Saturday, December 5, 2015
Habenaria rhodochila, Superstar
I love love love love love terrestrial orchids. I've been growing several kinds for many years now. While it seems silly to "waste" precious indoor light garden space on plants that vanish entirely for half the year, it's not much sillier than growing other species that bloom sparingly. And for that half year underground, they're no trouble at all!
My pink Habenaria rhodochila has been very happy for the past six years, but I've never been thrilled by the flowers. They're wimpy. The color isn't bad, but the shape is blah -- too open, compared to others I've seen And no matter how close to the lights I put the developing new shoots each year, the plants end up stretched out. But it still blooms like crazy! And this year, the ever-growing tuber put up a whopping seven new growths, five of which bloomed! I really can't help but love the darn thing, even if those flowers only last a week. A WEEK. Well, having five spikes stretched the flowering period to about a month. But really.
Being nevertheless eager to expand my collection, I was happy to win a tiny plant of the orange form of the species at auction. It came from my friend Ron Midgett at New Earth Orchids, who has excellent taste in Habenarias. I figured it was a good bet the flowers would be decent, but didn't expect any until 2016.
Surprise! The tiny plant grew and grew over the summer, and soon put up a spike with several buds. It took a long time for those buds to develop. Good? Bad? Neither? The stem is really straight, really sturdy. Then the buds started to open...
This plant's flowers aren't wimpy. They're amazing. And they've been open over two weeks already. I took the plant to work in a cereal box wrapped in plastic bags, then on an express bus for a trip to the Greater NY Orchid Society show table, and wow, not one sign of wilting yet. I hope they make it to the Manhattan Orchid Society show table next week!
Everyone wants to see it next year, when the plant is bigger. I just hope like all hell I don't somehow manage to kill it this winter...I'll be VERY careful once it settles in for its seasonal nap.
ADDENDUM: The flowers ended up lasting FIVE WEEKS. The plant is now (very early January) thinking about going dormant.