Showing posts from July, 2011
It Had to Start Somewhere- Paphiopedilum Species; The Husky Group  

 In this blog I will look at the largest species in the genus, most of which are from Borneo and the Philippines. One species in particular, sanderianum, was essentially lost in cultivation, then re-introduced about 25 years ago. The species can now be purchased at a fairly reasonable sum, somewhat less than the price of a small car, as was the case 20 years ago.  Some of these species make impressive hybrids, and are easy enough to grow if you understand their needs. Many of these species are rock or tree dwellers, in fairly high light levels. This means that these plants like bright light and a well-drained potting mix in cultivation. They can be grown in subtropical or tropical areas in hanging baskets or hanging pots, providing the plants with plenty of air movement. At Pinecrest Gardens, I grow plants of this group in clay pots in a Cattleya mix, in the same area as the Brazilian Cattleyas. The plants rece…
It Had to Start Somewhere- Paphiopedilum Species: the Height Challenged Group
I am an unabashed orchidholic, primarily because there is an unending array of plants to be grown, climate and facilities permitting, of course. The Asian Ladyslippers, usually abbreviated as "Paphs" to avoid the tongue-twisting name of Paphiopedilum , have captured imaginations of orchid fanciers for a century and a half. The unique flower shapes, art-deco colors, and dazzling mixtures of spots, bars, hairs and long lasting flowers makes these plants a real treat in a plant family that often has so few of these traits. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in this group which add to their cachet of being royalty. I do not have the conditions to grow this group just yet; my conditions lend more toward growing Cattleya and Dendrobiums.
I have a few of the larger multi-floral Paph. types, since they like a lot of light and less water. Yet I know of local growers who have great success with this …
It Had to Start Somewhere- Vanda Species

Vanda species and hybrids have a roller-coaster ride of popularity. Every few years they seem to become fashionable again, and I often wonder if the attraction is linked to a nursery's availability of the plants......
I recall the first time I saw a really blue Vanda
rothschildiana ( sanderiana x coerulea) at an orchid show in Milwaukee. I was smitten from the first second I saw it. If I had known that I would some day live in Miami, where Vandas grow almost without care, I would not have tried so hard to grow it in a greenhouse in the chilly northern states.
I saw some of the terete and semi-terete hybrids as well, such as V. Nellie Morley and V. Josephine Van Brero.  Their round flowers with such solid texture were a far cry from the open, thin-textured flowers of some of the species.

In the last 30 years or so, there have been some revelations in Vanda breeding, largely due to growers in the Miami / Homestead area, as well as a number of…
There Really Are Good Reference Books....

Like many gardeners, I have read a LOT of books about plants. Many books have conflicting information about the same topics and plants. One of my primary complaints about plant books has been that since so many are written for a national audience, the information is so generalized that it doesn't really help subtropical gardeners. .
  I can understand the concept; in order to make a book saleable in 48 states, it needs to appeal to a wide audience. A book about coconut palms would sell a few hundred or few thousand copies locally, but a book about herb gardening can be written for a national audience and might sell tens of thousands of copies. If, however, you are interested in reading greater detail about a tropical plant, there are rather few books written that can help us sub-tropical gardeners, and fewer still for the Zone 10 warm areas of South Florida. This is a quandary, since books written in the wet tropics don't apply to…
It Had to Start Somewhere - Cattleya Species

As an avowed and recovering orchid addict, I have grown a huge array of orchids, always trying to learn how to grow them and about the myriad flower types available in the orchid family. I am especially partial to large flowered Cattleyas; in my mind it is the quintessential "orchid". There are thousands of hybrids, in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, textures and fragrances. I have an old-fashioned hybrid called Lc. Crispin Rosales, and when it is in flower, I never miss a chance to inhale the fragrance until I get dizzy. Its rich, clove-spice-gardenia fragrance is irresistible.
After growing hybrids for many years, I discovered the simple elegance of several of the species in the genus, and 2 of the species have accounted for more hybrids than any others. The trends in orchid breeding are interestingly cyclic; there is a trend toward species, then primary hybrids, then miniatures, then allied species, and then back aga…
It Had to Start Somewhere- Phalaenopsis species

Over the last 40 years that I have grown orchids, I have seen a lot of changes in both species and hybrids. I can remember looking at a Shaffer Orchids Catalog in the early 1980s, and marveling at one of the first modern yellow Phalaenopsis hybrids, using P. venosa as a parent. The flower was fairly small by today's standards, with an open form and low flower count, but it was yellow. This was really new stuff decades ago, was fairly expensive, and you got a small plant shipped in the mail. Nowadays, you can buy top-grade blooming, yellow Phalaenopsis  plants at a big-box garden center for the price of lunch. The same goes for pink or lavender or spotted or multifloral plants. In the middle 1980s, I recall swooning over the first pictures of what was called the "French Spot" Phalaenopsis hybrids, popularized by the French firm Vacherot and Lecoufle. They were rather weak growers but had radical, spotted flowers b…
'Allo, 'Allo...Aloe.....What's This...?

Every few years I seem to see a group of plants in a new way, even if I have seen them for years. Occasionally I'll visit a nursery or private garden, and see plants displayed in new ways which reinforces, or perhaps more correctly, refreshes my interest in a group. Such is the case with Aloe species, and the myriad forms they come in. Pinecrest Gardens has the mixed blessing of having an arid-plant garden, in which we have several species of Aloe, especially Aloe barbadensis, one of the "Aloe vera" group, which seems to have several species in it.

 There is a feeling that in South Florida, succulents are tough to grow, and this is untrue. I would say that many succulents are unhappy about being plunked into a rich potting soil, outside in the back yard in a mixed landscape. Most succulents I've grown preferred a well-drained gravel-based mixture, in pots or in raised beds, and with plants of similar growing…
  The Rise and Fall of Coconut Palms in South Florida

  Many years ago South Florida was a palm paradise, with a tall, dense canopy of palms swaying in the prevailing southeasterly winds. The legendary tales of the thousands upon thousands of tall coconut palms in the lower coastal areas gave rise to visions of paradises lost from the Pacific. Innumerable business and real estate and restaurant and hotel names sprang from the palm's namesake. The brilliant yellow coconuts, set against a rich canopy of 20 foot emerald fronds, set atop trunks as tall as 70 feet, made Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and nearby cities a grand attraction.

Then, in the late 1960s, something awful happened. A disease called Lethal Yellowing started in the Florida Keys, which spread and raged through the lower part of the state like a slow forest fire, killing thousands upon thousands of coconuts and other palms. The disease is still here, but there are rather few coconuts for it to infect compared …