The Journal of the Canadian Orchid Congress
Le Journal de la Fédération Canadienne des Sociétés Orchidophiles

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December 1997
Volume 9 - Number 4

Editor: Malcolm Adams


1998 Canadian Orchid Congress Update

The 1998 COC will be held in Montreal at the Radisson Hotel, 777 rue Universite on October 17 and 18 with set-up on Friday the 16th. The location was changed because the original site, the Day's Inn, has been beset with labour problems.

The Radisson will provide more space for the show, sales, conferences, etc. It is situated in the heart of the Montreal financial district and is close to shopping and sight-seeing, with direct access to the Metro (underground).

In addition to the show and the COC Annual General Meeting, there will be six lectures, four in English and two in French. French/English - English/French translations of the speakers' texts will be made available where possible. Question periods will be bilingual. More information on speakers later.

A banquet will be organized for the congress and there will also be the COC Auction.

Other activities of interest will include the Jardin Botanique, the Biodome, old Montreal with its cobbled streets, theatres and fine restaurants.

Preliminary information will be sent to each society early in the new year.

An Orchid Collection

An orchid collection is an organic thing in more than one way. It is obviously organic in that it is composed of plants. The other organic side to an orchid collection is in its growth trends, both in number and variety of orchids.

In the beginning most of us start off with one or two plants usually bought in flower and we baby them along until they get lonely. Yes lonely! For why else must we make sure they have more and still more friends gather around them, slowly taking over window ledges, light set-ups and eventually greenhouses. This communal aspect to orchids is something that no one tells you about when they give or sell you that first beautiful plant. It is almost an insidious trait of orchid plants the way they dig themselves under your skin and lower your sales resistance. Even when you know your spouse or partner will threaten to kill or maim you if another one of those *?!c..aJ# plants enters the house. Maybe it is those strange looking roots they have that somehow latch onto your hand as you pass by or maybe it is some strange supernatural hypnotic effect, whatever, it is a most effective method of never being a lonely orchid.

Growing orchids then is not simply a horticultural pursuit. There is a mystic aura that entraps the novice and narcotizes the entrapped so that the grower enters a blissful and tranquil state. It is hard to think of growing any plant as being a cult, but orchids could be described as cult creating plants.

Anyone "into orchids" really has "orchids into" them. For in reality orchids take over part of you that you will never get back. The malady may seem a little horrendous to the reader, but in truth orchidists don't seem as "sick" as they do "obsessed." They make very interesting people to talk with, but be careful as they tend to have a missionary zeal when they start talking about orchids,

As the number of plants grows under your care they tend to move around a lot, finding all the nooks and crannies (microcliimates anywhere in your personal world) that suit them best. I have some plants that must have some Gypsy blood in them because they have managed to wander all over my greenhouse in the past few years.

"If it's an orchid then its worth giving it growing room," is a slogan most of us start with, but few of us can afford the luxury of living with this attitude for long. Space rather than fluids usually becomes the limiting factor. So far, only upward numerical growth has been mentioned, but there is another type of growth that in time shows up in every collection.

This is what forms patterns in collections. You might trade off your Cymbidiums in favour of Cattleyas or Sophronitis for Masdevallias, but usually somewhere a preference is expressed so that one or two groups of plants will eventually dominate your collection, in numbers anyhow. This in turn can lead to environmental changes so that still more plants must give way to your favourite groups. Not because you don't love them anymore, but because they cannot tolerate the conditions you have created for the more favoured groups.

When you have limited yourself to just so much growing space for orchids and you have filled that space, your collection then tends to take on a quality improvement type of growth pattern, where you replace one plant for a better form or the same or nearly the same plant. Numbers of plants usually stay fairly even at this stage. After a time though the interest of the grower starts to shift (usually after attending a really large and glorious show) and again new groups start to creep in and old friends start to drift off or feel less comfortable in the changing climate and drift off to other collections. The concept of growth then comes into an orchid collection in several ways. Keeping up interest in this most involving, enveloping and captivating pursuit.

Happy growing everyone.

Mike Miller, Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society.
Mike is the newsletter editor of the CVIOS and grows a wide variety of unusual orchids.

Deciduous Calanthes

The word Calanthe means "Beautiful Flower". There are two groups of Calanthes recognized, the Evergreen types and the Deciduous ones. Both grow over a wide area of distribution: Africa, India, China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Polynesia, Australia and one even in Central America.

The very first orchid hybrid ever made was Calanthe Dominyi (Cal. furcata x Cal. masuca), created by one of Veitch's gardeners, Mr. Dominy, who acted on advice from Dr. Harris of Exeter; this was the year 1853. In 1860, the next Calanthe hybrid to be registered was Cal. Veitchii (Cal. rosea x Cal. vestita).

This brings us to the deciduous group, which includes Cal. cardioglossa, Cal. labrosa, Cal. rosea, Cal. rubra, Cal. vestita and many varieties of these species, particularly of Cal. vestita.

When I first started growing these plants, I felt that since the leaves look much like Lycastes, (large, soft and ribbed) they wanted to grow under similar conditions: intermediate to cool and always moist. I have learned in the meantime that Calanthes like to be warm!, so do a lot of Lycastes, particularly those actually from Peru.

These plants grow in tropical areas as forest terrestrials and have a short, dry winter rest and a long, moist summer season for growing. They also have large, conspicuous pseudobulbs which remind me of pre-Columbian pottery with a large basal squared off vase-shaped structure topped by a similar, smaller one.

These top pseudobulbs snap off quite easily, particularly during the dry resting period, when they have to sit underneath a bench in our warm greenhouse. If they do break off, you can try to plant them separately - often they will grow. It may weaken the mother plant a little; it also changes its appearance, of course. Next time, just try to be more careful and keep the plant intact.

After the large leaves dry off in the fall or winter, the plant is kept on the dry side (but please, don't turn it to powder!) Now you must watch for the flower spikes to appear from the base of the newest pseudobulb, usually late winter to spring. Once the spikes are visible, set the plant on the bench again and water very lightly, during all the flowering period. The flowers will open in succession on stems about 40 cm long, several being open at a time and will last for two or three months. You may re-pot as soon as the new growth of the new pseudobulb and leaves is about 5 cm high and then you must water and fertilize regularly.

Calanthes used to be popular between 1880 to the beginning of the second world war and many hybrids have been made. They last well as cut flowers and lately have been used again for hybridizing, especially in England, to produce stunning 7 cm flowers in colours from pure white to the deepest ruby red you can imagine. Try growing a Calanthe, a "Beautiful Flower" and see how you like it.

Ingrid Schmidt-Ostrander, Victoria Orchid Society

Conservation Poster Display at the 1999 W.O.C.

I am coordinating the conservation poster display at the 1999 W.O.C. The posters will be displayed and staged on freestanding units, some fixed, some with wheels for moving about. Posters displayed should be in the standard 28" x 44" poster board format. However if some groups would like to do a larger display they can contact me 6 months IN ADVANCE to make special display arrangements. No advance warning and we may not be able to accomodate the submissions. The posters will be attached to the standing units with velcro fasteners, which we will supply.

The posters will be on permanent display throughout the duration of the conference. We will also have prizes awarded for the best presentation in different categories.

Share with the world your vision, idea, or present orchid conservation program at the 1999 W.O.C. in Vancouver, B.C.

Paula Keeler,
1611 North State St. Bellingham,
Washington 98225 U.S.A.
(360)715-901 0 work, (360) 715-9005 fax
(360)671-7559 home

Up the Down Staircase or more correctly Down the up Staircase

While contemplating the delicate diggers of the orchidaceae, I first had to define the measure of these individual plants. Merely pendant is not enough. Pendant inflorescences are, how shall I say, all too common in the orchidaceae. A common ploy used by many epiphytic genera to hang their flowers out of the crowd to attract pollinators. Now it is this "crowd" that has caused many species to use adapt or die strategies that we admire in our collections. Some branches and main trunks of trees in tropical zones are heavily encrusted with thick layers of ferns, bromeliads, fine mosses and a great crowd of other plants fighting to survive.

Then along come the ever adaptive orchidaceae. Some species havejust learned to stretch and wave their flowers above the crowd. Many others let their inflorescences hang out or down to make pendent chains in a glorious display. Then we have the delicate diggers! Plants that just seem to sit there while their inflorescences spear their way through roots, soil, and other debris to eventually appear below the plant and under the branch. Many of these inflorescences tend to descend on a slight angle so they would miss the host branches supporting the crowd.

Reading through the genera I could only locate three that actually dig through the bottom of their baskets or mounts to show off their flowers. Only Stanhopias, some Maxillarias and the Acinetas seem to act this way. The rest of the genera either start their inflorescences upward or outward before they start down in a pendant direction. The Paphinia I have seen almost plowed its swelling buds through the surface of the media, but not under it. Therefore I was left with three genera which always or with only some species actually dig through the bottom or side of the basket. All of these species must be grown in a basket or all you will ever see is a leafy plant sitting nicely in a pot.

I remember years ago reading an account of a new curator taking over a collection which had a good number of Stanhopeas in it and he noted with horror that they were all in conventional clay pots. Consequently the outgoing curator had never seen any of the plants flower. The bottoms were quickly knocked out of the pots to reveal many dried up inflorescences of years past and a few green struggling ones still looking for the drain hole. In the proper season these plants were transferred to baskets with as little solid bottom as could be made. They all prospered and flowered very well in the years that followed.

Apparently the less solid material you can make the bottom out of the better as the inflorescences will not go around a slat of wood but will stop dead if they strike it head on. Therefore a few wires stretched across the bottom of the basket is all that should be used. A lining of moss will keep the media around the roots.

Some of the large Maxillarias like sanderiana and striata are confused as to whether they want to be true diggers or not. The plants in my collection send one inflorescence down for every one they send out or up. I have seen M. sanderiana in a solid pot and there have been many flowers showing themselves as upright members of the floral community. However, I have always wondered how many more were running around screaming to get out in the media below. Gabriela Sartisohn has a huge M. sanderiana in a basket which she had lined with several layers of the sterile fronds of a staghom fern and the inflorescences speared their way through this material with ease. Coconut fiber matting used to line baskets should also let the very pointed buds pierce through.

I have only seen two species of Acineta and one of them was in a basket while the other was on a slab. The basketed specimen took weeks to send an infloreseence down through the media at the same time the slabbed individual sent it's inflorescence snaking down the face of the root mass and slab. Both bloomed beautifully year after year so they were equally happy. With this genera it was fascinating as to just how slowly the inflorescence moved downward.

Now just how advantageous is it for a fairly large orchid plant to send its inflorescence down through the media instead of upward or outward? If you look at pictures of some tropical forest trees you will see plant growth on the top of some branches standing a meter tall and as thick as grass in a hay field. However, you will also notice that there is very little plant mass under the same branch. Large flowers hanging below the main mass of plants on the branches are much more easily found by pollinators. Instead of putting a great deal of energy into a long, sturdy inflorescence these plants can have a shorter spike and larger flowers for the same or less energy.

Orchids being clever have learned to adapt and take advantage of every micro habitat and this is just another example of the adaptive character of our orchids.

SOURCE: Mike Miller, Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society.
Mike is the newsletter editor of the CVIOS and grows a wide variety of unusual orchids.

Little Orchid Jewels

Phalaenopsis parishii var. lobbii This is an adorable little plant from the eastern Himalayas. It likes to grow on a cork slab. It has a lot of fleshy roots and 2 or 3 leaves. This worried me for years until Brian Rittershausen told us that this is normal. I should not have worried anyway because it was blooming every spring on 2 or 3 short spikes, creamy flowers with brown bars on the wide lip. I grow it warm, mist it daily, no trouble at all. It needs bright light and a little bit of sun.

Schoenorchis manipurensis This comes from India and Thailand. It is tiny and does not seem to grow, but it blooms all summer on short spikes with small reddish-pink flowers which are long-lasting. These need humid and moderately shady conditions, with plenty of water when growing and less at other times. It grows well on a small treefern slab.

Sophronitis cernua This comes from Brazil blooms in fall on treefern, has round flat pseudobulbs and heart-shaped stiff leaves. The flowers are bright orange, wide open on short spikes. It looks nice all year. There is a variety acunae, the flowers of which are a little larger and the sidelobes of the column are lilac purple. After flowering I keep them dry until new growths appear, then I water them every day until the pseudobulbs are mature, then I keep them dry again until spikes appear. They need warmth and sunshine.

It was a pleasure telling you about my "little orchidjewels". Of course there are many more that can be grown. They take such little space you can grow a number of them in a very small area. Some are not easy to grow and bloom, but I consider this a challenge.

SOURCE: Irene Rohrmoser, Fraser Valley Orchid Society & the Vancouver Orchid Society.
Irene is an exceptional grower, her greenhouse is a treat for the eyes and soul. She has many AOS awards including some for her own hybrids.

Our Own Jewel Orchid

Goodyera oblongifolia var. reticulata is named after the English botanist John Goodyer and the shape and marldngs on their leaves.

These orchids are a very common and visible in our forests. They are usually nestled in the moss carpet over rich humus, where the rosettes of velvety, evergreen leaves show to good advantage. The leaves are oblong-elliptic and may be obtuse or acute at the end. The veining, which is this plants beauty is amazingly variable, some plants of this species having only the mid-rib white, where as the var. reticulata, has a fine netting of white traced out over each leaf. The white is caused by a lack of chlorophyll in the leaf tissue bordering the veins on the leaves.

The flower spike, which reaches up to over 20 cm. from the rosette of leaves, is best viewed with a hand lens to appreciate the intricate beauty of the many crowded flowers sometimes spiraling up the stem. The dorsal sepal and lateral petals have joined to form a hood-like structure over the lip and column. The flowers do not open flat, instead staying bell shaped and standing more or less straight out from the pubescent stem. Basically white with an apple green blush touching all segments, the flowers put on a dainty show. According to the B.C. Museum Handbook on Orchids these delightful plants "thrive well indoors, and are widely used in terraria". Personally I have only brought these beauties into outdoor beds and pot culture, so can not state how they would fare inside. As they reproduce rather quickly by side shoots from their rhizomes, it might be worth trying a few rosettes in a terrarium or in a pot in the cooler parts of the greenhouse. They grow in both moist and dry locations, but nearly always in partial shade. Thriving under such varied conditions makes them better able to withstand artificial conditions in a collection.

Mike Miller - Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society

Slabs and Slabbing Orchids

When looking at an orchid collection a novice to these addictive wonders would easily come to the false understanding that orchids grow in pots. When gardeners and other plant growers think of pots they think of potting soil and earthbound plants and root systems. Then we have orchids! Most of the orchids grown in confinement either started life in a tree or their forefathers did. This epiphytic habit of many of our favourite orchids is really not a simple cut and dried way of growing. Plants on the ground fit into many micro climates determined by available light, moisture, soil type and temperature. The epiphytic zone likewise is filled with many variations on a theme called microclimates.

A typical tree will supply three main areas suitable for our orchids. The trunk starts at ground level and can soar many meters to the first lateral branches. Trees with shedding or loose bark rarely host epiphytes for obvious reasons. However, trees with rough or fissured bark offer opportunities for colonies of lichen, mosses, ferns, bromeliads, orchids and many other genera of plants to become established. Some orchid plants look like they have been tacked onto the bare exposed trunks. Other trunks host thick mats of mosses near their bases which support orchids requiring low light and more constant moisture around their roots for at least the growing season. Coelogyne cristata and Pleione praecox are good Indian examples of plants from this type of habitat.

The first crotches formed when the major branches start are the home to many of the orchids that require some media around their roots as leaves and other material can collect and break down to form quite a deposit of loose moist media. Huge Cymbidiums enjoy these locations as well as many of the larger Cattleyas and Maxillarias. The large lateral branches of trees can support hundreds of kilograms of epiphytes creating entire aerial miniature worlds.

The smaller branches and twigs are the most tenuous home for orchids on host trees as in the canopy of the tree change is constant. This is where the tree is most active in it's own growth and is constantly expanding. If a little Oncidium starts life here because the light conditions are perfect then five to ten years on these conditions are no longer correct. This is why most of the twig orchids mature quickly and cast forth seeds before the Cattleyas and Cymbidiums have even decided to flower.

The macro habitat is the all controlling influence that must be taken into account when orchids seek a new home for their seedlings in nature. In the wet tropical jungles there is fantastic competition for living space so the seedlings have to be able to take advantage of sites and hold onto them by growing quickly and shouldering out the competition. Being flexible or being able to take advantage of less popular sites is a big win for orchids.

For the orchidist trying to grow these epiphytes the challenge is to create the exact conditions needed for optimum success. Matching the macro and micro climates required by your new plant can require a great deal of reading and research before a comfort zone for your plant is found. Your growing space must supply the macro climate for your plants whether this is a green house or a windowsill. Now, the pot and media or slab that you select for this new plant is part of the micro climate that you must create. The other part of the micro climate is the final placement of the pot or slab.

The slab and what to do with it is what I would like to concentrate on for the rest of the article. When someone says, "Oh, I grow it on a slab ", I tend to wait and hear the rest of the story. That is like saying well I grow it in a pot. What size and type and what medium are all important parts of the real picture. And so it is for slabs as well, we must discover what is needed for each plant. Commercially there are cork bark slabs and tree fern slabs and that is about it. In real life the surfaces are endless. First of all a slab is a substitute for a piece of a living tree. I started off with driftwood slabs which I soaked well to leach the salt and I usually added a pad of osmunda to hold moisture near the roots. Over the years I have looked at and built many types of slabs and am always looldng for new ideas.

The basic slab I use today is cut from firbark with a wire hook at the top and a wire hoop at the bottom. I try to match the shape of the slab to the size of the plant and my projection of its growth needs for a few years. I have used cork, Red Cedar, alder and Broad Leafed Maple bark as well as cedar shakes, Styrofoam and interesting driftwood. If I feel that the plant needs a pad under its roots to keep moisture close to the roots, I choose from either osmunda, sphagnum moss, coconut fiber or a shallow wire basket filled with media. To keep the plants on the slabs I use 15 pound monofilament fishing line. Labels for slabs I usually punch a hole in and tie right on so that they will not fall off. Two methods of supporting slabs in a house that I have been told are to stand them in clay pots, keeping the saucer under it full of water. The other method is to wrap the slab with the plastic bag that some grapes come in with many fine slits cut in them. Both of these methods sound like they would work very well and would be worth trying.

Slab racks come in many styles and designs. I started with simple frames with hexagon wire stretched in them screwed to the walls. I have also had poles with hooks on them so plants could be hooked on all the way around. For small slabs I had a neat rotating wire tube filled with moss that swiveled on a fishing tackle swivel.

In a greenhouse I spray these racks every morning and I move resting plants to a safe, drier spot for a while. In the house under lights I spray every day whether resting or not as the humidity is lower and all plants get some fogs or dews while resting.

As for feeding these little wonders I use 15-30-15 while active growth is going on and just water the rest of the time. They may benefit from the odd bird dropping or monkey manure, but I do not have these animals in my greenhouse or basement growing areas and my tortoise does not climb or fly.

Mike Miller, Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society.

Canadian Orchid Congress Officers - 1997/1998

President - Jeanette Arthurs
Vice President - Gordon Heaps
Treasurer - Janette Richardson
Secretary - Judy Browne
Past President - Steve Saunders
Speaker Tour - Landis Stanlake
Education and Show Awards - Ken Girard
Conservation - Marilyn Light
Webmaster - Steve Saunders
Species List - Annette B. Bagby
Charitable Status - Gordon Heaps
Newsletter - Malcolm Adams
Auditing Committee - Vacant

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