A myr­iad of orchids to choose from

Kapi-Mana News - - GARDENING - By VICKI PRICE

The or­chid fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, is one of the largest on the planet. The web­site says they are one of the two largest flow­er­ing plant fam­i­lies. Their list of species is twice as large as those of the birds and four times the num­ber of mam­mals.

Within these species are im­mense vari­a­tions of fo­liage and flower for­ma­tions. For the home gar­dener, there are plenty for grow­ing both in­doors or out.

New Zealand has its own va­ri­eties of or­chid plants, de­scribed by the NZ Na­tive Or­chid Group as shy crea­tures that are much over­looked here de­spite be­ing found from the coast to alpine ar­eas.

New dis­cov­er­ies are still be­ing made too. In 2009 it was dis­cov­ered that an or­chid for­merly thought to grow only on Nor­folk Is­land was grow­ing in a patch of gorse and re­gen­er­at­ing ma­hoe in an area south of Whangarei. Known com­monly as Nor­folk Is­land rib­bon­root and or­chid spaghetti it isn’t yet known if it also grows in other parts of the coun­try.

Some orchids are epi­phytes, that is they pre­fer to grow on the boughs of trees or nes­tled into rocks. In these po­si­tions they can reap the ben­e­fits of fallen leaf de­bris, bird drop­pings and wind-blown mat­ter to feed from through their fi­brous roots as well as soak up mois­ture from the air.

Ob­vi­ously good drainage suits these orchids that col­lect rain­wa­ter in their bul­bous root mass. To grow these your­self, you can at­tach an epi­phyte-type plant to a suit­able tree, one that has rough bark and is not too shady, pok­ing it in a fork in the branches and ty­ing it on well.

Gar­dener Ge­off Bryant rec­om­mends (in The Ul­ti­mate New Zealand Gar­den­ing Book) sur­round­ing the root mass with sphag­num moss and adding fer­tiliser at plant­ing. A sim­pler way might be to po­si­tion a pot-planted or­chid on an old tree stump or in a bare patch amongst shrub­bery.

The im­por­tant thing is to find out what sort of con­di­tions your or­chid prefers as there are so many vari­a­tions. The plants also have dif­fer­ing mois­ture re­quire­ments de­pend­ing on the time of year and their flow­er­ing pat­tern. Gen­er­ally they need less af­ter flow­er­ing and none dur­ing win­ter.

Bryant says ter­ra­cotta pots both look bet­ter and work well in terms of water man­age­ment and they dry out quicker. Also, he says, make sure you use a spe­cialised or­chid pot­ting mix, not soil as it will suf­fo­cate the roots.

To prop­a­gate orchids, as peren­ni­als they can be di­vided while dor­mant (af­ter they have fin­ished flow­er­ing) or if you’re want­ing to re- pot, Bryant sug­gests sim­ply putting the old con­tainer into a larger pot as is, if the roots are cling­ing on tight to their cur­rent home. But if you are plant­ing up new pieces of plant, en­sure the root bulbs stand above the pot­ting medium level.

The ad­van­tage with pots is that you can bring flow­er­ing orchids in­doors to en­joy their long dis­play. Place them where they will get plenty of light and fresh air but ex­perts say to avoid plac­ing them in di­rect sun. Other orchids are happy grow­ing in the ground out­side and these are the plants orig­i­nat­ing in the more tem­per­ate parts of the world as com­pared to the hu­mid lov­ing trop­i­cal epi­phytes. Ground grow­ers and epi­phytes thrive in green­houses.

Just right: This or­chid clearly en­joys hav­ing its roots con­tained and liv­ing amidst the trees.

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