Floral Friday: A Potinara by any other name…

After skipping last year’s bloom cycle, the Potinara orchid I purchased in 2013 decided to wake up.  This is how it looked on October 27:

Potinara is a man-made genus (aka nothogenus) combining orchids from the Brassavola, Cattleya, Laelia, and Sophronitis genera. Taxonomists have begun reclassifying the 4 component orchids so Potinara Elaine Taylor is now an unpronounceable Rhyncattleanthe. You can read more about the science and name changes here but regardless, this is one striking flower!

Rhyncattleanthe Elaine Taylor, October 31, 2014

Rhyncattleanthe Elaine Taylor, October 31, 2014

Elaine Taylor typically blooms two 3.5-4″ flowers per inflorescence, set off be a bright white column. The labellum, petals, and sepals are covered in a crystalline “dust” that lends sparkle and refraction depending on sunlight.  In a few more days–when this flower is fully open–gold veins will be visible along the throat and mid-lip.

Rlc. Elaine Taylor was hybridized by the Krull-Smith Co. of Apopka, FL. Its family tree includes such famous parents as Rlc. Oconee, Ctt. Hazel Boyd and C. Beaufort, all much awarded and highly valued for the excellent crosses made from them.

For other Floral Friday photos click this link.

Until next time…


Happy Halloween!


Brassia Maculata in Bloom

Brassias are sympodial (bulbous) orchids whose large fleshy leaves and woody flower spikes emerge from oval pseudobulbs along the soil line. Each pseudobulb provides nutrients and water for a single bloom cycle in August/September.  The light was perfect this morning so I took a few pics of their incredible beauty.


First Brassia maculata flowers of the season, 9/3/14

Their spidery appearance gives Brassias a distinct reproductive advantage. Parasitic wasps who typically lay their eggs on spiders, get confused by the orchid’s appearance and land on the flowers instead. As the wasps flit from plant to plant, they create one of nature’s best win-win situations: the wasps reproduce,  the brassias get pollinated, and a few very lucky 8 legged insects are saved in the process!


Although my Brassias live outdoors, they also make great houseplants: read more about it here.

Until next time…

🙂 🙂 🙂

Phalaenopsis Roots and Proper Re-potting Procedure

With its arching stems of showy flowers, the Phalaenopsis is one of nature’s most beautiful orchids.

Purple Speckled Phalaenopsis

After 3 years of pretty amazing growth, the purple phal I inherited from my mother was climbing out of its container:  the planting medium was so clogged with tree leaf debris, the roots had nowhere to go but up and over the side of the basket.  Time to repot! 

You never know what you’ll find when you shake away the old bark and perlite, so I was relieved to see this!

Phalaenopsis ready for repotting, 9/22/13

Healthy phalaenopsis roots are a plump whitish-grey and the newest ones have little green growing tips.  “Bad” roots are brittle, brown and withered looking.  Here’s a close-up to aid in the identification:

Healthy and Unhealthy Phalaenopsis Roots, 9/22/13

There are two things I suggest doing before repotting, and the first is pretty obvious: trim away the damaged/rotting brown roots until the new root zone looks like this:

Freshly pruned Phalaenopsis Roots, 9/22/13

Some orchid growers suggest cutting back the older, healthy roots (aka those without growing tips) to 4″ long, but I don’t do this for one simple reason: it isn’t natural! Phalaenopsis are epiphytes growing on tree branches without benefit of soil. In the wild, roots that aren’t acting as anchors, continue to grow and hang loose.

Phals grown in pots are very sensitive to salt build-up from water and fertilizers. Use this opportunity to flush the roots REALLY well.under rapidly running water. If your pruning was extensive, you may be able to place the plant back in it’s original pot; scrub it thoroughly first!

So you’ve done all this, and you’re finally ready to pot up!  Place your orchid in the new container with the base of the lowest leaf about ½”  below the pot rim, like so:

Phalaenopsis in Wooden Basket, 9/22/13

As you can see, I’ve fanned the roots out but haven’t used any medium this time: this is strictly because my zone is compatible with year round outdoor growing, and I’ll be hanging the container in my Bauhinia tree.

For those of you repotting phals as houseplants, I suggest spreading the roots over a layer of several inches of Better Gro’s Orchid Bark and/or Special Orchid Mix:

Finished Repotting the Phalaenopsis, 9/22/13

Keep adding medium until the mix is ½ to ¾ inch below the top of the pot. This helps facilitate rooting into the medium, not over the rim. Using your fingers, tamp the bark down lightly until it reaches the base of the lowest leaf.

The last step is to slowly water your orchid, with emphasis on the word SLOWLY!  After all your hard work, you don’t want the bark jumping and flushing all over the place, right? Yup! This happened to me! 😮

Re-potting orchids isn’t as scary as I thought it was a few years ago!   In fact, it’s really pretty simple!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

“Spidery” Specimens

I can’t believe it’s almost the 4th of July!  Even in this place of permanent summer, the July holiday represents a psychological downslope toward Fall and all it entails: shorter days, busier schedules, and dare I whisper it…the holidays. 😮  However, to quote our wise old patriot, Ben Franklin, “Do not anticipate trouble…… keep in the sunlight.”   Today I’ll take his advice and show you some spidery specimens growing in my rear garden.


This viney shrub from tropical Africa, Strophanthus Preussii, is commonly known as “spiders tresses”  and grows up to 13′ tall.  The flowers’ ovate petals narrow into tails up to 11″ long. The next photo gives you a better look at the plant’s striking foliage; notice too, the additional offshoots where more of the unusual flowers are forming:


Multiple traditional uses of Strophanthus preussii  have been recorded in several African countries. Nigerian tribes use the plant’s stems to construct hunting bows. In Zaire, the sap is used medicinally to treat wounds and induce labor in pregnant women.  In Gabon, the young leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Not all uses of Spider’s Tresses are for the common good, however!

Strophanthus species contain cardiac glycosides that increase blood flow around the heart. In large amounts these glycosides are poisonous and have been used historically in poison arrow concoctions. Crazy stuff!

Thankfully, my next spidery specimen has NO nefarious uses:


Typically these Brassia Maculatas (aka Spider Orchids) open toward the end of August, and once, even as late as November!  I was VERY surprised to see blooms before July 4th!!


The Brassia is an epiphytic orchid native to the wet forests of Central/South America, and named after 19th century British botanical illustrator, William Brass. Their spidery look gives Brassias a distinct reproductive advantage. Parasitic wasps who typically lay their eggs on spiders, get confused by the orchid’s appearance and land on the flowers instead. As the wasps flit from plant to plant, they create one of nature’s best win-win situations: the wasps reproduce,  the brassias get pollinated, and a few very lucky 8 legged insects are saved in the process!  Wait…..that’s win-win-win! 😉

To learn more about orchids check out the American Orchid Society Website.

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂


Strange growth in the Brassia Maculata basket!

After my Brassia maculata orchids finished blooming (last August) I divided 2 original pots into 6 separate clumps. I gave one group away, wired 3 to various branches in the bauhinia tree, and placed the remaining divisions in a basket:


Brassias are sympodial (bulbous) orchids whose large fleshy leaves and woody flower spikes emerge from oval pseudobulbs along the soil line.  Each pseudobulb provides nutrients and water for a single bloom cycle before becoming a dormant “backbulb.”  When things proceed normally,  backbulbs divert their remaining energy to producing next year’s growth, as illustrated by this group wired to the tree:


The severe wrinkling tells me these pseudobulbs  COMPLETELY depleted themselves to ensure the next generations’ survival…the new growth looks absolutely normal…..and not at all like what’s going on in the basket!


I’m uncertain what’s growing from the “V” in the leaf…it has the overlapping, braided look of a pseudobulb but is way too thin, long, and misplaced.  I don’t think it’s a flower spike because it looks nothing like last summer’s growth, and is emerging from an atypical spot. Weird!

Now for that strange disc shaped thingy growing from the root!  Here’s a close-up:


….and another from a slightly different angle showing hairlike roots emanating from the attached leaves.


I bought my first orchids in 2010 and have probably learned more from making mistakes than doing research!  Dividing these brassias, placing them in a tree that provided inadequate shade, and then not watering enough, clearly stressed them to the max!

Under severe stress,(and sometimes for no reason at all!)  brassias are known to asexually reproduce via the process of  developing a keiki.  Keiki is Hawaiian for child/baby but is a bit of a misnomer: orchid keikis are clones of the original plant. Eventually the keikis develop a full root system that allows them to survive independently.

Needless to say, I’ll be watching the basket for further developments!   If any of you are orchid experts or have seen similar strange and unexpected growths, please comment!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂


Orange Blossom, 2/22/13

Wordless Wednesday: April 10, 2013

Remember the formerly-purple-now-white Phalaenopsis last seen in January?

Well……..things change. 🙂

Here’s “Lila Mystique” a few hours ago, sitting pretty in the crook of my (very) lichen covered citrus tree.

Phalaenopsis Lila Mystique, 04/10/13

Lila is one of the overpriced “dye job phals” you’ve seen in many nurseries, a member of the Mystique collection introduced in 2011 by Silver Vase Co.

For further info, check out the first post I wrote about this plant.

Until next time…..


Where’s the Weekly View?

I’m overdue for a “Weekly View” post but it may be on hold a bit longer.  While working at Hallstrom House last Tuesday, I big time wrenched my upper back, lifting wicked heavy (for me) debris-laden tarps.  😦  Since then I’ve been confined to the house, resting flat and doing little beyond squelching the rising panic over my less-than-speedy recovery ❗

However…it IS getting better and I just got out to the garden for the first time in week! Yaayyy!!!

Ranchero, 3/11/13

As you can see, the Luther Burbank Opuntias are still blooming alongside a crown-of-thorn shrub that was heavily pruned a few months ago.

The day before my injury, I planted 20 lily bulbs from an “Unspecified Assortment 15pk.”  Now if you’re scratching your head, saying  “hmmm, chick can’t add?” be advised: the numerically challenged party in this equation is Wal-Mart, but I’ve got no complaints!  5 free lilies works for me. Several have broken the surface already, and here’s one, variety unknown.

Lily breaking the surface, 3/11/13

Another lily making an appearance this week was a red Canna, the first of early Spring:

Red Canna Lily, 3/11/13

The nasturtiums have been around awhile but are finally leafing out and blooming prodigiously. This colorful flower always makes me smile:

Nasturtium, 3/11/13

My biggest surprise was seeing how the purple phalaenopsis had changed:

Purple Phalaenopsis, 3/11/13

What a beauty!   The next image shows the entire plant (with two additional bloomspikes):

Phalaneopsis w/ 3 bloom spikes, 3/11/13

I tried shooting the Tillandsia next, but the upward angle and twisting involved exceeded my limited range of motion.  I CAN tell you it’s really tall though!  🙂

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂