the root.

Pretty soon, you might actually be able to lift your plants! Here are all those roots, now hanging free but still intact.

Root characteristics vary somewhat among phals. These two species have a very particular root type that is flattened with an extra pebbly texture. They can stick to anything, and will do so at every opportunity. Incidentally, this detail make both species, as well as other species and hybrids with similar morphology, excellent candidates for mounted culture as they tend to establish very quickly.