Gardening with Georgia

Archive - November 2009

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A red-letter Friday, not a black one

Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 09:11:36 AM


Wood ibis.

Calathea Burle Marx.

On the gorgeous day after Thanksgiving, not everyone was contributing to the shopping frenzy of Black Friday, but many were happily exploring the garden. As the Yayoi Kusama’s delightful pumpkins were being set up near the arboretum, wood ibis were playing tag in a buttonwood by a lake and a soft-shell turtle swam next to shore to ogle us tourists. We found the red cassia (Cassia roxburghii) is in flower; the Christmas bush (Euphorbia leucocephala) is so laden with blossoms, one branch simply eased itself to the ground; the flame of Jamaica  (Euphorbia punicea) is in splendid color with lots of seeds, and the red seeds of the lignum vitae are popping out of their orange capsules.

Flowers of Billbergia

The Conservatory displayed a gorgeous Billbergia in flower, as well as two still-flowering calatheas, Calathea warscewiczii and C. Burle Marx ‘Ice Blue.’

But the biggest surprise came near the fruit pavilion. Grammatophyllum speciosum is bearing many seed pods, perched on a palm as happy as can be. This is the tiger orchid from SE Asia and throughout Oceania. Its pseudobulbs can reach 10 feet in length, and it produces equally long flower spikes just loaded with yellow and brown-marked flowers. The seedpods, it turns out, are equally impressive. One of the giant orchids in the Conservatory made the news back in 2001 when it flowered.

Grammatophyllum seedpods.

I grow one at home, and have it in a large container filled with rocks. I doubled the pot size last year. This year, the longest pseudobulb is a little more than 3 feet, and it’s still a baby. It is given liquid fertilizer every two weeks, but I keep a supply of slow-release fertilizer sprinkled on the rocks during the summer.

Flowering, not to mention seedpods, is still a long way away.



Rockin' lips and rollin' sepals

Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 02:00:06 PM


It’s getting to be flowering season for an enormous group of orchids: bulbophyllums. These orchids are found throughout Southeast Asia, but turn up also in Africa, tropical America, even Australia. The number of species is something like 1,000, give or take.

These Cirrohpetalum flowers
look as if they're sticking out
their tongues.

A fascinating feature of many of the flowers is the motile or rocking lip.  Cirrhopetalum is a section of the Bulbophyllum genus, but still is held by some to be a separate genus. The plants love to be wet, and can be grown on pieces of fern or cork set in saucers of water. The flowers ordinarily are tiny, but are held in umbels -- that is, the flowers’ small stems or petioles emerge from a single stalk.  For gardeners with little room, these are great orchids.

The pair of flowers of Cirrhopetalum ‘Doris Dukes’ crossed with Cirr. longissimum has petals six inches long, while a single flower of the same hybrid on another plant is 9 inches long. There is a relative from New Guinea, Bulbophyllum fletcherianum, with leaves that can reach three feet in length. The flowers are red, but smell of rotting meat.

It’s a fun group of orchids to collect, and one size does not fit all.


On the cusp of a new season at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 11:16:39 AM


Eulophia alta, a terrestrial
orchid, still in flower.

Alligators were not in sight, but orchids were plentiful last weekend in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The November blue sky overhead was filled with the delicate sounds of warblers, periodic announcements from red-shouldered hawks and the occasional crank of an egret.

We spotted Eulophia alta next to the boardwalk as we crossed the open, sunny prairie between pineland and cypress. Full of seedpods, the Eulophia’s last flowers were damaged but recognizable.  The spike rose about 2 1/2 feet above the grassy leaves. The flowers are supposed to resemble a donkey braying, but our donkey was missing an ear.

Next, we discovered a tiny Encyclia tampensis, its round pseudobulbs and leaves quite red from living in full sun. And the really tiny

The delicate flower of the
alligator flag.

yellow-green flowers of Epidendrum rigidum were next.Flowers remained on the tattered

Fall in the swamp means
red maple leaves.

alligator flags, the goldenrod, and primrose willow, pickerelweed, sagittaria and swamp lilies.

Adding color: monarch and queen butterflies, skippers, an argiope spider of awesome dimensions, dahoon holly fruit and red maple leaves. 

Every season shows us something new.


Botanical art exhibition at Everglades National Park

Tue, Nov 03, 2009 at 02:52:17 PM


Artist Kathleen Konick-Moran has spent eight winters working as a volunteer at Everglades National Park to document rare and endangered orchids, bromeliads and other Everglades plants. Her art exhibit is now open and runs through the end of November at the Park's Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, 40001 State Rd. 9336  Homestead.

Kathleen is a botanical illustrator, working in pencil, pen and ink and watercolor. A video about her work in the park and her art can be found on the Park's website under Cypress Cathedral. VIsit:

An artist’s reception will be held from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15 at the visitor center.