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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Showing posts with label orchids. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label orchids. Show all posts

      Sunday, February 6, 2011

      the antidote to a New York City winter








      snow
      ice
      gray slush
      cancelled flights
      frozen nose hairs
      life in general










      It's the perfect time of year for an NYC garden writer to immerse herself in the saturated colors and scintillating perfumes of the tropics...especially if she's working on a new orchid book. So I thought I'd share a few blooms with you, all of which are currently lighting up my life at clients' greenhouses in the Bronx. I realize photos aren't quite as thrilling actually caressing the soft petals, breathing in the scent, and tasting the nectar (yes, I do that) of these beauties, but I hope their jewel tones offer up a much-needed contrast with the gray snow that surrounds us. And the crazy names ought to be good for a laugh.

      Brassolaeliacattleya Haadyai Delight 'Bang Prom Gold' x Blc. Krull's Lemonade


      Laeliacattleya Tropical Pointer 'Cheetah'


      Potinara Little Toshie 'Mini Flares'


      Brassocattleya Maikai 'Lea' x Cattleya Triumph #2


      Laeliacattleya Hawaiian Blue Sky 'Chelsea' Lc. Mini Purple var. coerulea


      Dendrobium Aussie Chip


      Brassolaileocattleya Orange Show 'Cloud Forest'


      Cattleya walkeriana


      Tolumnia Red Berry


      a phal/antelope type Dendrobium

      For those of you who can't escape to the beauty and calm of a private greenhouse, don't forget, the NYBG orchid show starts on March 5 and runs through April 25. Put it on your calendar.

      Thursday, April 30, 2009

      YES AND NO AT THE GREENMARKET

      YES, to Union Square Greenmarket, between 14th-17th Sts. along Broadway, Manhattan. Open Mon. Wed. Fri. and the big day, Sat. 8am-6pm.

      NO to cut flowers in full
      bloom. Expect to get only 2-3
      days in a vase
      before they'll expire. YES to
      cut flowers in the bud stage
      just starting to unfurl, so you
      can enjoy them for a full week.

      YES to a tasty,
      colorful selec-
      tion of potato
      varieties, care-
      fully stored
      since last sum-
      mer.(Double
      click on any
      photo for
      close-up view)




      NO to any variety of basil plants
      unless you're willing to baby
      them for three weeks until time
      to place in the garden. Basil is
      the herb most damaged by cold
      weather and cool soil. YES, buy
      for cooking now if
      you like.
      YES to tasty, hydroponically
      grown tomatoes.

      YES to a wide variety of salad
      greens, red and white kale,
      Swiss chard, all greenhouse
      grown. YES to mushrooms
      and pungent wild ramps.
      More about those next week.

      YES to thyme and other
      perennial herbs that are ready
      to be planted
      immediately.
      Use creeping
      thyme be-
      tween the
      cracks of any
      garden path
      for an aromatic
      and cushiony
      walkway.

      YES to an orchid, though it may not feel like a spring flower. If you've been itching for one, try Silva's Orchid Farm.
      I've known them over the years
      for their fantastic displays at the
      Philadelphia flower show, never knew they sold in New York City. At Union Square they have a
      wide selection of healthy and attractive plants. Select one with lots of buds and little bloom, to get the most enjoyment this season.

      YES to a sweet treat before
      you go home. From all the
      muffins, scones and lemon bars, I opted for a small sack of pure maple sugar candy studded with pecans from the Deep Mountain Vermont maple syrup guy. They've been coming every year for 25 years, Grandfathered into the New York City Greenmarket despite their distance from the city. The 1/4 pound of deliciousness lasted for almost a week, as I nibbled my way through the bag wondering when I could go back for more.

      Thursday, February 26, 2009

      Cymbidiums

      Or is it Cymbidia? Either way, their time is now!

      In my first book Orchid Growing for Wimps, I included Cymbidium orchids on the "don't try these at home list." That may have been unfair. The truth is NOT everyone can re-bloom these plants indoors, usually because they can't deliver the temperature manipulations necessary to produce a bloom spike. I've succeeded the past three years, and if you can do a few simple (but specific) things, you can, too.

      The genus Cymbidium includes about 100 species and hybrids originating from a range of climates. Those we grow as houseplants generally require cold temps in order to bloom. In nature they grow at high elevations (in Asia) where temperatures don't drop below freezing, but get into the 40s. To mimic this, I leave my Cymbidium outdoors till night time temperatures are about 45 degrees, then I bring them inside and keep them in the coldest possible spot. Maybe you have a drafty window or an unheated guest room. If you can keep your Cymbidium at about 50 degrees from the time you bring it indoors, you should see bloom spikes in February. Watering once every 7-14 days will suffice, depending on how much light your plant gets. Even if you don't have an indoor cool spot, it's worth trying if you can leave the orchid outdoors to catch the 40 degree temperatures in fall.

      I've collected several over the years, from friends and clients who gave up on ever getting them to re-flower. Of the three I own, two have bloomed every February for the last three years (no, not always the same two!). They all get the same treatment, so I can't explain why one flowers and the other doesn't. Maybe plants need a rest now and then, just like we do.

      Cymbidium have so much to recommend them: the flowers are large and showy, they last for months at a time, and the plants are truly low maintenance if you can give them the cold treatment in fall. This is a plant that knows what it likes and will readily oblige you with bloom if you treat 'em right. Ready to give them a try?

      Tuesday, January 20, 2009

      Is this winter?

      Everyone in NYC knows it's been cold lately. Pipe-shattering, side-walk icing, nose-hair freezing cold.

      So imagine my delight when after trudging uphill, through snow that quickly overwhelmed my woefully inadequate suede shoes, I opened the door to my client's greenhouse and found:


      The misters were spraying, the air was humid and moist, and just for a moment I was transported to a kinder, gentler place. I call that place Riverdale.

      Sadly I didn't have my camera with me...only a cell phone, but I did what I could to convey the lush tropical beauty I found in the middle of the Bronx. The Phalanopsis orchids are blooming like crazy, along with a fragrant Dendrobium 'Aussie Chip' and a highly scented Zygopetalum.




      I stripped down to my undershirt (hey, no one else was there!) and got to work pruning, deadheading, and watering. It was well below freezing outside, but warm enough in the greenhouse to work up a sweat.

      No tropical vacation for me this year, but an hour or so in the greenhouse, peeking out from underneath the Australian tree fern, goes a long way toward relieving that New York City stress.

      Thursday, December 25, 2008

      The Phalaenopses are in bloom again...

      I'm up in NH for the holidays and there's 2 feet of pristine, white-white-white snow on the ground. It could not possibly be more wintery. Yet indoors, the Phalaenopses are in bloom, blissfully unaware that outside it's 5 degrees.

      Many Phalaenopses (singular = Phalaenopsis, common name = moth orchid) bloom in winter, so now is the perfect time to pick yourself out a winner. It's also the perfect time because tropical beauty is accentuated by juxtaposition with snow and cold. Entertaining for the holidays? Make a Phalaenopsis your centerpiece. People will think you have mad plant skills when all you did was shell out a few bucks for a long lasting, low maintenance houseplant.

      A few basics:

      1) Keep your Phal out of drafts. Although the plant can take temps down to about 55 degrees, when it's in bloom don't let it get colder than 65 or buds may blast (turn yellow and fall off).

      2) Don't overwater! Most Phals are potted in long grain sphagnum moss. It's great for commercial growers because it stays in place when the plants are shipped. But it's not so great for beginning indoor gardeners because it holds moisture SO long. The top feels dry, but if you poke your finger into the moss an inch or two, it's still plenty wet. A Phal potted in sphagnum won't need water more than once every 7-10 days, depending on the temp of your home. If the orchid is potted in a bark mix, check it every 5-7 days.

      3) Remove spent flowers. Phals can bloom for up to 6 months (no joke), although 2-3 is more normal. Flowers open from the bottom of the stem upwards, so remove each flower as it wilts and fades. This keeps the stem looking fresh and new.

      4) Extend your bloom season. When all the flowers have passed and the stem of your Phal is still green, cut the stem just above a node. About 60% of the time the orchid will produce a new bloom spike from the node. When the stem turns brown, cut it off at its base.

      5) Be reasonable. Phals bloom once a year. I get so many calls from people complaining about dead orchids because the flowering has stopped. As the pet shop owner on Monty Python said, "It's not dead! It's just resting!" As long as the foliage is healthy, your orchid is alive and there's no reason to think it won't put on another glorious show next year at about the same time.

      Where to buy? We're lucky in NYC, because in addition to big box stores, botanical gardens, and neighborhood florists, we have the plant district! It's smaller than it used to be, but there's still a block of stores on 28th Street, between 6th and 7th. They used to be wholesale only, but most will sell to anyone these days. Some of my favorites are Holiday Foliage (116 W 28), Foliage Garden (120 W 28), Fischer & Page (150 W 28) and Noble Planta (106-A W 28).

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