Garden stories can arise from a single plant or a profusion of them, from a spectacular bird or glorious butterfly that visits a worthy bloom, or a new discovery made in the field that expands our understanding of the Earth. Any and all of these realms are for sharing and discussing on this blog, which we invite you to join.
Text and photos by Georgia Tasker
Over the past week, we have noticed some disturbing signs in our orchid houses. The phragmepidiums and paphiopedilums have more yellowing leaves than usual, and the cattleyas and even the phalaenopsis orchids have some scale. Oncidiums and some cattleyas bulbs are showing some brown, soft tissue at the base signifying rot. This is the result of the weather, which has been rainy and humid while the light has turned the corner and become less intense winter light.
Without good air circulation in these days of high humidity, rain and shorter days, orchids are susceptible to such poxes and pests.
Examine your orchids carefully and reduce your watering schedule. Look into the crevices between leaves for scale; look under leaves for scale when yellow spots appear on top of them. Watch for black rot at the base of pseudobulbs on cattleyas and oncidiums, and fungus (brown areas surrounded by a yellow halo) on all plants. Have cinnamon or alcohol at hand. If the ends of leaves turn brown, cut away the area and treat the cuts with a Captan paste. If you cut out rotting pseudobulbs, treat the remaining good tissue with Captan paste.
In this month’s orchid newsletter, Martin Motes recommends using hydrogen peroxide on vandas and phalaenopsis with crown rot. Hydrogen peroxide comes in various strengths: 3%, 5%, 8% and 35%. Use 3 percent. You will see the bubbling characteristic of hydrogen peroxide. Treat daily until you see no more bubbles forming.
|Edema, but not a disease.|
(Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a spray to prevent fungal and bacterial disease. Spray it weekly on orchid leaves in the growing season or in weather such as we are experiencing now.)
Because the recent days have been hot, you may have forgotten to reduce the amount of water you are giving to your plants. Suddenly, cattleya and dendrobium leaves are showing black markings that scare you to death. It is edema, swelling of tissue caused by the plants receiving too much water. There is nothing you can do about it now; just cut back on the water. It's not a disease!
Have I been sleepwalking through recent orchid shows or have I just overlooked what is happening to Phalaenopsis orchids these days? At the Fall Orchid Festival now underway, I reignited my appreciation for these orchids. The show is in the Lakeside Marquee Tent, and tabletop displays are fashioned into islands of glorious flowers.
|A Phalaenopsis hybrid that shows off the
latest breeding trends.
Phalaenopsis orchids have become America's favorite pot plant. Maybe because they are sold everywhere, including the grocery store, I have walked right by them. However, the new hybrids are writing a whole new chapter in orchid breeding.
In the 1990s, harlequin-type Phalaenopsis hybrids appeared and set into motion the outrageous patterns, colors and shapes of today's phals. Harlequin phals were the white flowers with splotches of maroon that appeared here and there on the petals and sepals. These early hybrids seemed as if someone had splattered maroon ink on the flowers. I took note, even bought some, but then my attention drifted.
Today's phals bear spots, stripes, picotee edges, splash patterns; raspberry, pink, orange, green and maroon colors, and yes some still have a lot of white in the petals. They are audacious, indeed.
The little phals are playing catch-up as well. Krull Smith Landscapes' Phal. bellina' Krull's Green Prince' earned an
|Phal. schilleriana x Phal. lindenii|
AOS highly commended certificate wtih 78 points. Krull Smith also displayed a lovely purple Phal. violacea. Their Phal. schilleriana x Phal. lindenii earned 77 points and another American Orchid Society HCC as best pink Phalaenopsis of the show. And their Phal. gigantea garnered an AOS Award of Merit with 87 points.
There are plenty of other handsome genera on display. Vanda Erick Cizek Dann is a fabulous dark blue-purple and white flower that won best Vanda. Encyclia boothiana not only was best native orchid, but also best Encyclia.
Eight orchids received American Orchid Society awards, but there are many knock-you-socks-off flowers on display. Plus 22 vendors selling plants and 7 vendors selling pots, candles, even honey.
The show runs through Sunday. Fairchild's orchid seedlings can be seen in one of the tropical labs, there is a pretty display of cattleyas in the plant conservatory, and orchids in the rainforest. Join us!
Vanda orchids have been put under the DNA microscope and new names continue to appear while old names disappear. Here are some changes that may be adopted when volume 6 of Genera Orchidacearum is published next year. The changes were approved by the Royal Horticulture Society’s Orchid Hybrid Registration Group. If you Google “Orchid Review Supplement,” you will find the RHS listing of new hybrids as well as the latest list of recent taxonomic changes. Another Web source for taxonomic information is “Phytotaxa.”
|Neofinitia falcata is now Vanda falcata.|
The genus Vanda now includes Ascocentropsis, Ascocentrum, Christensonia (named for the late taxonomist Eric Christenson, who resided in Sarasota) Parmatostigma, Euanthe, Neofinitia and Trudelia.
Since many South Florida orchid growers love their ascocendas, or the hybrids made between Ascocentrum and Vanda that look very Vanda-like, they can call them all vandas and still love them. Nonetheless, Neofinitia falcata, the classic miniature orchid long loved in Japan, is a surprising kissing cousin to such species as Vanda coerulea and Vanda sanderana.
Aerides flabellata now is Vanda flabellata.
The vandas with round, pencil-like leaves that once were called terete vandas will officially be Papilionanthe and considered distinct from Vanda.
Phalaenopsis is proposed to include Doritis, Hygrochilus, Kingidium, Lesliea, Nothodoritis, Ornithochilus and Sedirea.
Gastrochilus is to include Haraella.
Phalaenopsis is to include Doritis, Hygrochilus, Kingidium, Lesliea, Nothodoritis, Ornithochilus and Sedirea (which was Aerides spelled backward).
Renanthera is to include Ascoglossum, Porphyrodensme and Renantherella.
Trichoglottis is to include Ceratochilus, Staurochilus and Ventricularia.
To get a grip on all of this, the South Florida Orchid Society will feature Bob Fuchs at its next meeting on Nov. 20 at Christ the King Lutheran church, 11295 SW 57th Ave., beginning at 7 p.m. Bob's talk is called "Kiss Your Ascocendas Goodbye."
|Cotton candy pink, the floss-silk tree
is emblematic of the season.
Two flowering trees are to October/November as poinsettias are to the Christmas holidays. They are the pink-flowering Ceiba speciosa (formerly Chorisia speciosa), floss silk tree, and the orange-flowering Colvillea racemosa, Colville’s glory. On days when the sky is brilliantly blue, the flowers of these trees can make your heart soar. The Garden’s showiest Ceiba speciosa, just to the north of the allee, has a broad, rounded canopy that is bare of leaves so the mass of pink flowers with white throats are perfectly displayed. The tree comes from Brazil and Argentina. Its trunk is somewhat bottle-shaped and covered with prickles or warty spines. Many years ago, I bought a floss-silk at the Menninger Tree Conference. It grew so rapidly in the back yard that it could be seen from the street within a few years. Caution: few arborists willingly trim this one if they do not have a bucket truck.
Colville’s glory, from Madagascar, retains its long, bipinnate leaves while holding grape-like clusters or
|Colvile's glory is named for Sir Charles
Colville, once a governor of Mauritius.
racemes of orange to scarlet flowers that burst open with golden stamens. The late Ed Menninger, who imported to his garden in Stuart flowering trees from around the globe, wrote about the Colvillea in his book Flowering Trees of the World, “Often a dozen bunches of flowers [are found on] one limb. Dr. David Fairchild once painted a mental picture of them when he said they made him think of a salmon Wisteria, if there were such a thing.” Unlike the flowers of the floss silk tree, the flowers of Colville’s glory cannot be seen very well from below, as they are carried above the foliage. Menninger concluded, “Colville’s Glory is not good for anything but to look at.” Yet, in its native habitat, one species of parrot eats the flowers and lemurs feed on the exudate. Menninger said the tree rarely sets seed, “though the author’s own tree was a seedling from Dr. Fairchild’s tree in the Kampong at Coconut Grove, grown by the Old Master himself and given to him in the days of long ago.”
Look for Colvillea racemosa in the arboretum in plot 35.
Colorful cauliflower bring
The Edible Garden Festival is underway. What could make you want to
|Dragon fruit are borne by
plant a vegetable garden more than the enthusiasm that is on display here -- unless it is the marvelous color of the fruits and veggies themselves? Garden demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and earth learning workshops are going on simultaneously today and will continue Sunday. Jams, jellies, local honey, herbs, the Garden's Incredible Edible Garden brimming with beautifully grown food plants, fruit smoothies, pear cider, and music on the Garden lawn are ingredients of a wonderful day sure to entertain and inspire you. Vegetable planting season is here, South Florida, so come and learn to graft it, plant it, prune it, eat and enjoy!
It sometimes is called the devil tree. But in her book Tropical & Subtropical Trees, An Encyclopedia, Margaret Barwick’s description of the October flowers makes it sound quite heavenly: “the deep green canopy is elegantly upholstered with large posies of greenish white slender-tubed blooms that are held rigidly erect in downy, long-stemmed, compact, heads that come from the axils of the leaves.” It is Alstonia scholaris, and you should rush to see it. Its home range extends throughout India, south Asia, China and over to Australia. Grab a map and head to plot 151 on the south side of the Bailey Palm Glade,
|Alstonia scholaris is in full flower right now.|
or 57A (not far from the Lakeside Café). The entire tree is in flower! The tree is named for Dr. Charles Alston, a Scot who taught botany at Edinburgh University in the 18th Century. Scholaris refers to the fact that school children in India wrote their assignments on slates made of this light, white wood. Barwick, who lives part of the year in Grand Cayman and has friends here in Coconut Grove, says Mynah birds love the “untidy” and persistent follicles that follow the flowers.
Miami City Ballet performed three movements from Tchaikovsky's Serenade in C Major for String Orchestra against the backdrop of the Bailey Palm Glade Saturday afternoon as a special event during the annual Bird Festival. Against the palms, the lakes and the clear blue sky, the dancers captivated everyone in a performance that could not have been more beautiful.
|Larvae beginning to explore the
Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies lay eggs in groups on the stems
|After the storms.|
and leaves of Dutchman’s pipe vines. For the first few days after hatching, the larvae stay together. Gradually, they part ways as they grow larger and need more leaf surface on which to feed. After Sunday night/Monday morning storms, I discovered that the little brown caterpillars, which had begun to separate, regrouped along the stem of the Aristolochia. I’m used to my golden retriever, Rosie, being afraid of storms, but baby butterflies???
This summer in South Florida, rain has put our plants on liquid steroids. Lucky for them, but maintenance has kept us running with pruners. On those occasions when the sun appears, a good day’s work has meant several changes of appropriate attire – T-shirts and shorts designated for gardening by telltale stains of plant blood. (I know that bananas and crotons can stain, but they cannot possibly account for all the drips and drabs I manage to accumulate.)
In times like this, we must give plants some elbow room or it’s mycelium city, root-rot ranch and snails as transformers. Take a hard look at what’s going on in your garden and if your plants have out-performed your wildest expectations, then nip, prune or move them around in their containers so air easily circulates around them. Snoop around the garden early in the morning to find snails and dispense with them. Leave offerings for the sun god.
Nonetheless, we are approaching fall, and here’s a reminder of what is to come in September besides the up scaling of worry about the hurricane season.
Trimming bougainvilleas – always a sticky exercise. A blood bank should be on standby. The idea is to increase new growth on which flowers form as the days shorten.
|To increase the flower power of bougain-
villeas, trim back in September.
Which means a lighter pruning than is called for in spring when you can prune the things nearly to the ground. Fertilize afterwards. There’s a bougainvillea fertilizer on the market that is a 6-8-10 formulation with micronutrients. Or, use palm special, 8-4-12 with micronutrients that is made for South Florida soils.
Cutback poinsettias and fertilize, using palm special or 4-6-8.
Some orchid growers also like to apply bloom booster fertilizer (3-9-6 or 10-30-10) to orchids that flower in the winter and spring, such as cattleyas and phalaenopsis orchids. If you want to try it, use it two or three times in a row. Or, just continue with 15-5-15 orchid fertilizer. Martin Motes recommends potassium nitrate – 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water – on every third or fourth application throughout the year. Potassium is important in photosynthesis, transporting nutrients and increasing heat and cold tolerance.
EPA's bee icon to appear on four pesticide
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a new pesticide label that prohibits use of four chemicals "when bees are present." The label will contain a bee symbol and information about spray drift and timing for use to avoid bees. The pesticides include are imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, all neonicotinoides.
The new label will state this product can kill bees and other insect pollinators. The agency said it will work with pesticide manufacturers to revise their labels, although the agency has not suspended use of the pesticides. A bee advisory box will tell applicators when to use the chemicals if necessary.
In July, Congressmen Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and John Conyer of Main introduced H.R. 2692, the Save America's Pollinators Act of 2013 that directs the EPA to suspend use of the most bee-toxic neonicotinoids for seed treatment, soil applications and foliar spray until reviews show they are save. The bill also asks the EPA an Secretary of Interior to report on native bee populations and show potential causes of any declines. There is no report on any action on the bill.
|European honeybee working flowers of firebush, Hamelia patens. When
purchasing garden plants, ask if they have been treated with pesticides, or
grow your own plants from seeds or cuttings you know are pesticide-free.