HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
The White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata (previously known as Habenaria radiata is an absolutely gorgeous species of terrestrial orchid native to China, Japan, Korea and Russia. Its natural habitat includes grassy wetlands and seepage slopes in moderate to high mountains, and while it is commonly found in cultivation it is sadly is in rapid decline over its entire natural range. Over collection would have been a contributing factor in the past, but more recently their loss has been due to the destruction of their habitat.

Pecteilis radiata comes in the form of small, pea sized tuber from which grass-like leaves are produced, alternately on a single stem. The leaves number up to 7, and are between 5-20 cm long and about 1 cm wide. The spike continues upwards until it releases an unbranched flower spike which can be up to 50 cm tall. Each spike will usually produce 2 or 3 flowers but sometimes it can be as many 8 which being to bloom in late July until their peak in August.

White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
White Egret Flower - Pecteilis radiata
It is no surprise that Pecteilis radiata received its common name of 'white egret flower' from its exquisite, pearly-white flowers. The sepals are simple, small and green, while the extravagant lip has three main lobes. The two biggest extend laterally and are highly fringed, while the center lobe is simple, elongate, and pointing downward. Taken as a whole the flower looks remarkably like a white egret in full flight!

Over the summer new bulbs will form on short underground stems while the old bulb slowly dies away. A healthy bulb can produce up to 3 replacement bulbs and this new generation will be fully formed, individual plants by late October.

Pecteilis radiata is easy to cultivate due to its liberal production of new tubers each season. Grow them as you would any bog orchid and, very importantly, allow the bulbs to dry off in winter. Do not plant them in normal potting soil or liberally use fertilizer.

Plant them just below the surface, approximately 1 cm deep, pointy side up, in any mix that is water retaining and acidic in reaction. You can make your own rooting medium using natural weathered pumice, peat moss, and a bit of sand (ratio of 1 : 1 : 1/2) then top dress with a thin layer of dried sphagnum moss. Alternatively use perlite mixed with sand and moss peat.

Place them in a sunny, warm position and keep them moist, but not wet.  It can take a few weeks before the new growth emerges, but once it does, increase watering.  When the weather becomes hotter and the plants are growing strongly, water them so that they are permanently wet, but not waterlogged. Use clean rain water if possible, otherwise use tap water that has been allowed to stand for 48 hours.

Once they are finished flowering you will still need to keep them wet until the heat of summer has passed. Come the autumn they will only need to be kept moist. Once night temperatures start to drop below 15 C the bulbs will start to go dormant.  All dead growth can be removed at that time and the bulbs can be allowed to dry off, but not so that they dessicate otherwise the bulbs will die. Add small amounts of water every few weeks is necessary, particularly if the pot is kept in low humidity.  Keep the plants cool and dry throughout the winter at a temperature of between – 0 to 10 degrees Celsius.

Recover all newly formed bulbs in March or early April and throw away any old, dead or diseased bulbs and roots.  The new bulbs will be bright tan or light brown in color and firm to the touch while the old bulbs will be dark and soft.  Replant them immediately to start again.

Fertilize with a very dilute inorganic fertilizer with micronutrients.  In May and June  fertilize every other week, making sure that the pots are fully flushed with fresh water to avoid salt build up.

Main image credit - By sunoochi from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan - [Toyama, Japan] Pecteilis radiata '蘭月 - Rangetsu' (Thunb.) Raf., Fl. Tellur. 2: 38 (1837), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81949089

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora

Swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora
Swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora
The swaddled babies orchid - Anguloa uniflora is a stunningly beautiful terrestrial orchid from the Colombian Andes.

It was discovered during a ten year expedition (1777 to 1788) to Peru and Chile by botanists Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón Jiménez. However it wasn't formally classified until 1798 when it was named in honor of Don Francisco de Angulo, Director-General of Mines, in Peru.

Anguloa uniflora is only about 18 to 24 inches tall with thin pleated leaves above conical pseudobulbs. The most outstanding feature of this plant are its complex flowers which at a certain stage of opening look uncannily like a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth - be it a rather ugly one. These large, fragrant, creamy-white, waxy flowers usually bloom in the spring and in the summer and are overwhelmingly fragrant. Each bloom develops from a single stem that rises from the base of the pseudobulbs.

The lip of the flower is hinged so when pollinating insects enter the flower in search for nectar, they are pushed against the column where a packet of pollen (called a pollinium) is secured to them, generally on the head or abdomen. When the insect enters another flower of the same species, the pollinium will stick to the stigma of the second flower.

In its natural habitat Anguloa uniflora is found at elevations of 1400 to 2500 meters, so it is no surprise that when growing it at home you will need to create conditions of intermediate to cold temperatures and shade. The growing medium should be kept evenly moist although it will require less water in winter. To encourage flowering, watering should be decreased after it has finished its growth.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHARLES DARWIN'S FAVOURITE ORCHID - Catasetum species
HOW TO GROW THE HYACINTH ORCHID - Bletilla striata
HOW TO GROW MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata
HOW TO FEED ORCHIDS
HOW TO REPOT AN ORCHID
HOW TO WATER ORCHIDS
MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS
SCHOMBURGKIA EXALTATA
The Amazing Monkey Orchid
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE BEE ORCHIDS
THE BUTTERFLY ORCHID - Psychopsis papilio
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
THE FLYING DUCK ORCHID
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
THE ORCHID MANTIS
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora
THE VAMPIRE ORCHID - Catasetum macrocarpum
THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata
WHAT IS AN ORCHID?

BULLEY'S PRIMROSE - Primula bulleyana

Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana
Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana
Bulley's primrose - Primula bulleyana is an absolutely gorgeous species of semi-evergreen perennial from the Primulaceae family. Native to the Yunnan province in China, it was first introduced to European gardeners by George Forrest in 1906. Forrest named this new species of primula after Arthur K Bulley, a cotton broker from Liverpool and a keen amateur gardener who was the first to sponsor Forrest on his many plant hunting expeditions to China. Bulley also founded the Bees Ltd. nursery and was responsible for the introduction of many new hardy plant and alpine species to the UK in the early 20th century.

The natural habitat of Bully's primrose are damp, free-draining hillsides, so it makes sense when planting in a garden environment to plant them in a sunny position although it will tolerate partial shade. Primula bulleyana is best grown in a deep, damp, even boggy soil and will do particularly well beside a pond, but not with the roots completely submerged. It will establishes itself as a strong clump with a couple of years and has proven itself to be very hardy when grown in northern European conditions.

Primula bulleyana will form a basal rosette of simple light-green leaves, 5–14 inches long and 1–4 inches wide and is listed as one of the group known as candelabra primulas. So called because of the tiered arrangement of their flowers. The sturdy, erect flowering stems appear from June to July and can be as much as 24 inches in height. These stems rise in groups bearing 5-7 whorls of orange-yellow flowers 1 inch across which open from red buds. Cut back any spent flower stems.

Primula bulleyana can be propagated by division in early spring, although it will propagate itself by self-sown seedlings so long as the seed lands in damp conditions.

 Primula bulleyana gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Main image credit - By Eric in SF - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8317802

For related articles click onto the following links:
POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'
THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace'
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' 
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' is a gorgeous ornamental perennial which has a history of cultivation dating back to the mid 1600's. English plant breeders took this cultivar to their hearts and after centuries of careful selection they have given us what we have today.

Strangely Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' has had a habit of falling in and out of fashion with growers but was particularly popular with Victorian gardeners. In fact the Victorians held Polyanthum 'Gold Lace' cultivars in such high regard that they used to display them on stages draped with black fabric and place frames around them to view them without distraction!

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace'
Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' 
Unfortunately the years of continuous hybridization in search for perfect blooms has caused Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' to lose its hardy ruggedness. So while there are still easy to grow from seed they tend to be treated as annuals, particularly in colder northern European climates.

The flower of the Polyanthus 'Gold Lace' is similar to that of Primula auricula cultivars in that it is formed by a single petal only. However being divided at the edge, it appears for all intents and purposes to be five or six petals. The flowers will vary in colours from plant to plant from red, through to brown and sometimes so dark they appear almost black! There is a tendency for the darker forms to produce a lacing of silver rather than gold. These are more correctly known as Silver Lace.

Growing to a height and spread of approximately 20 cm Polyanthus primula 'Gold Lace' is noted for its has unusual golden-eyed flowers with rich mahogany-crimson petals and gold laced edges. It has ovate mid-green leaves, which are occasionally seen with a reddish tint.

Polyanthus 'Gold Lace will perform best in a moist, slightly acid soil in partial shade. However they can tolerate a position of full sun if the soil is kept moist.

Be aware that polyanthus leaves are a particular favourite if both slugs and snail and so preventative measures will need to be put in place to maintain top condition.

For related articles click onto the following links:
OLD ENGLISH PLANTS - Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’
POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'
THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The orchid primula is arguably one of the most delicate and beautiful of all the primula species. Native to the Chinese regions of north-west Yunnan and south-west Szechwan this distinctive species differs from many of it relatives because of its highly ornamental, compound flower spike.

Primula vialii was first brought to the attention of European gardeners after its discovery by the well-known Scottish plant hunter George Forrest (1873-1932). It was originally named Primula littoniana after his friend, Consul G. Litton, however this is now relegated to a synonym. It turns out that Forrest was beaten to the post by another plant hunter, the French missionary botanist Père Delavay who had already named this new discovery Primula vialii.

The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
The Orchid primula - Primula vialii
In its native habitat the orchid primula prefers to grow in wet meadows, near water in valleys and rather strangely in thickets of prickly oak bushes.

The erect, spear-shaped (lanceolate) leaves are produced in tufts and are a light green in colour. They are are soft, hairy and can be as much as 30 cm long on mature plants.

The flowers are produced from June to July and are formed on stout stems up to 60 cm tall. The flower buds and calyces are scarlet while the flowers themselves open up to a lavender-blue colour.

When grown as a garden plant the orchid primula is best grown under light woodland conditions but in a suitably moist, slightly acidic soil. They will they also grow in a more open situation so long as the are not allowed to dry out over the summer. They are often grow as an aquatic marginal plant and while they may tolerate waterlogged conditions they will not thrive.

Primula vialii received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.

Image credits - By I, KENPEI, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4041931

For related articles click onto the following links:
POLYANTHUS 'GOLD LACE'
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE ORCHID PRIMULA - Primula vialii

OSMANTHUS DECORUS

Osmanthus decorus
Osmanthus decorus
Commonly known as the Caucasus osmanthus (although in this instance it is better known by its botanical name), Osmanthus decorus is a dome-shaped, tough evergreen shrub native to west Asia. Introduced to western science in in 1866 it is noted for its large, glossy leaves and fragrant blooms.

Under favourable condition you can expect Osmanthus decorus to reach a height of up to 3 m with an approximate width of 4-5 m. The long, narrow leaves are between 5-10 cm long with a leathery surface texture.

Osmanthus decorus
Caucasus osmanthus in bloom
This species is hermaphrodite meaning that it has both male and female organs on the same plant. The clusters of small, white blooms are borne freely in the spring (around April) and are followed by purplish-black drupes (stone fruit) in September.

It will grow in any well-drained soil full sun or part shade, however it will flower more freely in a sunny, sheltered position. It will prefer a neutral to acid soil, but Osmanthus decorus has also proven to tolerate some chalk. It will even succeeds in dry shade. It can become damaged in exposed conditions although it is more tolerant of strong, cold winds than other members of this genus. However it will not perform well with maritime expose. Once established, Osmanthus decorus has proven to be hardy to about -20°C.

No regular pruning is necessary.

Images by Carduelis - Made self, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4891545

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OSMANTHUS DECORUS

THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis

Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
The Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis is an exquisite orchid species from the open high altitude grasslands of southern India. It was first described by Charles McCann and Ethelbert Blatter in 1932, and is noted for its beautiful, white bilobed petals which with a little imagination resemble a levitating, cloaked angel.

Each plant can have one or more flowering stems but usually no more than five per plant. The stems tend to be no more that 12 cm high and produce one flower at the top of each stem. The blooms emerge from June to July  at the onset of monsoons.

Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
Angel orchid - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
During the growing season it usually produces just a single, heart shaped and rounded leaf which lies flat on the ground.

It is rare to come across the Angel orchid as it is rarely seen in cultivation, but when they are available it is usually as tubers. Plant the tubers approximately 4 inches deep in deep pots containing in a well drained medium. You can produce your own recipe by creating a mix of 50% river sand, 40% leaf mulch and 10% vermiculite. Water well and place in a temperate, shaded environment with excellent ventilation.

You will need to water the Angel orchid regularly throughout the growing season, which will be from the spring and right through to the autumn. Once the day temperatures begin to cool you will need to reduce watering down to just once every two weeks. Over the winter you will need to stop watering altogether.

The compost will need to be kept on the dry side but not so much that the compost becomes desiccated. To prevent this from happening, periodically drench the compost but allow it to dry off for a while before watering again. You can expect new shoots to emerge at the end of winter and at this point you can begin watering again, but only once every couple of weeks for the spring and then once or twice a week as required over the summer. The angel orchid thrives is nutrient poor soils so avoid feeding as you would for epiphytic orchid species. Instead apply a slow release fertilizer to the compost during the spring, and no more until the following year.

Main image credit - sumukha 13@gmail.com

THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii

The Orchid cactus - Disocactus ackermannii
The Orchid cactus - Disocactus ackermannii
The Orchid cactus - Disocactus ackermannii is an species of epiphytic cactus that occurs in the cloud forests of Veracruz and Oaxaca, in Mexico. It was originally named Epiphyllum ackermannii by English botanist Adrian Hardy Haworth in 1829.

It is a gorgeous, evergreen plant with an arching trailing habit. It produces dark green, long, flattened leaves which are only 2-3 inches wide but up to 36 inches long! Each leaf has a slightly wavy edge with fine 3-4 mm spines on the nodes. The spines disappears at the leaf matures.

The orchard cactus - Disocactus ackermannii
 Disocactus ackermannii - botanical illustration
The most notable feature of the orchid cactus are is surprisingly large and absolutely gorgeous scarlet, funnel shaped flowers. The  flowers can be as large as 6 inches in diameter and are produced in late spring to early summer. The plant will need to be a couple of years old before it is mature enough to bloom and each flower will only last a couple of days, closing up each evening only to re-open again come the morning. If fertilized, the flowers are followed by green to brownish red fruits, 1 1/2 inches long and up to an inch wide.

It will do best in dappled shade but can become scorched when grown in full sun. While the orchid cactus is by no stretch of the imagination hardy it will benefit greatly from being kept outside once the threat of late frosts have passed. It is believed that being subjected to the changing light levels and seasons will help to encourage it to flower far earlier in its life compared to when being grown indoors as a houseplant.

Just make sure that it is hardened off for a couple of weeks before leaving outside permanently. Once nighttime temperatures start to drop to 7 degrees Celsius it will need to be brought back in under protection.

The orchid cactus can be grown in any good quality compost, and while it will require more watering
than traditional cactuses, allow the top third of the soil to dry out between watering and never allow the root system to become waterlogged. Feed monthly with a liquid soluble fertilizer over the growing season.

In cultivation, Disocactus ackermannii has been confused with Disocactus × hybridus (a hybrid of Disocactus phyllanthoides and Disocactus speciosus).

Main image credit - By Andreas Maisch - kaktus Uploaded by Epibase, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8740062

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
CHARLES DARWIN'S FAVOURITE ORCHID - Catasetum species
HOW TO GROW THE HYACINTH ORCHID
HOW TO GROW MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata
MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
SCHOMBURGKIA EXALTATA
THE ANGEL ORCHID
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE FLYING DUCK ORCHID
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora
THE VAMPIRE ORCHID - Catasetum macrocarpum
THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

PLANT POISONOUS TO DOGS AND CATS

Plants poisonous to dogs and cats
Plants poisonous to dogs and cats


Whether it’s lilies on a dining room table or a monstera in the living room, plants can add a bright abundance to any space. However, they can also be harmful to dogs and cats. Nearly half (40%) of dog owners say their dog has had a negative reaction from eating an indoor or outdoor plant*.

Typically this results in discomfort and diarrhea, but 29% of pet parents reported that their pet threw up after ingesting a plant.

Plants poisonous to dogs and cats
Plants poisonous to dogs and cats
Pet Poison Helpline receives over 2800 calls a year regarding plant exposures in or around the home. Of those calls, 66% are about dogs and 34% are about cats. The majority of these calls come from pet owners in the state of California.

Because indoor and outdoor plants are an essential part of any household, it’s important to be familiarized with the beloved but potentially toxic plants to pets.

Pet Poison Helpline Tabatha Regehr, DVM, helped to categorize each plant’s toxicity as mild-moderate or severe.

Of the nearly 200 plants, Pet Poison Helpline receives the most calls about the following:

Lilies
Tulips
Daffodils
Rhododendrons
Kalanchoe
Philodendrons
Yew
Poinsettia
Begonias
Aloe Vera

Plants poisonous to dogs and cats
Plants poisonous to dogs and cats
The full list here is intended to be a helpful resource to pet parents and be educational. Just because monsteras, for example, are toxic to dogs and cats doesn’t automatically mean that someone shouldn’t have one in their house.

It’s beneficial to learn about which to watch out for and put them in hard to reach spots. However, if you suspect your pet has ingested a plant that could make them sick, contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control service.

There are also plenty of plants that are perfectly safe for pets. If you have a dog or cat that tends to munch on your household greenery, consider one of the following options as a safety precaution. The ASPCA does not recommend that you let your cat or dog eat a plant, regardless of its toxicity status.

Plants safe for dogs:

Polka Dot Plant
Haworthia
Swedish Ivy
Christmas Cactus
Spider Plant
Cast Iron Plant
Money Tree
African Violet
Boston Fern
Prayer Plant

Plants safe for cats:

Bamboo
Moth Orchid
Bromeliads
Burros Tail
Lipstick Plant


Plant information provided by Pet Poison Helpline and *A 2020 survey of 2,000 dog owners in the US by CivicScience

Want to find out more? Then check out the following link: www.rover.com

Image credits - Pixabay License Free for commercial use, No attribution required - https://pixabay.com/photos/schnauzer-smelling-the-flowers-735412/

CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale

Christmas Star Orchid  - Angraecum sesquipedale
Christmas Star Orchid  - Angraecum sesquipedale
The Christmas Star Orchid  - Angraecum sesquipedale, is an epiphytic orchid species native only to Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southeast Africa. It was first discovered in 1798 by the French botanist Louis-Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars (1758 – 1831), although it was not formally described by him until 1822.

Christmas Star Orchid  - Angraecum sesquipedale
Angraecum sesquipedale and pollinator moth
It is of particular interest due to its association with the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882). In 1862, Darwin received a container of orchid specimens by Joseph Hooker, the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. In the January of that year, Darwin wrote a letter back to Joseph Hooker. It stated:

 ‘...I have just received ..... the astounding Angraecum sesquipedale with a nectary a foot long. Good Heavens what insect can suck it?...’

Later that year, Darwin predicted that the long flower spur must have co-evolved with a pollinator moth with an equally long proboscis, a theory which drew particular ridicule from this critics. However, it was not until after his death in 1903, and 41 years after writing his original letter to Hooker, that the pollinator (the Malagasy subspecies of the African hawk moth) was discovered by Lionel Walter Rothschild and Karl Jordan and Darwin's theory was finally vindicated. The hawk moth was named Xanthopan morganii praedicta in honour of Darwin’s original prediction. Since then it has also gained the common name of Darwin's orchid.

Christmas Star Orchid  - Angraecum sesquipedale
Angraecum sesquipedale botanical illustration
Growing up to a metre high, the Christmas Star Orchid is noted for its gorgeous, creamy-white blooms which emerge from between the upper leaves on pale greenish stems. The star-like flowers are large, fleshy with pointed sepals and petals between 7–9 cm long. Between 2-6 blooms are produced per flowering stem. However it is the 30–35 cm long green spur which attracts the most interest.

In their native habitat the flowers will emerge from June to September, however when cultivated in Europe however, the flowers appear between December and January. They produce an intense spicy scent, but as this species is moth pollinated the fragrance is only present at night.

The leathery leaves are dark green with a grayish bloom and a bilobed tip. They measure approximately 22–30 cm long and 3 cm wide. Like the majority of epiphytic orchid species the roots are thick and silver-grey in colour.

For related articles click onto the following links:
CHRISTMAS STAR ORCHID - Angraecum sesquipedale
CHARLES DARWIN'S FAVOURITE ORCHID - Catasetum species
HOW TO GROW THE HYACINTH ORCHID
HOW TO GROW MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata
MONKEY FACE ORCHIDS
NAKED MAN ORCHID - Orchis Italica
SCHOMBURGKIA EXALTATA
THE ANGEL ORCHID
THE ANGEL ORCHID - Habenaria Grandifloriformis
THE FLYING DUCK ORCHID
THE MOTH ORCHID -  Phalaenopsis species and cultivars
THE ORCHID CACTUS - Disocactus ackermannii
THE SWADDLED BABIES ORCHID - Anguloa Uniflora
THE VAMPIRE ORCHID - Catasetum macrocarpum
THE WHITE EGRET FLOWER - Pecteilis radiata

HOW TO GROW BLUEBERRIES FROM CUTTINGS

How to grow blueberries from cuttings
How to grow blueberries from cuttings


Considered by many to be a bonafide super-food, blueberries have become increasing popular over the years in both the supermarkets and allotments. There are a number of excellent varieties to choose from, however much of the fruit bought today is imported from across the globe as far away as Poland and even Argentina. Not only is this rather ridiculous with regards to air miles, the artificial atmospheres and refrigerated environments take out all the flavour. Of course to get the very best flavour you will need to eat blueberries straight from the bush, but purchasing pot grown plants, let alone planting out a bed load can be expensive. However if you are on a budget or if you need a lot of stock there is an alternative. Produce your own blueberry plans by taking propagation material from established plants.
How to grow blueberries from cuttings
Blueberry cuttings - http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/

If you are only looking for a couple of blueberry bushes and don't mind waiting then long shoots can be layered and pegged down in September. These are usually ready for severing and replanting after one or two years.

Alternatively, and particularly if you are looking to propagate a lot of stock, 3 - 6 inches long semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in July. The 3 inch cuttings will be needed if you are striking into a standard seed tray, however 6 inch cuttings are better but these will need a deeper, bed made inside a shaded cold frame. The timing of this is important. Take your cuttings to late in the year and they will tend to form flower buds rather than roots. Take cuttings to early and the shoots will be too young and succulent and will wilt before rooting can occur.

As a good indication, select cutting material with leaves that are intermediate in colour, between the darkest older leaves and the palest young shoots. Cuttings that snap easily when bent are too young. What you are looking for are stems which are bendable and starting to become woody. Collect cuttings in the morning from plants which have been well watered the night before. Try and strike your cuttings as soon as possible to prevent them from wilting as this will adverse affect their ability to root. If the day is expected to be hot or if there is a delay between taking the cuttings and striking the cuttings then keep the cuttings in a damp container or bag that has a couple of cool packs inside. Do not allow cool packs to touch the cuttings as they can freeze and therefore damage the plant material.

Using standard seed trays, fill with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' or make your own from equal parts by volume moss peat and horticultural grade lime-free sand. Moss peat is naturally acidic which is useful as blueberries are ericaceous. Do not use sedge peat as a substitute as its pH can vary from acid to alkaline depending on where it is from.

Strike the cuttings 2 inches apart in the seed tray, approximately half the cutting should be in the compost.  Gently water and then place inside a shaded cold frame. Keep the compost moist and the atmosphere humid and you can expect your cutting s to have rooted in 6 - 8 weeks. Leave them in place until they go dormant in the autumn. At this point they can be carefully lifted so to avoid damage to the young root systems and either potted on or planted into their final positions.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW BLUEBERRIES IN POTS AND CONTAINERS

HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM POINSETTIA

How to take cuttings from poinsettias
How to take cuttings from poinsettias
As gorgeous as poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima, bracts are (a bract is the botanical name for a modified leaf, which in the case of the poinsettia is larger and more brightly coloured than the true flower) they are only short lived, providing seasonal effect. As soon as the true flowers found within the rosette of bracts have finished blooming it will drop the bracts. Why? Because once flowered the plant will no longer need its bright red brats to attract pollinating insects.

As soon as the flowers have finished you can cut back the poinsettia stems to within 15 cm of the base. New shoots will arise and then from April to May they will be ready for being used as propagation material.

Using a sharp sterilized blade, take cuttings approximately 10 cm long. Avoid choosing weak stems and any that appear to have signs of disease. Like many other species within the Euphorbia family the cut stems will 'bleed' latex, so make sure you wear gloves as the milky sap can be an irritant. To check this flow, dip the cut stem into powdered charcoal. Remove the bottom half leaves

Using 7-9cm pots filled with a good quality peat-based seed and cutting compost, insert one cutting per pot. Press the cutting in until the bottom third is buried, then gently press the compost against the stem for additional support.You can always consider making your own compost using equal parts by volume fine-blended moss peat and horticultural grade grit-sand. Sterile rooting conditions are important so you will need to oven bake your mix prior to its use.

Gently water in the cuttings using a watering can fitted with a fine rose, then place the pots inside a heated propagator. Set the basal heat at a temperature at between 16-18 degrees Celsius. Mist the cuttings on a daily basis to prevent desiccation. Allow the top few cm of compost to dry out before watering and never allow the compost to become waterlogged. You can expect the cuttings to have taken root after 2-4 weeks.

Pot the rooted cuttings on as necessary and begin feeding with a liquid soluble fertilizer once they are in their final pots.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM POINSETTIA
How to Care for Poinsettias
HOW TO GROW POINSETTIAS

HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS FROM SEED

How to grow asparagus from seed
How to grow asparagus from seed

When it comes to growing asparagus from seed you will need to prepare a suitable seed bed during the previous autumn. Dig over the bed to a spit deep and incorporate plenty of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost at the same time. Then prior to sowing go over the soil surface to produce a fine tilth.

How to grow asparagus from seed
Asparagus seeds
You can direct sow asparagus seed in April however it can take approximately 6 weeks for the seed to germinate. Sow asparagus seed thinly in drills 1/2 an inch deep and gently water in. When the seedling reach 6 inches high they can be thinned out to the strongest specimens at a spacing of one plant every 12 inches.

Regularly hoe over the topsoil to keep it free of weeds, being careful not to damage or accidentally remove any of the young seedlings. Water regularly throughout the summer. In the autumn when the ferny foliage begins to change colour, it should be cut back to ground level and burned to prevent the berries of female plants from producing unwanted, inferior berries. In fact some growers believe that the very best crops are only from male plants so once female plants have been identified you may wish to lift and dispose of them. The following April, transplant the young plants to their permanent bed, but be aware that it will be another year or so before they will be mature enough to start harvesting the young, edible shoots.

The best crops are produced on light, sandy soils. Heavy soils can be improved by working plenty of  well-rotted farm manure or garden compost.

Growing asparagus seed indoors

Because it can take around 6 weeks for asparagus seed to germinate when directly sown outside you can get an early start on the competition by growing asparagus seed under protection from mid-February to mid-March. Soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours beforehand to help initiate germination.

How to grow asparagus from seed
Asparagus seedlings
Using a modular seed tray, fill with a good quality soil-based compost such as John Innes 'seed and Cutting'. Sow one seed per module at a depth of 1/2 inch deep and water in. Allow the excess water to drain away and then place inside a heated propagator at a temperature of 15-18 degrees Celsius. Move to a warm, bright windowsill, but one that does not receive direct sunlight. Alternatively seal the tray inside a clear polythene polythene bag and place that on the same windowsill.

You can expect the seedlings to germinate from 14-21 days, at which point remove the tray from the bag or propagator. Keep the seedlings moist and once their root systems has established in their modules they can be popped out and potted on into 3 inch pots using a soil-based, multi-purpose compost.

Once the threat of late frosts have passed they can be hardened off outside for a couple of weeks to help acclimate them before planting outside into their final position. Water you new planted asparagus plants regularly over the growing period and keep the bed free of weeds, and in particular perennial weeds.

For related articles click onto the following links:
HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW THE ASPARAGUS PEA
HOW TO GROW THE ASPARAGUS PEA

HOW TO GROW THE ASPARAGUS PEA

How to grow the asparagus pea
How to grow the asparagus pea
The asparagus pea - Lotus purpureus is a little known half-hardy annual that is grown for its edible seed pods. It forms a loose bush approximately 12 inches high and bears small, sweet-pea like, scarlet flowers. Once pollinated these are followed by cylindrical green seed pods with four wavy-margined flanges or wings. The pods can reach a length of about 3 inches, but for cooking purposes their flavour is at their best when they are half this length and left whole.

Native to Papua New Guinea, it is considered to be a gourmet vegetable and grows abundantly in hot, humid equatorial countries with high rainfall. However there are also varieties that can be grown in the cooler areas of Europe and USA.

How to grow the asparagus pea
Asparagus pea seedling
The asparagus pea will thrive in any fertile, well-drained soil that has been enriched with a dressing of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost in the top spit. Ty to provide a position that receives as much sun as possible throughout the day.

Sow asparagus pea seed directly outside in April or May, setting them 4 inches apart in rows every 18 inches. Each seed should be about 1/3 of an inch deep. Germination will usually occur between 7-14 days. Water in and provide appropriate support such as twiggy pea sticks - especially in exposed regions. Avoid watering too much when the plants are young but once they have produced their first pods they can be watered regularly during the rest of the growing season.

If you want to make the most of the growing season or live in an area with a short growing season then you can sow asparagus pea seeds earlier in March. Using 3 inch pots, fill with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' and sow at a rate of 1 seed per pot under glass in pots in early spring or outdoors in late spring. Place the pots in a warm bright position at approximately. 19-21C.

Once the plants have become established in their pots, and the threat of late frosts have passed, harden them off outside in a cold frame before planting out nt their final position.

Pick pods regularly while young and tender.

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HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS FROM SEED
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HOW TO GROW ASPARAGUS PEAS FROM SEED

RHODODENDRON SINOGRANDE

Rhododendron sinogrande
Rhododendron sinogrande and me
Rhododendron sinogrande is a broadleaved, evergreen native to Southwestern China, Tibet and upper Myanmar. It is an understory tree (or large shrub) usually confined to coniferous forests in alpine regions. It was discovered and introduced to western science by renowned plant hunter George Forrest in 1931, but formally named and described by Scottish botanists Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour (1853 – 1922) and Sir William Wright Smith (1875 – 1956).

Rhododendron sinogrande
Rhododendron sinogrande 
It is noted for its huge, glossy, dark-green leaves which can grow to as much as 80 cm long and 30 cm wide. It is in fact the largest leaved Rhododendron in existence! The lower surface of the leaves have a silvery-grey or fawn indumentum (surface covering of hairs). The blooms are produced in huge trusses in April. The flowers are creamy-white with a crimson blotch. Under favourable conditions you can expect Rhododendron sinogrande to grow up to 15 metres tall.

Plant Rhododendron sinogrande in part shade to full shade as the leaves can scorch in full sun. It is best grown in acidic, humus-rich, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil. A pH of between 4.5 and 6.5 is ideal. Like most other rhododendrons, alkaline soils can be acidified using digging in plenty of ericaceous compost, moss-peat or other such product prior to planting. Acidifying products will need to be re-applied on an annual basis. Provide an acidic mulch in the spring, such as pine needles or composted bark. Be aware that Rhododendron sinogrande has a shallow, fibrous root system, so cultivate other plants species beyond the expected canopy of the mature specimen.

Rhododendron sinogrande received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1922 and the First Class Certificate in 1926.

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RHODODENDRON SINOGRANDE

DYEING POISON FROG - Dendrobates tinctorius

Dyeing poison frog - Dendrobates tinctorius
Dyeing poison frog - Dendrobates tinctorius
The dyeing poison frog - Dendrobates tinctorius, is among the largest species of poison dart frog native to Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, and Brazil.  Described in 1799 by German naturalist Johann Gottlob Schneider (1750 – 1822), it is highly toxic if consumed, and subject to both different color morphs and varying degrees of toxicity. Than being said there is some argument that the more distinct colour morphs are actually different species.

Although not as strong as some of the toxins produced by other genera of poison dart frogs, the pumilio-toxins that the dyeing poison frog uses for self-defense is sufficient to discourage most animals from feeding on them.

Dyeing poison frog - Dendrobates tinctorius
Dyeing poison frog - Dendrobates tinctorius
Mature specimens are around 5 cm in length and 3 grams in weight, although larger examples may exceed 7 cm. Males are typically smaller than the females, although they have larger, heart-shaped toe discs. They are most commonly found with a royal blue body adorned with variable black spots across the back. This colouration can also vary with blue, black and even yellow stripes.

It is an active species with a strong territorial instinct. They come into breeding condition between February and March, which is announced by the males calling loudly to attract females. Between two and six eggs are laid, which hatch after 14 to 18 days. In their native habitat the tadpoles are carried on the backs of both the male and the female to small, protected water pools found within rosette-leaved plants such as bromeliads. There is little to no available food in the pools, so over a period of two to three months, the female will return repeatedly to each tadpoles pool to lay an unfertilised egg for them to feed off. Over time the tadpoles develop into the adult and are sexually mature at around two years old.

In text image - Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22487699

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SKIMMIA JAPONICA RUBELLA CARE

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' with red flower buds
Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'
Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' is one of those great all-round garden plants. It was named and first described by the Paris based, French botanist Élie-Abel Carrière (1818 – 1896). It is a popular garden plants with will provide a gorgeous backdrop of evergreen foliage along with long lasting ornamental buds and blooms. Skimmia japonica is diecious meaning that male and females appear on different plants. Rubella is a male form meaning that it will not produce the red berries which are characteristic of this genus.

botanical image of Skimmia japonica
Skimmia japonica botanical drawing
The parent species is a variable, small dome-shaped shrub of dense habit. Native to Japan, China and southeast Asia, it was originally discovered for western science in Japan and brought under cultivation in England around 1838.

The selected cultivar 'Rubella' has aromatic, leathery obovate to elliptical leaves. Under favourable conditions it can be expected to grow to a height and spread of between 1-1.5 metres.

However it is particularly noted for its panicles of showy red buds which appear in late winter. The buds will remain tightly shut until spring when the white, yellow anthered, slightly fragrant blooms finally open in April and May.

You can grow Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' in either full sun or semi-shade, although it will produce a more open and lax habit the shadier the position. Be aware that the leave can become bleached in exposed, hot direct sun. Provide a sheltered site in a moist, humus-rich, well-drained soil. It will be fine in a neutral to acid soil but will also tolerate chalky soils so long as they been previously improved with well-rotted organic matter.

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1962 and the Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

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SKIMMIA REEVESIANA

Skimmia reevesiana
Skimmia reevesiana
Skimmia reevesiana is a gorgeous and highly ornamental dwarf, evergreen shrub native to South China and Southeast Asia. It was first discovered and described for western science in 1848 by Scottish botanist, and well-known plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812 – 1880). He found it in a Shanghai nursery, where it was the rarest and most prized of the owner’s possessions. The plant had originally been collected from the Hwang Shan, a mountain some 250 miles to the south-west of Shanghai.With some persuasion, the owner agreed to part with his specimen and it reached the Standish and Noble nursery in Sunningdale, Surrey in 1849.

Skimmia reevesiana
Skimmia reevesiana blooms
Under favourable conditions you can expect mature Skimmia reevesiana specimens to reach an height of 0.9 metres, forming a low. compact mound. The leaves are narrowly elliptic with a pale margin. Unlike the diecious Skimmia japonica from which it was believed to be a subspecies of, the flowers of Skimmia reevesiana are hermaphrodite and self pollinating. The blooms are creamy-white and borne in short, terminal clusters in May. These are followed by ovoid, matt crimson-red berries which will last throughout the winter. The berries are particularly long lasting and are usually still present when the flowers appear again in the following spring.

Plant Skimmia reevesiana in September and October or in March and April. It will require a moist but well-drained, rich, lime-free soil in partial to deep shade.

Skimmia reevesiana received the Award of Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 1962, and then the Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

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SKIMMIA JAPONICA RUBELLA CARE