BLOOMS INTO A GLORIOUS COLLECTION OF COLOUR
BUYING “a couple” of orchids from a grower two decades ago has led to about 5000 orchids clutteringWayne and Colleen Allen’s sweet and colourful Mt Perry garden.
And with 150 native bee hives, and an international roll-call of staghorns, there’s always a happy buzz in their garden.
“About 20 years ago, I bumped into an orchid grower and bought a couple – and look what’s happened now,” Mr Allen said.
While “it started with a bit of shade cloth and 20 plants”, it has become a fast-growing hobby.
The specialist in Cattleya hybrid orchids said once plants reached a certain size, they needed to be cut into three or so and re-potted.
Thus, their greenhouse, which used to be home to about 40 species of Australian parrots, was the perfect setting for Mr Allen’s orchid collection – until he needed to extend it last winter.
“I’m not going to build any more; I’ve got to look after it,” Mr Allen said.
With his personal getaway right next to the house, he’s up doing seedlings most nights.
“I like growing seedlings. You never knowwhat to expect,” he said.
“A lot of them grow true to form, but out of one seed you get a dozen different colours; I don’t know why – maybe because it’s a hybrid.”
As orchids take years to grow, with a waiting time of three to five years for a flower, Mr Allen has never understood why people pay $10 for a seedling they need to look after, instead of $20 for a flowering plant.
Although wife Colleen has kept a database of their orchids since 2004, Mr Allen has not sold many, except through word of mouth.
That may soon change – to keep the numbers down.
The grazier and former timber-cutter also grows staghorns from spores, and keeps native bees.
Mr Allen bought many of his staghorns from Sheldon McLeod, “the stag man from Brisbane”.
“I’m still trying to catch up to find where they (the staghorns) are grown,” Mrs Allen said.
“He grew one of his staghorns from the size of a 20c piece, and it’s now 20-years-old.
“It used to be on a tank stand, then the wire rusted through and it fell off... before we finally got it home.
“I started (growing staghorns) and kept native bees since at least 10-years-old.
“As a timber cutter, Wayne constantly said bees get smashed up, burnt, but he could see them as a resource that is being under-utilised.”
Her husband builds two-storey hives for the bees, and has some in sick bay due to the cold weather.
He keeps them warm and
either doesn’t let them out, or lets them out during the day and brings them back in at night.
“We use the honey for medicinal and culinary purposes,” Mrs Allen said.
“We’ve used it for honey carrots – it’s a lot stronger than bumble-bee honey; something similar to Manuka honey.”
“The best way to describe Wayne: He loves everything in nature,” Mrs Allen said.
RELAXED: Colleen and Wayne Allen at work checking their 5000 hybrid cattleya orchids.
Cattleya orchid in full glory.
A pale yellow bloom fringed in pink named Goldenzelle shines in Wayne and Colleen Allen's greenhouse.
An international roll-call of staghorns adorn the Allen's Mt Perry indoor garden.
A bud of Painter's Brush cattleya orchid.
From tiny seedlings to beautiful blooms.
The soft pink and yellow orchid, Potinara Twilight.
Virginian Beauty orchid grown by Wayne Allen, Mt Perry.
Native bees are a key part of the Allens’ garden. Their honey is used for medicinal and culinary purposes.
Orchid buds promise a surprising burst of colour.