A red-letter Friday, not a black one

Saturday, November 28, 2009


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.