Or­chids di­vide

BLOOMS INTO A GLO­RI­OUS COL­LEC­TION OF COLOUR

Central and North Burnett Times - - YOUR BACKYARD - Shirley Way shirley.way@cnbtimes.com.au

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.

PHO­TOS: SHIRLEY WAY

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.

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