Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ponerorchis graminifolia

The charm of certain terrestrial orchids is partly in their ephemeral nature...they behave at the beck and call of the temperate seasons, and gladden our senses for only a short period of time before they once again wither and vanish beneath the soil surface...

Of course were someone to magically develop a Habenaria medusa that never goes dormant but continues to bloom on and off throughout the year, I'd be one of the first in line. As it is, I am content with my two that have vigorously re-emerged from winter's sleep and daily stretch their unfurling leaves upward, the promise of their fantastical white flowers still tucked somewhere inside.

Ponerorchis gramnifolia grabbed my imagination from the first, when I read about them in an American Orchid Society Bulletin article. Teensy adorable tuberous orchids with a Japanese cult following? Awesome! Then I saw them alive: Orchid Art had a few, and I nearly got one, but honestly, I hadn't realized just how teensy adorable they were. Flowers and all, the whole plant was about three inches tall. I love miniature orchids, and I had a fair number of creepers and gnat-attractors that made the Ponerorchis seem a veritable giant, but adding in the dormancy thing...which Rita kindly explained in detail...made Utyouran  seem just too risky.

I never saw one again for many many years. Neither did most of my friends. "Gosh, Rita had them once, why doesn't anyone else ever have them?" Well, lots of orchid species come and go seemingly at whims of fashion, or just availability, or just refusal to go forth an multiply. Everyone thought everyone else was raising a few?...but they weren't, because the darn things were stubborn, or finicky, or wouldn't set seed, or...anyway.

Finally: "Did you see the Ponerorchis tubers?" my friend asked at SEPOS, standing in front of a table-ful of mind-bendingly expensive Neofinetia plants. "I just got some!" Now, my friend grows some amazing terrestrials in his collection. So we each ended up with six teensy tubers in a plastic baggie. No idea what color variety, not that it matters.

After forgetting about my baggie for about two weeks...yeah, that's kind of inexcusable, considering they were right in front of my face on a shelf in the light garden...I saw that four of the little suckers were sprouting. I planted them in a nice deep pot with my favorite terrestrial mix: 3 parts Peat-lite, 2 parts ultra-fine fir bark + perlite + charcoal (in other words, stuff from the bottom of the Paph Mix bag). This stuff drains pretty well, so I do hope to lessen the chances of rot. I only let the tallest sprout poke above the surface, though I'm sure the rest will quickly emerge once the mix settles a bit. Keeping them in the cool window until that happens. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dockrillia rigida

Formerly Dendrobium rigidum, this little cutie comes from Australia, one of many compact, mat-forming mini Dockrillia-formerly-Dendrobiums that flourish there. Tough leathery 1-inch tongue-shaped leaves host fragile-looking spikes of yellow and red flowers (mine have a peachy blush too). All in all, totes adorable.

Even better, those tiny 1/4-inch flowers are fragrant! Well, it's not a fabulous scent. It's kind of like a hyacinth mixed with something slightly burnt. Pleasant, but strange. I think I once owned lipstick with that scent. I didn't keep it very long. I'll keep the plant anyway.

Since I've seen mixed advice on how much light this plant likes -- some folks recommend providing quite bright light for best results, while others say they'll bloom and thrive even in  relatively low light -- I'm starting it off under the new T8 tubes that are making so many of my other orchids rather happy.

I found this at the 2012 SEPOS Show at Longwood Gardens. H&R always brings fabulous things for super-cheap, and this teeny pot was just $10. The spike was just barely in bud then, and the flowers just opened a couple of days ago.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Epidendrum fimbriatum

Despite having many years ago sworn off of orchids with flowers too tiny to see without magnification -- my eyesight isn't what it once was, and I have extremely limited space and decided I wanted a bit of splash from my collection -- now and then I fall for a cutie-pie and find myself cooing over it as if it were a raggedy kitten needing a home. I feel that way about a lot of offerings from Ecuagenera.

This Epidendrum fimbriatum followed me home from the 2012 Deep Cut Orchid Show. The whole plant is about ten inches tall, with about a dozen reed-stem growths. The leaves are surprisingly firm for such a delicate-looking thing. The flowers arrive in ones, twos and rarely threes per spike, which so far are each elongating to about two inches.

The literature says it grows cool, but I was assured it would tolerate intermediate-to-warm if slowly acclimatized. Well, it's so far doing extremely well at temperatures in the 70s. I received it newly mounted on a piece of PVC pipe wrapped in coconut fiber, with a sphagnum moss pad; I stuck it in a plastic pot with more sphagnum (but without the mount), figuring to someday transfer it to a chunkier mix. It sure likes plenty of water. And, since I moved it to the shelf where I now have T8 lights, the foliage took on a distinct reddish tinge; since this is a sign of stress and not just glowing health, I moved it a little further from the tubes. On the other hand, the number of budding buds on all the spikes also vastly increased...but the flowers are even smaller. Juggling act, why always a juggling act...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Knitting up Rhinebeck 2008: Creatively Dyed Gingko Shawl

Creatively Dyed Yarn: Merino Sock

Some of the yarn vendors at Rhinebeck inhabit an outdoor space between two of the permanent buildings. It seemed logical to go there first, on my first trip, because it was so easy to see everything clearly. And the very second booth that caught my frantic yarn-magpie eye was Creatively Dyed.

I'd never seen multi-colored yarn quite like it before. It made me crazy. It made me feel like a box of Godiva truffles had magically turned into a wall of yarn. I wanted ALL of it. Choosing just a few skeins was a serious challenge. I ended up with seven skeins of Merino Sock.

I don't knit socks. But I do knit scarves, hats and gloves. And nowadays I also knit shawls. At the time I think I also imagined that I would knit some intarsia Kaffe Fassett-like colorblocked pieces using wonderful colorful hand-painted yarns, but it turns out that I have yet to return to my intarsia mood. So the two skeins of purple in the above photo are becoming a scarf/hat/glove set. The four in the middle are still sitting around waiting for The Perfect Pattern. And the green all the way on the upper right has become this:

Gingko Shawl, Creatively Dyed yarn

This wasn't perhaps the best choice of yarn to show off the simple yet elegant lace pattern. Ideally, a crisp butter yellow or plain green would do the trick. But as a practice version, I am well pleased. Even if I really should have used a slightly larger needle to create a less dense fabric. O well.