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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




14th June 2015

Bletilla striata 'Soryu'
The week started hot and sweaty and I had started to worry about the greenhouse. It needed watering more often than I was able to get to it and the water tanks were starting to run down. Fortunately the skies opened at the end of the week and although Friday was a three-pairs-of-trousers day (with breaks to warm and dry as I changed) the garden is looking refreshed.
The disadvantage is that forecasters were predicting thunder and torrential downpours in the west and I decided to abandon my planned visit to the Malvern Orchid Show. The idea of thundering up and down the M5 on a Saturday while the weather thundered back at me lost its appeal. It is a pity because I would have liked to go but there are more flowers here at the moment than I can shake a stick at so I have had a relaxing weekend playing with my orchids.
Bletilla striata is a common enough plant, though it isn't entirely easy to please. If you start with a dry "bulb" you are already in difficulty. For years we have had pink ones and white ones and variegated ones but recently more varieties have become available, and 'Soryu' is currently a favourite. It has a pale lilac flower that have somehow been described as blue. Let's be generous and say it is a translation problem from the Japanese and not the rabid rantings of a nurseryman with a consignment of bulbs to shift. It isn't even slightly blue, but it is very lovely. Commercially it is a seed strain so they probably vary slightly but I can't say I have noticed.




14th June 2015

Pogonia japonica
Orchids have become commonplace in supermarkets. It is one of the astonishing wonders of the modern age. The vast majority of the species perch in tropical trees, a sizeable number are found in rough grassland and a very few skulk in bogs and mires. Somehow it is the latter group that I seem to acquire. Things that drip slime down the front of your shirt if you pick them up in admiration. This would seem to be the week of the sludge lovers.
The genus Pogonia has a strange distribution. P.ophioglossoides occurs in bogs along the entire east coast of North America but the rest of the genus are Asian. P. japonica occurs in similar habitats to P. ophioglossoides in Japan, China, Korea and Russia. While the American species is well documented the Asian members of the genus are hardly mentioned.
They both grow well standing in water in the greenhouse. P. japonica flowers most years but I haven't flowered P. ophioglossoides since 2008. I recently repotted one of the young plants into a much taller pot to raise it well above the water level. Time will tell if a bit more stress encourages it to bloom.




14th June 2015

Disa Luke Edwards 'Speckles'
Disa are far more willing to flower. The species are all from southern African, and those in cultivation come from wet places. If I am going to have a week concentrating on orchids, it is good to have something with big pink flowers to show. Disa hybrids have been developed for the cut flower trade in South Africa. They are all based on D. uniflora from the Cape (most famously from wet stream banks on Table Mountain) with large red or pink flowers. Other species have been used to increase the stem length or the number of flowers. In the case of D. Luke Edwards there is a little bit of D. racemosa and a little bit of D. tripetaloides in the mix as well, but it is mostly D. uniflora.
I don't know who selected 'Speckles' from the seedlings (it isn't unusually speckled as far as I can see) but it seems to be the only named clone from the grex.





14th June 2015

Calopogon tuberosus f. alba
Having stumbled around in the dank corners of the world I am returning to the boglands of North America to find the Grasspink. It occurs in similar locations to Pogonia but has a wider distribution inland. It is usually bright pink, as the common name suggests, but white forms occasionally occur.
I find it difficult to grow. I flowered the pink one in 2008 having killed one previously and I have killed another since. I'm not sure what the species wants but I haven't been able to supply it. In 2013 I was offered a seedling of the white form and decided that if I was going to kill another, it might as well be a special one. It has survived (which exceeds my expectations) and flowered (which is quite astonishing). I assume that the excitement will kill it since I haven't managed to.
I would like to know what compost it is growing in, but I haven't dared repot it since I bought it. I keep it wet through the summer and allow it to dry out in winter. I can't make up my mind whether to feed it or not but I think it will need something to rebuild a decent sized tuber after flowering. If I was sensible, I would cut the flower off now to give it a better chance but I'm not sensible.
The weather has cleared and as I write this there is still just about time to rush up the road to the Malvern Show.
Too sensible to try that!