Gardening with Georgia

Archive - March 2013

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An inflorescence that was years in the works

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 09:51:59 AM

A pair of enormous Aechmea bromeliads has inhabited my garden for years, moving into various settings as they grew in size. The last time I moved them, I said that was it; they were too big and too dangerously armed to move again. They lived behind a group of shell ginger for a few more years, until I decided to cut away the gingers to allow more air into an orchid house.

Aechmea mariae-reginae.

Eliminating the gingers opened up a commodious spot where Anthurium x Marie could display her girth – she is seven feet across in an oversized container. Alas, this happened to be beneath a queen palm and Poinciana tree, and soon Marie was bruised and unhappy. So today, she found a new home, and upon wrestling Marie from beneath the offending litter-droppers, I made a new discovery: the bromeliads are Aechmea mariae-reginae, Queen Mary bromeliad. The species is from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and it requires many years to flower. One of my pair is in flower. The flower spike, with hot pink bracts, has dozens of individual flowers that develop blue tips and then fade to pink as they expire. The plants are full sun bromeliads, but they lived for a long time in shade, no doubt accounting for four-foot leaves shooting out in a rosette. A. mariae-reginae is one of the rare bromeliads that is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. The shape of the open inflorescence is female-like. We’ll see if there’s a male when the second one flowers. After these bromeliads flower they will die. I'm hoping for pups.


A dazzling first day

Fri, Mar 08, 2013 at 01:52:44 PM

Orchid Society of Coral Gables created this display from members' plants.

Friday Fairchild was bustling with orchid lovers for the opening day of the 11th International Orchid Festival. The day was glorious, the plants were glorious, and the prices at vendor booths were generous. Coalition for Orchid Species took first place for tabletop displays, while the big display put on by the Orchid Society of Coral Gables was chock full of eye-catching flowers, including Blc. Pamela Finney ‘Big Bull,’ which was named best Cattleya alliance. 

Best Dendrobium went to Soroa Orchids.

Vendors are required to create tabletop displays, and these were judged as well. Carmella Orchids had a wonderful red best-in-show Broughtonia; Soroa Orchids displayed a crystalline Dendrobium anosmum var. alba that snagged best Dendrobium. R.F. orchids had best Vanda about the size of a cereal bowl, but also a perfectly wonderful Epi. stamfordianum ‘Crownfox Jewel’ with numerous spikes of small flowers arching around their basket. This is the season for paphiopedilums, and several Paph. St. S within hybrids received awards. Carmella Orchids also received one of these. There are many more awarded plants and blue ribbons, so take your time when you visit the Garden House.



Behind the scenes of the Orchid Festival

Wed, Mar 06, 2013 at 02:42:21 PM

Melana Davison sorts the plants that have come to be show-offs.

It starts with a jumble of vibrant jungle flowers waiting to become an exhibition. Wednesday, volunteers from Orchid Society of Coral Gables welcomed members’ show plants, sorted them by color or by need for a particular size or a shape, and gradually from the chaos assembled a living tableau of beauty.

Behind the scenes at Fairchild's 11th International Orchid Festival are months of exacting horticulture, culminating with the final hours of labor, dedication and attention to detail. Many plants had flowers staked to be seen at their best advantage. The leaves of each plant were cleaned with lemon juice or milk, and their names double checked for accuracy. Now it was up to the experts to work some magic.

Melana Davison, a veteran orchid grower as well as exhibit builder, was more or less directing the Gables’ display. Jill Sidran, the show chair, was the go-to woman for such questions as “where are the ferns for my display?” Vendors brought boxes of perfectly grown plants, each a marvel of breeding and horticulture.

When you see the results, it will take your breath away. The show runs for three days beginning Friday and includes lectures (this year to be held in the Science Village classroom), orchid sales, orchid teas in the Visitors Center, and orchid walks in the rainforest. It’s a festival celebrating the most complex and alluring family of plants on the planet. How could you stay away?