22nd November 2020
Stenoglottis longifolia clone 1 .
Gardening is a sort of vegetable-based nostalgia. I am endlessly peering back in time through the borders trying to recapture some rosy memory or other.
My garden is so cluttered with ghosts of the past that I barely notice its day to day appearance. I look through the invading brambles and the general chaos and see
the day when each little corner seemed to work as intended. It helps to be caught in the rain sometimes, a cold drenching brings the present into sharp focus
in a very direct way, the garden is refreshed and restored to present day reality. There are jobs that need to be done and dreamy wafting isn't one of them.
It has been a drippy week, reality has been my constant companion.
Stenoglottis longifolia has been my dreamy nostalgic refuge for the week, it belongs to my teenage years when I grew it on a windowsill and was amazed by its
tolerance of abuse. It has thick, fleshy storage roots that are forgiving of accidental dessication. The leaf rosettes are compact and robust and it flowers at the end of the year
without fail. It has a couple of weeks rest during which the roots can be divided easily and productively, and then the whole jolly process starts again. I have
never understood why it isn't commoner than the bizzie lizzie but it isn't. I lost mine in one of those changes of lodgings that young people are so prone to.
It took me years to replace.
22nd November 2020
Stenoglottis longifolia clone 2 .
Stenoglottis longifolia comes from South Africa where it grows among moss and debris on rock outcrops in the Drakensberg Mountains. I missed it in the way that
I miss growing annual poppies and cornflowers, there is a simple glee in watching easy seeds germinate.
I had been searching for a while through the orchid nurseries without success. Orchid nurseries like large flowered epiphytes that look like 'real' orchids, they aren't so
bothered with little pink terrestrials that are easy to grow. Then quite by chance I saw a cloud of pink on a stand at the Wisley Show, a Belgian nursery had brought
a couple of trays of Stenoglottis over to add colour at an odd season for orchids. Closer inspection showed that they had two clones for sale. I had both of them
and with my customary flair for labelling marked them "clone 1" and "clone 2".
As far as I can discern, "clone 1" is the plant that I grew as a teenager. I was wallowing in nostalgia that day.
"Clone 2" presents more of a problem. Stenoglottis longifolia has seven points in the fimbriated lip. My "clone 2" tries hard but never quite reaches seven.
It may well be a hybrid, it is certainly a puzzle.
22nd November 2020
Stenoglottis Venus .
There is nothing worse than a puzzle for attracting attention. It's like wearing tight shoes, always bubbling away at the edge of consciousness waiting for the slightest opportunity to be troublesome.
I had started looking more carefully at Stenoglottis. I was a visitor to the Orchid Congress at Writhlington School when I saw they were growing S. fimbriata in the greenhouse.
It is closely allied to S. longifolia but it only has three pointed tops on the labellum. Lovely to see, unfortunately they didn't have a spare one or I would have driven home feeling triumphant.
However, they had made the hybrid between S. longifolia and S. fimbriata, a grex called Venus. They had spares, I had one. Retrospectively I should have asked how many seedlings they had raised.
Perhaps I should have come home with a collection of clones but I was slow, I was tired and I had been caught off guard. I hadn't even realised there were any hybrids.
Venus shows an irregular number of points on the labellum. There are often five on mine but the individual flowers vary a bit. My plant also has squashed-up flowers, the outer tepals form a cup shaped enclosure to the lip
rather than opening wide. Perhaps there were more open forms, perhaps there were forms with spotted leaves (from S. fimbriatus). I didn't look carefully enough.
The more you look at a genus the more plants you find. The more plants you find the more frustrating it becomes. There is a heavy price for vegetable nostalgia.
22nd November 2020
Stenoglottis modestus .
Stenoglottis share a characteristic with snowdrops, Disa, Hedychium and a host of other things I grow. They all look more or less the same. It's a kind of madness to collect them together.
So when I saw S. modestus for sale at Malvern Orchid show there was never any real doubt that it would be coming home with me. I knew nothing about it but that didn't seem to matter.
The plant was seedling grown by Orchid Alchemy and I only found out when I got home that it was a new species, named in 2011.
Coming from more exposed, rocky locations in KwaZulu-Natal I can hope that it will be as cold tolerant as S. longifolia. It is self-fertile which raises the prospect of seed.
My plant is already producing capsules and it will be an interesting addition to the range of terrestrial orchid seed that I am currently failing to germinte in a growing cabinet.
So the madness of Stenoglottis will continue. I have four in flower at the moment, and that seems like a good enough reason to show them. They have managed to flower in the awkward gap
when the garden has run out of steam for the autumn and is being apologetically feeble about producing early spring flowers. It is a little unfortunate that the pictures are so fuzzy, but light levels are low
and the skies are full of cloud. It has been one of those weeks when taking pictures in the greenhouse has been more appealing than washing away nostalgia in the rain.